Tarns and snowstorms... Alpine Hike #2, Second Update - August 27th

Submitted by Lori S. on

Another visit to this area was in order, given that even the August 10th visit did not show the high country in full flower yet... it's incredibly late up there this year!
(See earlier accounts here:
http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=384.0 )

And with the highway twinning and wildlife overpass construction near Lake Louise causing long delays, some of our other favourite hikes have been a little less appealing this summer... another reason to revisit this always fascinating area. So please bear with me for yet another repeat!
Despite a weather forecast predicting 17 deg C and clearing during the morning, we got a much chillier start with cloudy skies and a thin sleet falling... oh well, not bad temps for trudging uphill! (Hmmm, we went from the hottest day of the year in Calgary, Aug. 26, when it reached a modest 32.4 deg C... though "hot" in this area of cool summers... to snow flurries the next day. Could one wish for more variety? ;))

1) The broad valley again; Mount Bogart (3,144m elev.) on the left, with a fresh dusting of snow.
2 - 6) Now, at the end of August(!), the hanging valleys off the SW side of the surrounding cliffs are finally alight with bloom - most noticeable are the yellow daisies of Arnica lonchophylla and the white blooms of Parnassia fimbriata
7) We got to experience three seasons today... the (delayed) flowers of spring and summer - here, the usual spring bloomer, Anemone parviflora...
8 )Erigeron aureus...
9 ) Senecio triangularis just starting to bloom in the moist meadow...
10) ... and snow flurries!


Submitted by Lori S. on Sun, 08/29/2010 - 10:02

Hoy wrote:

I think I spot some Saxifraga leaves too?
Here, Parnassia palustris is always associated with mineral rich soil. What about P. fimbriata?

Yes, the leaves in the Anemone photo are Saxifraga lyallii... more to come.  
The mountains in this area are dominantly limestone, with little notable mineralization.  P. fimbriata seems to favour turfy areas, I'd say, rather than any particular mineralization.

1) Silene acaulis, just starting to bloom in this area at this very late date
2) Snow
3, 4, 5, 6) Meltwater stream from the tarns above, with banks thickly grown with coltsfoot, Petasites vitifolius frigidus v. nivalis...
7, 8, 9) which, higher up, is replaced by thick mats of Saxifraga lyallii, now finally coming into bloom; the red stems provide a lot of colour.
10) Androsace septentrionalis, with my gloved fingers for scale.

Submitted by Lori S. on Sun, 08/29/2010 - 12:49

IMYoung wrote:

My goodness, the Androsace septentrionalis is small but perfectly formed, isn't it?

Yes, indeed!  

Trond, while we both know snow can fall anytime in the mountains, I have to say I usually prefer to see it later on... though it was fun the other day!

Yikes, I have overdone it with all the coltsfoot and sax photos, but I'll wrap this up soon...

1) Here's another little beauty whose identity I am puzzling over... Saxifraga, I think?  Anyone recognize it?
2) Arnica sp. (top) with Senecio fremontii (bottom) in the scree slope
3) Arabis lyallii
4) Erigeron humilis
5) Phacelia sericea... many in bloom in the scree slope now
6) The fresh bloom on Androsace chamaejasme in the area was like stepping back into the alpine spring again!
7) scenery
8 ) Clearing for a while, with snow clouds still snagged on Mt. Bogart, and Mt. Sparrowhawk (9)
10) And, approaching the forest again on the way out, Spiraea betulifolia.

And, a few minutes later, a grizzly emerged onto the trail in front of us about 100' ahead... possibly the same one we'd seen along the road last time.  (Sorry, no pix, needless to say!  ;D)  We made some noise, it got up on its hind legs to have a look at us, and then ambled off the trail... so we carried on our way, loudly, for some distance.  Really surprised we don't see more bears out on the trail, but they are usually very good at staying out of sight.

(Hmmm...  A couple of hours earlier on our way in, not too far from this spot, we had come upon two women hikers with an unleashed dog that came tearing at us, barking and snarling!  Having an unleashed dog in bear country is incredible stupidity, particularly an aggressive dog, as this one seemed to be... Dogs, naturally, have a tendency to go after bears (and any other animal), and when the bear turns on it and the dog realizes it's picked a fight far outside its weight class, the dog comes running back to the owner... with an enraged bear in tow... !  Despite all the warnings, and literature, and simple regulations (i.e. dogs are to be leashed), I guess if common sense is lacking, it cannot be taught.  Anyway, I'm glad these irresponsible people were not around us when we came upon the grizz... and glad it was not already on edge, presumably, from a previous dog encounter. )

Submitted by Hoy on Sun, 08/29/2010 - 13:33

It is very unlikely for me to come upon a bear in Norway, to few bears and to many farmers with guns. But sometimes somebody meets bears, wolves or wolverines. I have not been among those lucky ones!

It's more bears in Sweden and last year some hunters with a dog were attacked by an angry bear teased by their dog. One of them was badly hurt but survived. Another was not that lucky, he tried to help his dog fighting with a bear in the night and was killed himself.

Submitted by Lori S. on Sun, 08/29/2010 - 14:15

One would have to be incredibly lucky to see a wolverine here too!

This site is very interesting:
This group has photos from a camera-monitoring site where they have fastened a carcass up in a tree; the barbed wire wrapped around the trunk is presumably to catch the hair samples they use for DNA testing.  It's amazing to see 2 wolverines in one photo, as well as the large number of other species captured by the camera: coyote, cougar, marten, fisher, caribou, etc..