Monday, October 6, 2008

The Last Hurrah


What better way to end the season than with (another) epic run-


In March 2006, I backcountry skied from Sunshine Village Ski Resort to Mount Shark via Assiniboine Lodge with my two friends EJ and Daryl. We overnighted twice, took our time, drank a few beers and had a blast. Along the way, we passed through the Valley of the Rocks...which is, as its name states, a valley littered by countless boulders of all shapes and sizes. Although I have many fond memories of the ski trip, I distinctly remembered skiing through the Valley of the Rocks and saying to myself: "Man, this place is awesome, I bet it would be a blast to run on this trail!" Two and half years later, the opportunity finally came up...

After reading (and getting slightly jealous) of Mike and Leslie's Shark to Sunshine run last weekend, I convinced Bob to modify his busy running schedule so we could run the route before the snow came. Of course, Bob had to add in his own 'stamp' to the route by adding another pass to climb over - I didn't object.

The route: Mt Shark parking lot to Sunshine parking lot via Owl Lake, up/over Marvel Pass, up/over Wonder Pass, Mt Assiniboine Lodge, Valley of Rocks, up-up/over Citadel Pass, across Sunshine Meadows and down to Sunshine Village. Total kms: (Not sure on this one...but does it really matter) 65km ish??

From left to right: Bozo #1 and Bozo #2

Part 1: Mt Shark to Mt Assiniboine Lodge

If they gave out a prize for bad weather forecasting, then we would have won! As we left Canmore, the skies were relatively clear and the potential of a 'clearing trend' looked good. But as we approached Mt. Shark, the clouds grew darker and soon, a light mist started to cover the windshield. "So much for dry feet" I said, as we watched our shuttle drive away...

I felt like s~~t for the first few hours**...and was content to follow Bob's pace as we ran along the Bryant Creek Trail, listening to his latest running tales. At the Owl Lake/Marvel Pass junction we turned left on an overgrown animal trail - super fun and narrow. The only problem (as I soon discovered) was that all the (wet) branches and leaves were soaking our clothes instantly. As we continued the slow climb up towards Marvel Pass, the rain changed to sleet, and then accumulating snow. I'm not quite sure why we waited so long to put on our rain gear, perhaps because I was holding on to the thought that the sun might still come out to play. Bob finally caved and I followed suit - a quick change and off we went again. The accumulating snow was a pain, slowing our progress up and back down Marvel Pass. There was no point in taking chances on the tricky descent as there was still a long ways to go!

Unlike last weekend's RockWall run, there wasn't much chatter or photo ops during this section of the run. We were cold, wet and miserable at best. Although we were both thinking it at the time, I almost pulled the plug on the run (as almost everything I owned was wet - not good!), opting to run back out to Shark where we would have had to hitchhike home. Instead, we kept quiet and pushed on...

As we linked up to the Wonder Pass trail, the steady grade of the climb warmed us up, bringing a smile back to our faces. Soon, Mt Assiniboine Lodge was in sight, marking the halfway point of our run...

Where's Mt Assiniboine? Heavy cloud, snow and rain made for some tough running!


Part 2 - Mt Assiniboine to Sunshine


A quick 20min break and it was time to go. I'd like to say that I was all dry, warm and re-energized. Instead, I slipped back into my soaking wet shoes and opted not to put on my soggy gloves - I even emptied almost a litre of water from my drink bladder as the wet conditions weren't making me very thirsty (I don't know why you keep peeing clear when running in wet weather...anyone??).

We cruised across the 'flats' and visions of the trail ahead soon filled my mind...I couldn't wait to get there! The Valley of the Rocks did not disappoint, and was definitely the highlight of the run for me. Dodgy, twisty, turning singletrack in a minefield of rocks - Lovin' it!!! I could have run back and forth on that section all day.

The next junction marked 16.5km to Sunshine...right on schedule? Not with Citadel Pass to crawl over...The lead-up to the pass was awesome, with great views of Simpson River Valley (?) below. But the climb seemed to last forever. After 7hrs of running and shitty weather, all the little kinks in our body were starting to slow us down...slow and steady we climbed up, and up and up some more! We finally crested the pass in another snowy larch landscape overlooking the Citadel Pass Trail.

I had made 'loose' plans with my girlfriend Kellie to pick us up at the Sunshine parking lot around 4pm. Of course, this was pending an advance call from me from the Village at around 3pm. There was no call at 3pm...Bob's route 'supplement' had added an easy 1.5hrs to the running time and at 3pm we had barely started to climb Citadel. In addition, with 9km to go across the Meadows, I realized that the cold weather had sapped the juice from my phone and it was soon about to die!! No battery=no phone call...So I raced across the (very hilly) meadows trying to beat my dying battery and slid into the Village at 5pm, making the call on micro battery fumes, and letting Kellie know that we were on the way down (she knew we would be late of course and had arrived at 4h30pm...just in case).

I could ramble on...but to make a long story short, Bob and I hobbled into Sunshine parking lot in just over 9hrs...with the sun finally shinning!

So was the Valley of the Rocks worth it? Absolutely! If you're willing to make the trek out there, I highly recommend it! The only real problem with the run was that the weather sucked - I suppose Bob will want to go back when there's better light for his photos...


** The result of 3hrs of sleep and a few too many RBVs whilst celebrating my girlfriend's b-day.

1 comment:

Holly said...

Beautiful run, Phil. Getting in a ton o mileage towards the end of the season is always super satisfying!