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On top of the world with Gerry Feehan

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Fisher Peak by Gerry Feehan

Taunting the Temptress

Once in a blue moon something improbable occurs. A goal beyond expectations and beyond the capacity of aging knees is accomplished.

Once in a Blue Moon

The view of Fisher Peak from our Kimberley condo is mesmerizing. For years I’ve gazed across the Rocky Mountain Trench at that daunting, taunting pinnacle. Fisher dominates the skyline in this range of the Rockies. At nearly 3000 meters it towers over its lofty neighbors.

Last July my brother Pat and I watched the second full moon of the month, a blue one, rise over Fisher and decided, “Let’s do it.”

The start of a long climb!

Good weather is critical to mountain climbing. Luckily, the forecast was ideal: clear skies and calm winds. An alpine storm even in summer can necessitate an overnight bivouac. We were not equipped for that nasty contingency. (An aside. Have you noticed the weatherman has become markedly more reliable over the last few years?).

As predicted a perfect day greeted our early start. Climbing Fisher requires no mountaineering equipment, no technical skills. But it’s a long drive to the remote trailhead and the sheer, steady steepness of the climb – and the equally grueling descent – make for a long, hard day. From trailhead to summit the elevation gain is 1400 meters. That’s nearly a vertical mile!

tarn at the halfway point

The hike began unfortuitously. When Patrick donned his daypack, the water reservoir was empty – and his pack was sopping wet. A leaky start. It is imprudent to begin a seven-hour climb on a hot summer day without H2O but we had little option. We’d driven an hour up bumpy logging roads to reach the trailhead. Returning to get water meant we would not have time to complete the ascent. Besides, we were in the mountains. That’s where water comes from. Find a stream, fill up – and beaver fever be damned.

Prayer flags adorn the saddle

The upward march began in a shaded forest of conifers. After an hour patches of light started to shine through the canopy and the trail opened across a jumble of rocks. Beneath our feet we heard gurgling, the babbling of an invisible creek. The steepness continued as the path skirted a cascading waterfall, the source of the hidden rumbling – and the source of clean, beautiful liquid sustenance.

What goes up …

After ninety minutes of relentless climbing, the trail leveled and we came upon a beautiful alpine tarn, its crystal clear waters mirroring the jagged peaks enveloping us. Above the small lake a cirque opened up and we had our first clear view of Fisher, the temptress, still hundreds of meters above us. A solitary marmot whistled a warning call. The sound echoed loudly off the walls of the rocky amphitheater.

… must come down

We were halfway to the summit.

The next leg of the assault is difficult: three hundred vertical meters of steep, loose scree. A real b#&ch! Even with foreshortened hiking poles digging firm, two hard-earned forward steps were countered by a slippery step backward. The scree section is also dangerous. As it steepens, the risk of lost footing and a fall increases. And, worse still, a hiker above can dislodge rocks upon those below. Self-preservation dictates that you want to be in the lead. Unfortunately, Pat is fitter, stronger and younger than I. So, lagging behind, my focus was keeping my head up while keeping my head down.

Did I mention the scree was a real b#&ch!

After an hour the loose slope resolves to a saddle – a safe refuge before the final climb to the top.  This notch in the mountain is festooned with prayer flags. We took a breather in the thin air and gazed around. We had equaled the height of the nearby Steeples. Dibble Glacier, a remnant of the last ice age is visible from this vantage, its ancient blue-grey mass cupped within the Steeples.

The last section begins innocuously with a well-marked switchback through ever-bigger rocks. But soon these boulders become broken, vertical slabs. We abandoned our hiking poles, which became a liability in the four-limbed scramble up, over and around truck-sized stones. Clinging precariously to handholds and squeezing through narrow fissures, we neared the top. In a few spots only a tiny foothold marked the difference between moving safely upward or making a quick 1000-meter descent. But for us Feehans this is the fun part.

The top of Fisher is as tiny as it appears from our balcony 30 kilometers away: a small platform with room for just a handful of climbers. I’m not sure what I expected at the peak but was surprised to see just a jumble of huge boulders stacked atop one another, like the playthings of a giant. The view from the top is remarkable. 360 degrees of pure horizon. To the north and east an endless ocean of mountain peaks. To the south the blue meandering waters of the Kootenay River and Koocanusa Lake disappearing into the United States a hazy hundred kilometers away. In the west, directly below us, lay the verdant green fields of the Rocky Mountain Trench. Further distant the bare ski runs of Northstar Mountain stood out clear as day. I could see my deck over there in Kimberley. No, I couldn’t.

Gerry at the top.

The difficulty with scrambling up to a steep, precarious perch is… what goes up must come down. On the ascent we had concentrated on grabbing, reaching and looking upward. To get down we had to look down. It was disconcerting hanging over a cliff ledge, slipping toward an invisible foothold below. But we slid safely through the slabs, retrieved our poles at the saddle and surfed down through the scree. Soon we were back at the lovely tarn. We stopped briefly to look back up at the now distant peak. Picas gallivanted about, squeaking cutely, gathering nesting grasses, oblivious to the great feat we had just accomplished.

on top of the world

Surprisingly, the last downward section can be the hardest, an unrelenting ninety minutes of joint-jarring, toe-busting, knee-knocking descent. Alpine wildflowers in radiant bloom helped ease the pain.

fireweed

We were back in Kimberley in time to enjoy barbequed steak. At sunset we sipped a cold one on the deck and watched as alpenglow lit Fisher’s face. The next blue moon is October 31, 2020. What to do for an encore?

Thanks to Rod Kennedy and Kennedy Wealth Management and Ing and McKee Insurance for helping to make this series possible.  Please support them.

contact Gerry at [email protected]

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Alberta

Alberta Liberals appoint John Roggeveen as interim party leader

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CALGARY, United Kingdom — Alberta’s Liberals have appointed a Calgary lawyer to hold the party’s top job months after the resignation of its former leader. 

The party issued a statement saying its board of directors named John Roggeveen to the role, but offered few other details. 

The party, which currently holds no seats in the provincial legislature, has been without a leader since November when David Khan stepped down to pursue a job in his previous field of law.

Roggeveen, too, is a lawyer by trade, most recently practising privately in Calgary. 

Liberal Party President Helen Mcmenamin describes him as “the ideal candidate” for the role, citing “years of political experience and a deep commitment to building the Party and serving Albertans.”

Roggeveen says it’s an honour to take the party reins and is pledging to bolster its presence in the province’s political landscape. 

“Good policies are one of the strengths of our party, but good organization will be the foundation for successfully implementing them,” he said in the statement. “My focus will be on creating a stronger organization so that the Alberta Liberals will be a force in the next election.”

The Liberals were once the province’s official Opposition, but after a high of 32 seats in 1993, the party suffered from ups and downs until it fell to third-party status in the legislature in 2012.

It secured a seat for only one member in 2015 and was shut out of the legislature entirely during the most recent election in April 2019.

Saturday’s statement neither specified the expected length of Roggeveen’s stint as party leader nor spelled out the process for choosing a permanent successor.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Wayne Middaugh leads Howard rink to victory in its opening game of Tim Hortons Brier

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CALGARY — It was a triumphant return to the 2021 Tim Hortons Brier for Wayne Middaugh.

With Glenn Howard ailing, Middaugh led Howard’s Wildcard 3 team to a 9-5 win over Gregory Skauge of Northwest Territories in the opening game of the tournament for both rinks Saturday.

Middaugh originally joined Howard’s rink last month as a fifth but was forced into action after Howard suffered broken ribs in a snowmobile accident.

A broken leg derailed Middaugh’s competitive playing career in January 2016 when he was Howard’s vice at the time.

Middaugh was on crutches at the Brier that season to help the team from the coaching bench.

Middaugh last actively played in the Brier in 2013.

A Canadian Curling Hall of Famer, Middaugh has won Brier and world gold medals at three different positions.

He and Howard won a world title together in 2012 with a different lineup.

On Saturday, the Wildcard 3 team cemented its win with three in the ninth end.

In other action, New Brunswick’s James Grattan defeated Mike McEwen (Wildcard 1) 6-3, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs got past Yukon’s Dustin Mikkelsen 11-3 in eight ends and Manitoba’s Jason Gunnlaugson edged Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher 5-4.

Two more draws were scheduled for later Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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