Tag Archives: alberta

Monsoon June (31/365)

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After a few glorious days of sun and heat, it’s cooled right down again here as we head into Monsoon June. Rain, dipping temperatures, and really cool skies (check out those clouds!) are typical of this time of year. After a few weeks of this unpredictable weather, we head into forest fire season.

Last summer the fires were awful… thick smoke day after day and everyone on edge wondering if the flames were going to sweep through and engulf inhabited areas. Fort McMurray. Kelowna. The memories are still fresh.

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Forest Fire, by Mark Tobey, 1956

This year’s fire season is still in the future. For now, I’m going to enjoy the beauty of clouds…

Clouds and the Baths

Puffy clouds over the Baths, BVI

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Clouds over Canmore

Clouds over Ha Ling

Clouds over Ha Ling

Reflected Clouds - Policeman's Creek

Reflected Clouds – Policeman’s Creek, Canmore

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Caribbean Clouds

Spanish Clouds over the Camino

Spanish Clouds over the Camino


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More Spanish Clouds (Dawn)


More Clouds over Ha Ling

More Clouds over Ha Ling

Apparently, I have a thing for clouds… I found dozens and dozens of photos of clouds from pretty much everywhere I’ve been over the past dozen years.

Artists, too, find clouds irresistible.


Cloud Study, E. Colin Williams (watercolour)

Dad has done his share of cloud-centric paintings.


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Sky Above Clouds III by Georgia O’Keeffe, 1963

As have many, many other painters…


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Birds in the Clouds by Georges Braque, 1960


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Seascape Study with Rain Clouds by John Constable, 1827


Which makes me think I need to join this cloudy party and start experimenting with some cloud-themed drawings/paintings/collages… Something. Heaven knows I have plenty of raw material to work with around here!







S is for Slug, Snow, Spindrift, Spring and Street Art (#AtoZChallenge2018)



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Spindrift [Fine snow that blows off a mountain… well, I guess it could blow off anywhere, but this was snow blowing around above the Bow Valley]

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Snow is melting away before our eyes as spring finally, finally finds its way to the Bow Valley. This year, it seems like winter has been here for a very long time. 


S, it turns out, is full of potential when it comes to this month’s daily blogging challenge! It seems everywhere I look it’s all about transformation (the theme this month is Travel, Transformation and Transition…).

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been receiving updates on a watercolour painting from Dad’s studio…



In an artist’s studio, ideas are transformed into drawings, paintings, prints, lino cuts… 


The subject matter? Unusual, to say the least!



Slug, slowly making his way to completion… 



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Slug on the Camino by E. Colin Williams (2018)




Stormy Seas… by E. Colin Williams (Oil on Board) I don’t think that’s actually the real title, but today is day so I’ll leave it for now… I’m sure Dad will let me the correct title. 


When I travel, one of the things I love to photograph is the street art I come across. Somehow, even the roughest of neighbourhoods, most rustic back alleys, decrepit sheds, and ramshackle fences are transformed when someone takes the time to add a little art… Here are a few pieces of street art spotted while wondering through Paris earlier this month…

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And, of course, I can’t leave this post without mentioning Rodin and this piece of sculpture featuring a great stone… Oh, I sure did enjoy myself in Rodin’s garden!

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Oh, one last thought… sometimes the stones themselves become works of art as in this installation not far from my place here in Canmore.




Portal XII by Lucie Bause, 2011


I could keep going for hours, but it’s been a very long day staring at the computer as I work my way through the draft of the new manuscript and my eyeballs are getting more square by the minute! So, away I go to slip off to SLEEP so I can transition into T is for tomorrow!


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Sleep by Abbott Handersaon Thayer, 1887



Q is for Quarry Lake (AtoZChallenge2018)


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Quarry Lake Park near Canmore


Well, sometimes the stars align, hey? I was wondering what on earth I’d dredge up to talk about when Q rolled around. After I picked A. up from a dentist appointment, we headed up to Quarry Lake for a stroll and a pizza-themed picnic. Because it’s so close (about a five-minute drive from downtown), it’s a pretty popular spot and even though the trails are  soggy at the moment there were lots of people out and about enjoying the spring sunshine (and, yes, it is very strange for me, a Vancouver Islander for so many years, to consider a snow-covered landscape to be in any way related to the word spring).

The views here are terrific – Ha Ling is one of my favourite mountains (we can see it from our condo, just across the valley), but up close and personal, it’s an impressive peak. Quarry Lake Park is also a designated off-leash dog park, which makes it a great place for pup-watching.


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Quarry Lake Tree (bark detail)… Keep an eye on the blog for a pastel interpretation of these great colours and patterns!  


The lake was still sort of frozen (everything is quite slushy this time of year) and overed with snow, but in the summer should one try to swim out a bit and dive down (good luck – it’s cold no matter what time of year you visit…), you’d have to hold your breath a loooong time before you reached the bottom as it’s over 100 meters deep in its deepest, darkest corners (if a lake can have corners…)

Once a quarry (surprise, surprise), the park is slowly reclaiming land once used for mining. And, yes, I do mean the park is doing the reclaiming. Picnic tables and toilets aside, large areas are just being left alone to slowly return to their natural state.



Ha Ling from Quarry Lake Park, Mixed Media Experiment (yep, I touched Deb’s pastels… living dangerously! Don’t know what I’m talking about? Visit P is for Pastels)


See you tomorrow! I wonder if I’m actually going to make it through the R-S-T-U -V-When-will-the-alphabet-ever-end doldrums this year?? So far, so good… it’s looking promising!



Week One Recap



I may have started the week in Paris in the springtime, but I seem to have gone back in time to the depths of winter here in the Rocky Mountains. Yesterday we headed into Johnston Canyon to do a bit of ice climbing… this is the base of one of the climbs in what must be one of the most stunning places on the planet. 


Well, so far so good. I’ve managed to stick to the schedule and post each day in April so far. The theme, Transitions, Travel, and Transformation has proven to be as flexible as I figured it needed to be to cover all eventualities this month… I knew it was going to be chaotic and, indeed, that has proven to be the case. If you are behind, here are the posts so far:

Day One – A is For Abbesses, Amelie, Artists, and More

Day Two – B is For Bordeaux, Beds, Bourse, Broken, Blue Book and a Brass Band

Day Three – C is For Community 

Day Four – D is For Dying (not as morbid as it sounds…)

Day Five -E is For Eggs

Day Six – F is For Feet- Fine Friends of Wanderers

Day Seven – G is For Goya, Guernica, Gaugin and van Gogh

The weather can change fast here in the mountains. Perhaps when I check in again with the Week 2 summary I’ll be posting photos of spring flowers in alpine meadows… Maybe not quite yet, but by the end of this challenge, perhaps.


I is for Ice and Infamy


Ice and rock – strange and beautiful sculptural bedfellows – This photo taken in an icy cave near the top of This House of Sky in the Ghost Wilderness Area

Today’s post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge will be mostly photos – of ice. Which is definitely a bit strange given I am sitting beside a swimming pool in Hawaii as I write this… But ice has been a bit of a theme back at home this year. I knew there were people who climbed frozen waterfalls, but to be honest, I didn’t really think I’d ever be one of them. And then, I met Fabio, who is obsessed with ice climbing.


Fabio (right) leading the last pitch of Cascade Falls (Banff National Park) – the wind creates the most amazing twirling fingers of ice

I can’t say that I’ve become obsessed with ice climbing in the same way climbing rock has seized me, but I have lost track of how many times I’ve had my breath taken away while in the presence of some icy feature.


Johnson Canyon in the Rockies – a popular place for ice climbers and tourists alike

At various points during this winter’s explorations I’ve found myself hanging out in ice caves – either to get out of the wind, wait my turn to climb, belay safely without getting bonked on the head by falling ice or, once, when I decided I wasn’t up to the final, steep pitch and was happier waiting for the others to climb while I snapped a few photos.



This House of Sky

By turn brutal and delicate, intimidating and fragile, ice is nothing if not unpredictable. From one day to the next it can change and, depending on its mood, can make for a fabulous climbing partner or an obnoxious opponent determined to thwart one’s best efforts to ascend. Softer, wetter conditions make it much easier to sink your ice tools deep, but too warm and things can literally start falling apart beneath you.


Fabio – Johnson Canyon


Whack at a piece of hard, glassy, blue, extremely cold ice and your tool is just as likely to bounce back at you, barely leaving a scratch on the surface. Hit the rock hard surface at a slight angle and you might dislodge a knife-edged slab of ice capable of decapitating you or your belayer.


Tuck in behind a curtain of ice like this one at Bear Spirit near Banff, Alberta and it can feel like you’ve been transported to a parallel universe… One where ice fairies might emerge from their glassy bedrooms to dust the wintery world outside with a sparkling of frost… 


I’ve got my brave game face on here, but I was actually terrified. I was about to step out and around a very steep column of ice at Louise Falls  early in the ice climbing season and very early in my ice climbing career. Though I had serious doubts about my ability to get to the top of this one, once my palpitations subsided, in the end all went well. 


Haffner Creek in BC is a place lots of climbers go to practice their ice climbing skills. Here I’ve been sent on a mission meant to improve my footwork. Note that my ice tools are parked down at the bottom and I’m climbing without them. Instead of relying on hooking the tools into the ice and hauling myself up, I can only use my gloved (and increasingly cold) hands for a bit of balance. All the upward movement came from my feet, which is as it should be.


As I write this today I could not be farther away from that magical, icy world of the mountains in winter. Here in Hawaii we visited Pearl Harbour this morning and spent some time in quiet thought at the memorial of the sunken battleship, Arizona. In the museum I was intrigued to see the handwritten edits to one of the world’s most famous speeches delivered by F. D. Roosevelt the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.


The word “infamy” was not in the original Pearl Harbor speech. 

I’m busily editing three different manuscripts in progress at the moment and they all look a bit like that typed page, full of additions and deletions and new directions and re-thinkings. Not that any will be as significant as The Infamy Speech, but it is reassuring to see that even the most eloquent of writing likely started out looking quite different to its final, polished form.

In Search of Joy – Part 1

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The timing of my elbow injury couldn’t have been much worse, really. It happened right at the beginning of the climbing season and I was so excited about heading outside and climbing actual rocks and not just inside in the gym (which has been a lot of fun, but I was raring to go feel some wind whistling through my helmet ventilation holes!)

I briefly considered cancelling a planned trip to the Rockies (brief=nanosecond) but it turns out that with a brace and a knowledgeable guide it’s entirely possible to find routes up mountains that are stunning and fun and which require very little of one’s elbows.

Joy is the name of a route on Mount Indefatigable which overlooks the Kananaskis Lakes, a name I assume was given to the route by one of the three first ascentionists in 1995 (Peter Gatzsch, Urs Kallen and Geoff Powter).  …photo from the Gripped.com article about four routes along the Bighorn Highway in Alberta. The white line indicates the route known as Joy.

When I first heard the name I wondered if I would find it joyous to climb. From what I could find online, it seemed like the climbing wouldn’t be too hard and would require little if any pulling with my bad arm. It also seemed like it would take a while (it’s about ten pitches long and though none of the sections are difficult, think about marching uphill on a pretty steep grade for several hours after having recently arrived from sea level and you can see why I imagined there could be a bit of huffing and puffing and calf-burning going on toward the top).

The hike in from the parking lot took maybe 45 minutes to the bottom of a truly dreadful rock pile.



Knowledgeable guide: “We are here. We need to go up there.”


Experienced companion: Halfway up the rubble pile before I could even get started. (See her way up there?) Knowledgeable guide: The trick is to take small steps, find a level place to put your foot, and get into a rhythm. Me: Rock piles suck. I thought we were here to climb a mountain?

Things I learned about the Rocky Mountains:

1. They are falling apart. The quantity of crumbled rock that has fallen from on high is staggering.

2. A huge expanse of fallen rock lying at the base of one’s objective is known as talus.

3. If the resting angle of the talus slope exceeds 33-37 degrees, things will start to slither. I am glad I did not know this and had no way to measure the angle of the slope we had to traverse because I would likely have enjoyed my wobbly trip even less.

4. Marching across a talus slope is an obnoxious exercise. Every step is uncertain. It’s pretty steep: even though it’s not anything like a cliff, losing your balance would suck big time. I could easily imagine slipping and sliding my way toward the bottom, surrounded by a hail of rocks big enough to snap bones. When this sort of thing happens one engages in some sort of self arrest procedure. This basically means using boots, hands, walking stick, teeth – anything to dig in and grab on and stop sliding. This seems all well and good in theory, but how one would self arrest in a landslide when everything around you is slithering and big enough to cause some serious damage I’m not exactly sure. Variations of this maneuver are also carried out on ice and snow using ski poles and pick axes. At this point I remain unconvinced about how much fun ice climbing and glacier whacking could possibly be. At this point, my winter heart sings sailing songs in southern climes.

5. Fortunately, if you do as you are told by the experienced guide (read the micro-terrain, place each foot in as level a spot as possible, stand up, take small steps, use your pole as your third leg, get into a steady rhythm and let momentum carry you) it is possible to pick your way over a sizeable talus slope without dislodging anything too big or toppling over backwards. The end result? A somewhat sweaty arrival at the base of the slab.

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Rope Management 101: try not to get too many knots in the ropes. Try not to drop your rope over the edge. Make sure you have a knot in the end of the rope so it doesn’t slip through a belay device, which could result in you dropping over the edge of a precipice. Try not to think about stuff like dropping off the edge of a precipice or your climbing experience suddenly becomes a lot less fun.

While the two pros were busy sorting out gear, organizing ropes, and making sure essential supplies like sunflower seeds were handy, I gawked around at the view.

In the foreground to the right the tail end of the rubble heap we scrambled over to get to the start of the climb proper.

In the foreground to the right is the tail end of the rubble heap we scrambled over to get to the start of the climb proper.

I thought the view was pretty great right from the start of the climb, but the others insisted things would just get better the higher we got.

Looking to our right, the slab and, beyond that, Upper Kananaskis Lake.

Looking to our right, the slab and, beyond that, Upper Kananaskis Lake.

As the winds blew clouds over the lake, the patterns of light and water shifted and changed so even when we were standing still (waiting for our fearless leader to set up the next belay anchor, for example) the show was an ever-changing treat. Though I suppose we could have sat and had a picnic and then scrambled back down over the dreaded talus slope, we were all eager to get going.

Looking up the slab - though mostly smooth, every now and then a dramatic crack opened in the rock before us

Looking up the slab – though mostly smooth, every now and then a dramatic crack opened in the rock before us. 

The route up Joy is pretty straightforward – basically follow the little crack at the base of the outcropping on the left and head uphill. The crack, it turns out, is perfect for shoving in all manner of knobbly things known collectively as ‘gear.’  More about gear placement and what the lead climber does (and what we followers had to do) to come in the next post, but this is getting rather long and I’m a bit worried about creating a mega post with a gazillion photos that will take forever to load.