Saturday, September 28, 2013

Three Sisters Hike (Fernie)

To celebrate the last day of summer and take advantage of the last few days without too much snow in the alpine, we decided to hike the Three Sisters Trail in Fernie. We were a pretty large group of 8, armed with many cans of bear spray, bear bangers, bells, flares and a shotgun, just in case a grizzly decided to get curious. Luckily we didn't have to use anything! We started up Hiko's Trail around 9:30 in the morning and it definitely did not feel like summer. Only when the trail suddenly started to rapidly gain elevation did the layers start coming off. About 30 minutes into the hike, we had already zig-zagged across a creek a few times and reached the top of a waterfall.
Looking up the creek and waterfall
The mouth of the waterfall. Not sure where it is coming from!
Rounding a corner, we came upon Bizaro Cave. We spent a little while here checking it out with headlamps, but didn't get too far in as we were pretty concerned about bears and it smelled like poop in there.
The entrance to Bizaro Cave
 After a bit more steep climbing, the trail mellowed out and the views started to emerge. The trail went straight up the valley with huge peaks on all sides.
Looking back down the Valley
 Despite being summer still, it was cold, especially as we neared the col where the Three Sisters Trail branches off of Hiko's Trail (which continues on for 13km to Island Lake Lodge).
Chilly way to end an awesome summer!
We had lunch at the col before heading up the ridge. A grizzly had been digging in the area as there were big holes all over the place. None of the poo we saw looked to fresh which was a relief but we were all on bear patrol. As the day went on, clouds moved in over the top of the Three Sisters and a cold breeze picked up. We were all prepared for cold after seeing a bit of snow on the top the night before so that didn't stop us from carrying on up.

500 m to go. Straight up!
Clouds moving in
The trail worked its way up the scree and into the snow. It was surprisingly deep on the trail from how the wind had blown it all in. I felt bad for the guys wearing shorts and was regretting my decision to leave the gaiters at home.
The whole crew (minus Kyle the photographer)
We had about 2 minutes at the top where we could see down into Fernie and Hosmer before the clouds came in around us. The top was frigid. While everyone was looking at the geocashe at the weather station, I was hunting for somewhere that would protect me from the wind I was not interested in the beers that had been packed for the summit. A quick, mandatory summit shot was taken before we bee-lined it back to the trail.

Summit weather station. Kind of looks like it is ready to launch into space
Deteriorating weather at the summit
 It took a while before I was warm enough to stop swinging my arms around, but by the time we had got down off the ridge, I was stripping layers again. It was a wet walk down, with rain coming in torrents on and off. Back at the car, we found out that one of the girls hiking with us had only ever done one hike before, in Hawaii!! I had no idea and was very impressed with her lack of complaining despite all sorts of crazy weather. Overall, the ~18 km hike took us 8.5 hours and was a ton of fun. I would like to go back and do it again with the views from the top. I am also interested in trying out the full Hiko's trail, stopping at Island Lake for dinner after.
View from the ridge (Fernie is behind the mountain on the left). Island Lake is somewhere behind the mountain on the right

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