Sparrowhawk Tarns, August 2012

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Lori S.
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Joined: 2009-10-27
Sparrowhawk Tarns, August 2012

As promised, here are a few photos of our recent hikes (August 13th and 16th) to Sparrowhawk Tarns in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park. [I've posted a lot of photos from this area previously (http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=746.0, http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=416.0 , http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=348.0, http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=384.0 ) so I'll be briefer than usual!]

Whereas spring and summer came extremely late to this area in the last couple of years, this year, things seem to have returned to more normal timing, despite record snowfalls.After a pleasant forest walk and an ascending hike through a bouldery rockfall, the treeline of larches and subalpine fir is in sight:

Saxifraga bronchialis is still in bloom in the boulder field, with Aquilegia flavescens:

Abundant Parnassia fimbriata in pristine condition in the little side meadows:

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Continuing up, mats of Silene acaulis and Dryas octopetala still in bloom:  

And finishing the climb, we are greeted with a view of the valley ahead and the first tarn, with low water after this warm summer.  The hill overlooking it is often a welcome spot for lunch (and on the earlier of the two hikes, we sheltered in the lee side, out of the cool wind, with a view of the valley ahead).    

The hanging valley on the right side of the main valley was at the peak of bloom this year (it scarcely got to bloom at all last year!), spangled with yellow Arnica lonchophylla (or so I believe - let me know if it's some other arnica), Parnassia fimbriata and aster, and alive with dozens (hundreds?) of Milbert's tortoiseshell butterflies:      

The valley ahead:

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

A wonderful hike with expansive views.  Based upon the 4th photo in your last post, it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of those talus slopes.  It makes me miss the days where I had such easy access to majectic mountains when I lived in Washington State.

Mark McDonough Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5 antennaria at aol.com  

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Thanks for the comments, Mark!  A few more photos...Beautiful mats of Salix nivalis(?) amongst the rocks, and a patch of Salix that, surprisingly, was still in bloom:  

Among the wildlife we saw were marmots, pikas, golden-mantled ground squirrels and this mama white-tailed ptarmigan, with her well-camouflaged brood of 5:

Tonestus (Haplopappus) lyallii with Castilleja; Smelowskia calycina x2; Agoseris aurantiaca:      

And the stunning expanses of Saxifraga lyallii that are a highlight of the bloom in this valley for us:    

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
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Joined: 2009-12-15

Lori, it's marvellous! I am enjoying looking at your pictures and dreaming of walking there myself ;)

Trond Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

Second that! We are about as far away from any mountains as you can get in the UK.

Dr. Timothy John Ingram Faversham, Kent, UK I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.  

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

More tarns along the way:    

More flora - a rare Saussurea nuda still in bloom; meadow; Androsace septentrionalis; Saxifraga occidentalis:      

Last tarn, and for scale, that's me in the red shirt and backpack, seeing what's growing among the talus...  :)      

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Howey
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-05-17

Mark, I too miss the mountains in the west and only dream of them these days. As  children we went on lots of hikes through the Sooke Hills (Vancouver Island) and I was able to go to one of the NARGS Annual Meetings in Snowbird, Utah - a dream come true up there among the Wasatch.  In 2000, four of us ORGS folk spent a few days tramping around the Sierra Nevada east of Los Angeles.  Once had a holiday in a Swiss Chalet but could only gaze at the Maiden, the Monk and the Ogre Alps from our deck - did  go up to The Top of Europe in a slow train that plunged in and out of the mountain accompanied by piped in eerie music and terminating in some gorgeous views - but no actual hiking.  I do so enjoy your pictures, Lori.  Fran

Frances HoweyLondon, Ontario, CanadaZone 5b

cohan
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Joined: 2011-02-03

Great stuff, Lori! We were in the mountains yesterday, and I could look up and see some of this sort of habitat, though not accessible from where we were (I did see one trailhead on the road to the Columbia Icefield that I need to look into, not sure where it goes, but there were slopes behind the forested parking area, though for all the cars there, I didn't see anyone up above...lol; and of course many of these sorts of slopes are simply not hikable- way too steep/unstable). Its been a wet year again here, and it seems so in the mountains west of me as well, since I saw green areas high up that I haven't seen before..Interestingly, although there were some things in flower, there was a definite feeling of fall around the Columbia Icefield, with many shrubs/subshrubs starting to turn... I was curious to see some of the spring crucifers in seed, but the very few I could find were reduced to tiny winter rosettes!

Love the Saussurea and the Agoseris :) That Androsace seems larger flowered than those I've seen lower? or is it just because the stem is reduced?

Recently I posted somewhere that I'd read an article by the outgoing director of Banff National Park- he mentioned increased CO2 levels have led to a boost for shrubby over herbaceous species, and an impact on alpine flower meadows... have you seen this? I was thinking about this around the Icefield where there are more woodies than anything, but I don't have a long enough knowledge of the area and the habitat to know that that is anything other than typical...

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27
cohan wrote:

many of these sorts of slopes are simply not hikable- way too steep/unstable 

Even only from my minor efforts, I can say with certainty that you'd be surprised! ;)  Give it a try sometime!  It all looks impossible when you're looking up from below (in part, due to the foreshortening effect)... but just be aware that coming down is harder than going up.

cohan wrote:

Recently I posted somewhere that I'd read an article by the outgoing director of Banff National Park- he mentioned increased CO2 levels have led to a boost for shrubby over herbaceous species, and an impact on alpine flower meadows... have you seen this? I was thinking about this around the Icefield where there are more woodies than anything, but I don't have a long enough knowledge of the area and the habitat to know that that is anything other than typical...

Perhaps this is detectable over decades but I don't have that perspective.... having started this rather late in life, I may not live long enough to get it!  ;D

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

cohan
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

I was thinking (re:unhikable) of some that you can see from the road, with hundreds (?) of feet of cliff and/or endless talus slopes below the patches of green- I'll post some pics when I get that far; I'm sure there are those that you can get to (short of actual rock climbing/mountanineering!) via areas that are less extreme, but some I see only look accessible via helicopter...lol

So far its just been a matter of time as far as trying existing trails (not seriously contemplating picking a random mountain and trying to get up there...lol)- we can only do day trips, and it takes a couple/several hours driving just to get to the areas where you could begin a hike into the alpine- a couple hours each way hiking and then the drive home, starts to get too long.. there are supposed to be some areas near Nordegg ('only' 120km or so drive) where you can get up high, though the mountains aren't that high there, but I haven't figured it out yet... Not sure I'd be able to convince my driver to leave the vehicle unattended for any length of time unless its a busy parking lot, though he would love being up there...  :-\This trip we mostly skipped stopping in the foothills/montane areas so that we could get farther earlier, so we have another trip coming as far as Nordegg or Kootenay Plains...

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

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