Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Wishes
From Harley and his friends!

(Harley video at bottom of this posting!)

Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the mountain passes, nothing was stirring, - except for perhaps a few avalanches.

Some came down on their own, and some needed a little help. Some of the avalanche paths have the Trans Canada Highway in their sights, so they get some special treatment.

Finally a clear, sunny day, and the helicopters were buzzing. Some flitted from mountaintop to mountaintop, trying to get the mostly 'out of order' mountaintop radio repeaters working again, after their solar panels had been covered with frost and snow for weeks.

On the avalanche front, after we closed the highway and railroad as a precaution, another helicopter added a touch of explosives in key avalanche start zones. Creating smaller avalanches under tightly controlled conditions is much safer than risking a much larger, unplanned slide that could block the highway or knock a train off the tracks.

The first photo is of the closed highway looking towards some of the avalanche paths. If you squint, you might just see a couple of puffs of white up on the slope. Those are the explosives going off.

The next photo is showing a closer view, and if you squint once again, you might just be able to make out the helicopter, which is the speck to the left of the snow puffs.

As planned, nothing actually reached the road, but at least now the holiday travellers would have one less obstacle to reaching their destinations.

I, on the other hand, had some days off, so I headed out to my 'other' place and was welcomed to the neighborhood by some Christmas decorations on our gate.
If you are still squinting, you might just see my house in the distance?

(Don't forget, you can click on any photo to see a larger version. Less squinting, eh!)

Notwithstanding the "Harley video" at the bottom of this post, Harley was content to stay indoors and relax most of the time.

I, on the other hand got out to explore a bit, and hiked around checking out some of the nearby bush areas. Lots of deer around, but they were all just a bit too camera shy to stick around for the photos.

And I also drove around a while and came across the remains of some one's hunting or holiday camp. Some of you may not recognize the truck without the camper on it?

Rest assured, the camper will be going on again early in the new year, and we will be hitting the road south again as soon as possible. Yahoo!

Okay, here's what you've all been waiting for! If you have dial-up, that 'waiting' my be more than just a figure of speech.
Here's the famous (some might say lazy?) cat playing with his Christmas mouse, and then, thanks to generous readers Terry & Marie, Mary & Merle, he is checking out the latest shipment of ...


Monday, December 17, 2007

(Harley video at bottom of this posting!)

Wow! Has it been over a week since the last update?
How time flies when the days are short, and the plans are starting to formulate for the next expedition. With luck, we should be on the road south by the start of February! Can't wait!

In the meantime, there has been lots going on at work. Well, at least lots of drivers that can't seem to grasp the concept of 'keeping it between the ditches' and 'keeping the shiny side up'!

Starting off the photo lineup is a shot of 'Morants Curve', taken through the windsheild. It is a famous spot for photographing trains just east of Lake Louise on the 1A highway.

Next a shot of the front of my truck, while I was starting it up after the recent snowfalls.

Then, scenic shot looking down the tracks near Lake Louise, while watching out for the train coming!

Today was a great day for wolf sightings! I spotted this pack of at least 7 wolves in Yoho National Park, and got to take quite a few pictures, but was disappointed with the quality - even at 10.1 megapixels. I think there are six wolves in this photo.
I turned down a closed access road for a better look, and found this one black wolf, very close up, and very unconcerned about my intrusion into his day. This 'may' have been one of the original group of 7, or it might be an eighth wolf!
The next three pics are of a truck that somehow failed to stay on the straight road, even though it was three lanes wide at that spot. Hmmm? Fortunately, no one was hurt in any of the three wrecks.

This guy decided that driving on the road was not challenging enough, so he decided on a route between the highway - and the river! He did a good job of keeping it upright under these admittedly challenging conditions. He kept the shiny side up, but failed miserably in keeping it between the ditches.

And just this afternoon, this guy followed the rule about keeping it between the ditches, but must not have been listening when I mentioned keeping the shiny side UP!.

And for the Harley fans - another video of, well, Harley getting his hair done.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spent a little time poking around the west boundary of Yoho National Park the other day.

Spotted a coyote on the railroad tracks coming out of the park.

Lots of logging trucks hauling out of the Beaverfoot valley, just west of Yoho and north of Kootenay park.

Park boundary signs along the Kickinghorse river.

Kickinghorse river, with Mount Hunter in the background.

If you look carefully at the last photo ( and click on it to make it larger), you should be abe to see the park boundary slash going straight up the mountainside left of centre.

Friday, November 30, 2007

It is that time of year again - winter! And sticking with the skiing theme of last weeks post, here are a whole bunch more ski-related pics.

But, really none of actually - skiing! Confused?

Well this is the time of year where we prepare for avalanche search and rescue, so we get our butts out of the office and practice search techniques.

It is always easier when you have some snow to work with, but that is in relative short supply so far this season. It is also more realistic if you can work in an actual avalanche deposit, as opposed to snowy field.

There are a few avalanche deposits in the 'not yet opened' areas of the ski hill, so that is where we went. The back side of the hill is not open yet, so we had to resort to snow machines to get back there.

It is also a good opportunity for our 'dog team' to practice their snow technique.

Although searching for buried tranceivers has always been a part of our recent exercises, this year things were even more high tech. We are working with a system of buried targets that can be turned on and off remotely from a control unit. This system also registers if it is hit by a searchers avalanche probe. The 'remote tragets' are the yellow boxes in the photo with 'easy searcher' on them.

I guess I should mention that these 'targets' are well hidden under several feet of snow when the search is in progress. The ones sitting on the surface have been dug out and 'rescued'!

In spite of all the high tech gadgetry employed, the rescue dog is still the single most valuable asset in an organized rescue.

And ... on the other side of the mountain - on Saturday, there was another historic moments as Canada's Britt Janyk had a podium finish, becoming the first Canadian woman ever to do so in the downhill at Lake Louise!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The first Men's Downhill World Cup Race of the season was held within sight of my house today.

I had to work (at the race), so took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

It's been cold all week, with no new snow - which is generally good for racing, but it was fairly changeable and blustery today, and everyone had to work at keeping warm.

Canadian Jan Hudec had finished first in the training run yesterday, and one of the Canadians had won the GS race here last year, so hopes were high.

But a Canadian has never won the downhill here in Lake Louise, and the only other downhill victory by a Canadian in Canada was Rob Boyd - back in 1989, I think.

Well today was a big day for Lake Louise, and the Canadian ski team.

For the second day in a row Jan Hudec put in a good run , wearing bib #5. He came in first, then had to wait around while all the American and European 'big guns' came down behind him.

But at the end of the day, the Banff local boy - with his parents in the crowd, stood on top of the podium as the first and only Canadian ever to win the downhill in Lake Louise.

So, as soon as the race was over, I went home, and CBC was just starting their broadcast of the race.

So I got to see the parts of the race I hadn't seen, complete with all the commentary.

Tomorrow - the Super 'G' race in the same location - and the Grey Cup game in Toronto.


(Click on any photo to see it in full size)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I took a lot of photos this week, and they are mostly self explanatory.

Many of the scenic shots I included in a slide show that should play automatically?
The slide show is in the upper right at the top of the blog. If you click on it you can control the show or see it in full screen mode, courtesy of Picassa Web Albums.

Most of these were taken on the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and the Columbia Icefields. There has been a lot of fresh snow in the last few days, then this day was very cold (-23C in the morning) and sunny and beautiful.
I was hauling an avalanche control gun north to Jasper Park and could not resist taking a lot of pics. I saw two very nice, sleek, large wolves on the side of the road, but they were a bit too shy for my camera.

We spent much of one night at a car wreck trying to get 4 backboarded patients back up a steep slope to the road where they could be taken to hospital by ambulance. It was kind of busy so I took no photos, but the next day there was another similar wreck (photos included) where the driver manged to make it back up to the road somehow - before getting transported to hospital.

Then there was the big fire one night. A large building burned to the ground at a local resort. It was already beyond saving when two fire departments arrived, but they managed to save all the surrounding buildings and a large propane tank nearby. This was difficult because there are no fire hydrants for mile around and they had to set up a 'truck brigade' pumping water from a nearby river that was doing it's best to freeze over.