Monday, August 20, 2007

After the excitement and urgency of the previous call, we slowed down somewhat and took a slightly longer route home checking out a few more remote valleys for smoke or fire.

While there was not a smoke or fire to be seen, we encountered a fair bit of scenery - flying back across the continental divide.

Lake Ohara

Lake Ohara

Lake Oesa

These Google Earth images show the actual flight route we took. We went up the McArthur valley, then over McArthur Lake, Lake Ohara, Lake Oesa, Abbot's pass and down the valley into Alberta and over Lake Louise and the Chateau of the same name.
Click on the photos for a larger view.

Google Earth images of our flight path!

Abbot's Pass

Abbot hut.

Abbot Hut

For your homework, you can check out the following links on Abbot's Pass and the famous alpine hut that perches there.
The hut is sitting astride the wind-swept crest of Abbot Pass at the impressive height of 9,598 feet, it is second only to the Neil Colgan hut as the highest permanent structure in Canada.
GPS Coordinates: 51°21' 54"-116°17' 12" NAD83 11U 549660 5690657

Mount Victoria, above Lake Louise.

Lake Louise, with the Chateau at the far end.

Trails visible in the photos lead to Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse near treeline.

Use your Google Earth to 'fly'over this area and see it for yourself, sort of.

In the meantime, look at this aerial view from Google Maps!

View Larger Map
As I said, there are some quiet times at work, even on a busy long weekend.

This day started out slow, but it was still early morning. Fire hazard was still high, so we had a helicopter on standby to respond at the first report of smoke, or - to go looking for smoke.

I had some gear and supplies that needed to go into some of our backcountry cabins. So when Craig arrived from Golden with the long ranger helicopter we loaded up and headed out.

First stop was at Little Pipe cabin, about 19 km from Lake Louise up the Pipestone river. It is a fairly tidy little heli-pad on the river bank, but we easily parked there and dropped off a chainsaw for trail clearing, and some more needed items. Then it was off further up the valley to Fish Lakes cabin.

This cabin is accessible from the main Pipestone pass trail, or from the Icefields Parkway via North Molar Pass. There is a campground nearby in the very scenic high elevation valley.

The cabin comes into view ...

After dropping off the supplies and loading up some empty containers for the return trip,

Craig admires the view as we look for elk or caribou in the area.

We had just returned to Lake Louise and parked the helicopter when I heard a chilling (pun intended, but not at the time) report on the radio from some park staff in Yoho National Park,
just across the border in BC. They reported that two young children had been swept away in the very cold, glacial fed Kicking Horse river, and were presently floating away! Yikes! The last time we responded to a similar call at that location was for a young adult who was swept away. In that case it took several weeks just to locate his body, so this call was not taken lightly.
Wardens in Yoho responded right away to the scene, we hooked up the jet boat for a fast road trip, water rescue gear was loaded into trucks and the sirens began to wail. Another warden who is a paramedic and I hopped in the still-warm helicopter and headed west. En route, we received the great news that the smaller of the two children had been safely hauled to shore by the frantic adults on scene, but the older one had been swept downstream by the fast current.

Several long minutes later, we were on scene and were much relieved to find that the youngster had made it safely to the far shore, where he stood shivering cold and no doubt scared.

We landed close to him on the muddy bank and gave him a helicopter ride back to his worried family members across the river.

After getting into some warm dry clothes, he was given a checkup by our resident paramedic and found no worse for wear.

And, the alert Parks staff who were on scene and made the immediate call for help to get the rescue wheels turning, rotors spinning, and boats headed down the highway. It's always nice when the story has a happy ending like this one.

Other calls in the next few days did not end as well.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Even during a busy weekend, there are plenty of opportunities to kick back and enjoy a little peace, quiet, and some scenery - if you know where to go to avoid the crowds & crazies.

Even the waters were calm for a while, lending themselves to some photos with great reflections of the surrounding mountains.

The first ones were taken at Bow Lake, about 30 km north of Lake Louise on the spectacular Icefields Parkway.

The red roof in the distance is Num Ti Jah Lodge, established by the legendary rockies explorer, Jimmy Simpson, after he first came across the lake in 1898.

The remaining photos were taken near Field, BC, in Yoho National Park. Field was established in the 1880's as a construction camp for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Life there still revolves around the railroad, and it's location in Yoho National Park.

You know the rules:
1) Click on a link for more information.
2) Click on a photo to see it full size.
3) Click on some advertisers - so I get paid!
4) Send me an e-mail if you are bored.
5) Check out the new video feature I added.
This week it features videos on or at Lake Louise. The "Tourism" one is pretty classy.
Warning - it my make you want to visit the area.
6) Check back soon for some more 'rescue' action.
7) Welcome new readers from 'Geeks on Tour' blog!
8) Check out some of the permanent 'links', like the one to Tioga & George's blog.
9) Bookmark this site. Do it now.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

While the summer has been surprisingly quiet thus far, the long weekend and the start of August has been very different. A few little black bears have been in town almost constantly, taking advantage of the berry crop that has ripened in the valley bottoms, keeping us very busy keeping them separate from the tourists. This can also includes the occasional, brief closures of four lanes of the Trans Canada highway to either kick a bear out of town, or to 'facilitate' their crossing without becoming road pizza.

The forest fire hazard has been high to extreme, so everyone has been on edge, watching for lightning and smoke reports. Fire crews and helicopters are on constant standby, and 'smoke flights' are regular. But this also gives us a chance to fly needed gear, supplies and horse feed into many of our back country cabins.

Driving on the promenade.

The first call was for a patient at the back of Lake Louise suffering severe abdominal pain. Often the quickest way to get there is by bicycle, so I grabbed a medical kit, drove my truck on the sidewalk in front of the Chateau, then biked the rest of the way.

Talking to the patient (helicopter in background).

When it was decided that she needed to be evacuated, we called one of our helicopters that was nearby because of the fire hazard. The pilot was able to land on the mud flats close by, so in short order the patient was being treated at the Lake Louise medical clinic.

Helicopter with the Chateau Lake Louise in the distance.

At the same time this call had come in, there was another call about an unconscious male lying on the side of the highway towards Jasper. Lake Louise Fire Dept and RCMP responded to this one, but the person had been picked up and was being transported in a private vehicle, so there was the usual confusion involved till all the details got sorted out.
We were just back at our base unloading gear when we got another call of a young lady who had taken a fall near Lake O'hara, just across the continental divide in Yoho National Park - which we also look after. This time, a different helicopter was dispatched from Banff, as both rescuers and patient would have to hang beneath the machine as the terrain was far too steep for a landing. In spite of some head injuries and an apparent broken back she was soon transferred to a waiting ambulance at Lake Louise for the trip to Banff and/or Calgary.

This was only the start of a busy weekend. Things would only get crazier.

Friday, August 3, 2007

After spending some time in the Rocky Mountain House area we decided to head back the way we came, via Nordegg and Highway 11. Abraham lake provides a large variety of free, random camping opportunities. We found one of those on a point overlooking the lake, and shared it with some type of youth group who were also camping there.

Abraham Lake

I Was only planning to spend one night, but the weather continued nice, and after a good hike up to Allstones Lake there was no reason to move on. The weather was hot, but fortunately, there was a good wind to make it quite bearable and make sure there were no bugs.

Allstones Lake