An overnight snow cave trip, under the leadership of Robin Smith was planned for the weekend of February 24 and 25, 1973 to proceed from the Mosquito Creek Campground 15 miles north of Lake Louise on the Banff-Jasper Highway up the Mosquito Creek trail, over South Molar Pass and down Noseeum Creek back to the highway about one mile from the campground. Seven adventurous volunteers signed up namely, Linda Scarlett, Mary Fletcher, Tony Forster, Ron And Wendy Folkins, Paul Atcheson and Art Davis.

Upon arrival at the campground, which has been cleared out during the winter for use of snowmobiles to park vehicles, we proceeded to load up with approximately thirty to thirty-five pounds of sleeping bags, extra clothes, food, avalanche probes and shovels. Away we charged at 11:00 a.m. to the trailhead and were immediately faced with a steep switchback, which necessitated a conference between the six using cross-country skis as to the proper wax to use. Robin and myself having downhill skis with climbing skins had the advantage in this case.

Around the four mile mark we stopped for lunch and continued on up the trail, meeting three skiers on their way out who were on a day trip. The weather was mostly overcast and temperature in the upper twenty degree (F) range. Around 4:00 p.m. we reached the meadow at the foot of South Molar Pass and spotting a large drift Robin decided this would be a good place to camp. Tony and I used the avalanche probes and found the drift in most places to be at least nine feet deep. Two hours later after backbreaking digging four caves were completed for two persons each. Most of the group got slightly wet during the digging process and snow repellent ski slacks and waterproof mitts or gloves are a must for this job.

Ron and Robin got out their stoves and a supper of freeze-dried beef stew was enjoyed by all. Everyone turned in around 9:00 p.m. and some of the group spent an uncomfortable night due to wet clothes.

Sunday morning we slowly creaked out of our sleeping bags around 7:30 to what appeared might be a bright day. After a breakfast of porridge and tea we set out to attack South Molar Pass. It was twenty degrees and a light snowfall during the night had covered up the tracks in the snow made on Saturday. The pass Is around 500 feet high, however, the last 50 feet or so were steep enough to force most of us to remove our skis and climb up on foot. Upon reaching the top we were rewarded with some sunshine and a good view of some of the surrounding peaks and the valley below us. After a brief rest stop we proceeded across the alpine meadow with the intention of losing some altitude, cutting around the sides of the mountain on our right and hitting the start of Noseeum Creek.

We went down Molar Creek canyon, which is quite an experience when you never know what is around the next corner. Robin was in the lead and I stayed at a respectable distance behind him just close enough to hear any screams in case he skied off the edge of a frozen waterfall. Fortunately, although the canyon was steep, It was not too difficult to navigate and eventually we all reached the bottom and entered a heavily wooded area and then into a meadow where we experienced some trouble crossing an open creek.

After a lunch stop along Molar Creek It started to snow and the visibility had been poor since we had reached the summit of the pass and since that time we had been unable to see the mountain peaks around us. After going downstream for an hour or so we headed away from Molar Creek going up a ridge and expecting to get to Noseeum Creek. It was well named for we never did seeum. At this point the snow was coming down harder and visibility was quite limited and Robin announced that we should retrace our tracks, find a sheltered site and camp for the night. This announcement brought on some rather unfavourable comments; however, back we went and stopped in a heavily wooded area at the base of Molar Creek canyon. Once the campsite was chosen all hands pitched in to dig the snow down to near ground level between trees, cut poles for roof supports and fir boughs for roofing and floors. Ron had brought a large plastic sheet so had the best roof of all. Having made two shelters we split up four to each one. This is the time when a lightweight saw would have been a blessing to cut poles, etc. We had to make do with one large knife and two jack knives.

After a supper of a cup of soup and a cup of tea we all retired quite early. I believe everyone spent a more comfortable night than on Saturday as we had soft fir boughs to lay on, wet clothes had dried out and as we had now been out for two days and one night were more acclimatized. It snowed continually during the night and due to a slight defect in the construction of our roof, Robin, Paul, Linda and myself were victims of snow falling on our faces all night. This certainly drove home the fact that a large sheet of lightweight plastic is a good thing to have in your pack.

Monday morning we were up around 7:00 a.m., temperature 20 degrees, no wind and the snow had stopped. For a moment it cleared up enough to get a glimpse of Molar Mountain. After a hearty breakfast of one-quarter cup of soup and a cup of tea we departed and headed up Molar Creek canyon. Tony gallantly broke trail all the way up the canyon. On reaching the top of the canyon we were plagued with flat light conditions. The visibility was good so we made a beeline for the summit of the pass ahead of us and upon reaching it had a brief rest stop. It was decided not to go down the pass via the same route we had come up so we went about a quarter of a mile to our left and descended what we thought was an easier route. This turned out to be an optical illusion and for the first couple of hundred feet we sidestepped down. The temperature had gone up considerably and we found the snow so sticky it was almost impossible to ski straight down.

We reached the bottom of the pass onto the meadow directly across from our Saturday night campsite and headed straight for the waterhole to quench our thirst. After downing about a quart of water each, using Tang orange to give it a little body, out came the stoves again and tea was brewed up to wash down our lunch consisting of a piece of shortbread, a small piece of bread with jam or cheese.

During the consumption of this rather meagre repast Tony said he heard either a snowmobile or helicopter, which most of us put down as a vivid imagination. We had earlier been discussing the possibility of a search being organized as we were due to check out Sunday night and It was now 11:30 Monday. In a minute or so the unmistakable sound of a helicopter was evident down the valley and shortly after, it circled us and landed in the area we had dug our snow caves. Luckily for us they did not land on the cave site or we would have had the unpleasant task of digging one pilot and warden, not to mention one helicopter, out of nine feet of snow. Most of the group went over to have a chat with the warden and after he was assured we were all in good health they took off. We had visions of having our packs hauled out and left at the campground parking lot for us but no such offer was forthcoming.

The snow was sticky now and made the going tedious so we stopped for a final rest break in the vicinity of our Saturday lunch stop and demolished all the remaining food, bits of shortbread, cheese and a package of cookies saved for this last stop. Washing this down with tea or Tang we were off again. Between 4 and 4:30 p.m. we made it out to the campground.

After phoning the warden when we reached Lake Louise to advise him of our safe return we had lunch at the Post Hotel. Surprisingly enough, no one was ravenously hungry; our stomachs must have shrunk.

Except for a few anxious hours for people in Calgary who were unaware of our fate until notified by the warden service, I believe it was a good lesson to all of us on the trip. The poor visibility really fouled us up. We discovered that we could go further on less than most of us thought we could.

I would estimate that in the three days we covered from twenty-three to twenty-five miles, the last seven miles in sticky snow and some very steep climbing up Molar Creek canyon before that.

Extra food should be taken on any trip, even a day hike. A packet of freeze-dried food soup, mint cake, chocolate etc., can come In real handy in an emergency.

Art Davis

P.S. During one of the clubs Thanksgiving Weekend trips at Mosquito Creek campground a day hike was taken up Noseeum Creek to South Molar Pass and out Mosquito Creek. After seeing what we would have been in for on skis I thank my lucky stars we didn't complete the trip.


The Rocky Mountain Ramblers, represented by Tony Forster, Karl Biederstadt, Bill Pippy, Mary Fletcher, B.J. Jakabec, Brent Hickey, Jim Wilson and myself, set off to commemorate Alberta's 75th Anniversary by climbing Bourgeau Mountain (9,615 ft) on September 28, 1980. We arrived at Bourgeau Lake about 11:15 that Sunday morning, after a relatively uneventful trek up from the highway. We munched our "pre-lunch" goodies and contemplated the climb up the Impressive peak, which loomed above us. It was drizzling rain as we sheltered under the trees donning our gaiters and assorted winter garb in preparation for the climb.

Heading up the right side of the creek, we were soon in sight of the waterfall tumbling down to Bourgeau Lake. I could see the others grouped ahead at the waterfall so I took time to survey the hill above me thinking that it would be easier to take a higher trail.

There was something to discourage me from doing this, however. As I looked up the hill, a movement caught my eye. Blending well into the brown countryside and tearing into the dirt with his paws was a beautiful grizzly bear. He was intent on his business but as I yelled to the others, "bear, bear, bear" and pointed madly in his direction he lifted his elegant head, seemed to look at me, and then went back to his chores. The others, of course, couldn't see him at first, but as he moved down the valley exploring under the rocks, they caught sight of him. Tony and Brent, who had come up the left hand side of the creek, were quickly joined by the rest of us as we decided that it would be nicer to have the creek between us and the bear. He appeared to be looking for food as he proceeded across the mountainside.

As we reached the top of the waterfall, the wind was blowing and the rain was pouring down. The better-prepared ones of us were putting on rain pants, but my dud Goretex jacket was literally soaking up the rain. The sky had been grey and unfriendly most of the day and fog was drifting In and out of the area.

In our progress towards the second lake close to the pass, we spotted one of the grizzly's tracks in the snow. Some of us were talking excitedly about our encounter with the bear and we decided that certainly he wouldn't still be there on our way back. As we rounded-the side of the mountain, the wind and rain disappeared as quickly as they had come. My spirits lifted as I thought maybe it won't be so cold and miserable after all.

As we climbed we looked back 'upon the valleys and mountains to the west and "could see for miles and miles". This was to be the last of our incredible views for a while. At one point we heard someone yelling behind us and we turned to see about fifteen mountain sheep darting across the slope below us. We still couldn't see the top of the mountain and the more we climbed the foggier it became. It got colder and it started to hail: Needlepoints of hail that stabbed into our cheeks if we turned our faces toward it. My pants became wet through and my legs became numb with cold. I thought I would never get warm again. At one point the fog was all around me and I couldn't see any of my fellow Ramblers. I had visions of being lost on the mountain.

Eventually the hail stopped and as I climbed and climbed I couldn't help but get warm again. At times the fog would lift and the wind would tease us by giving us glimpses of gorgeous blue Alberta sky. But still we couldn't see the peak. We were getting closer, though. One of the new members was also beginning to feel the climb, but with encouragement from the others who knew that we were much too close to quit now, she decided to go on.

Our last bit of super encouragement came as I lay collapsed on a rock with my back to the peak, giving my body a chance to rejuvenate before climbing the last long slope to the peak. Hearing a yell, I turned to see above me blue sky and a clear view of the summit. With a "We can see the top, let's get going while we can still get some pictures", I saw Tony leaping and bounding towards the mountaintop.

Quite a bit more leisurely, I got myself in gear, and with one more sustained effort, we were all there. It was 3:00 p.m. It had taken almost 6 hours to climb 4,915 feet.

It was very cold standing by the cairn as Tony fastened the Alberta 75 canister with the summit register (christened with all our names) to it. Quickly we took the pictures holding our Alberta 75 flag and Tony passed out the Alberta 75 badges, which we humbly accepted. We couldn't see all that much from the top so we left, much more quickly than we had arrived.

On the way down, again we had tremendous views looking west and south. The dark green and golden fall colours created a variegated pattern below distant snow mountains and smoky sky. We rallied at the lake at the pass. We had more or less agreed that we should stay together from then on In case the bear was still about.

As we rounded the bends just before the falls where we had first seen the bear, I was calling unashamedly into the air, just to let him know where we were, in the hopes that, if he heard me, he would decide that he didn't want to want to be there. As I said before, we figured the bear would be long gone, but it didn't hurt to be cautious.

Mary was just ahead of me when in a kind of a loud whisper I said "M a a a r y..". I could see the bear not far below us, still burrowing industriously in the dirt. I was jumping up and down to let the others behind us know that we had seen him. We then backed up towards the others and descended as a group, warily watching, but fascinated by, the legendary creature. One or two of us stopped to take pictures, and then we carried on down to the lake and back to the cars.

We had a beer at the side of the road and then supper in Canmore. A typical ending to a not so typical day.

Vivian Budgen