Wasootch Stories

Recently four of my Ruthie & Friends hiking group hiked part way up Wasootch Creek in Kananaskis Country. It is a rocky creek bed with water flowing underground until you get a long way up this little valley. We didn’t go far and were able to look at the climbing cliffs and even saw a few climbers and this interesting structure. It was Diane, Idel, Vern and I. When we returned to the parking lot we found a shaded picnic table where we had a long visit and ate our goodies.

Yesterday I went back with Duncan and Olwyn and Nia, their therapy dog, because I neglected to take some photos of the cliffs and I wanted some. I am glad I did go back because I found some families with delightful little children they were teaching to climb.

I climbed these cliffs about 45 years ago; and so did the British army who were practising climbing. At that time the army gave me all their leftover food when they closed their camp at Barrier Lake. I drank British army tea for about 4 years and two big boxes of freeze dried food supplied Flo Smith, Jan Boschmann and I for 3 weeks of backpacking one summer. After I sent out a few photos that were taken during last week’s hike I received a number of responses (I usually do) and this interesting one came from Arnold Hartford, a fellow I’ve known for over 50 years.

“On my own, I walked up the Wasootch Creek bed to the area where climbers access the Wasootch Slabs. I watched some Canadian Army Cadets climbing on the walls. It appeared that they were being belayed, but it was obvious to me that the belayers had not set up properly. I called all the climbers down into a group and then instructed them on how to set up a proper belay off the top ropes. Then I watched the belayers to be sure they could arrest their climbers, using the locking knot on the carabiners. Shortly afterward, a Cadet Officer arrived. He was told about my assistance, and he thanked me. I wondered why he was allowed to be in charge, since he had not done a very good job of instruction or of observation. Fortunately, nobody was injured from a bad fall. I was a Master Cadet at Banff National Cadet Camp in the summer of 1956. This experience occurred in the 1970s, after Ruthie took me to the area for the first time, and we did some climbing ourselves. I did tell the Cadets that I was once one of them, so I was accepted easily.”

The second photo here shows Wasootch Tower in the background. When I was running Ribbon Creek Hostel in the early 1970s Doug Eastcott and Mel Hines and I went off to climb the tower. As it turned out the guys forgot the second rope and rather than go back to the hostel to get it I said I would just scramble up to the saddle and wait for them there. On my way I came across a very old ski pole. I still have that pole and it is hanging on the wall of my house hall. I would guess it dates back to the early 1900s or late 1800s. Part of the pole has string wrapped around it and leather covers the top six inches or so. I am including some photos. It is a real historical find. While I was sitting on the saddle eating my lunch I kept waiting for the guys to show up. Finally I did hear them but they were below me! They did not find the route up the tower. Later we learned the route up started at the saddle! I guess you can’t win them all. I assume I won because I found the ski pole and I still have it 46 years later.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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