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Indian Ridge (attempt)
Jasper National Park, Alberta
June 26, 2005

We had high hopes for ascending Indian Ridge. It was supposed to be an offtrail hike with "a handhold or two," and the park info centre assured us that the mountain was in good shape. We were looking forward to doing the traverse, but in the end we didn't even make the summit.

A hint of the bad weather to come appeared at the start. While riding the tram, we ascended in low cloud. We were told to be prepared for a rare treat. Because of an inversion, we would climb above the clouds. Sure enough, when we exited the tram, we were greeted with a vast plain of clouds perforated with peaks.

The vision was short-lived however. I took a panorama on Whistlers summit, and then the clouds closed in. It was a pleasant enough hike with an easy grade and a good trail, but the views were blotted out. After climbing higher, we were hit by rain followed by sleet.

When we neared the summit, it stopped sleeting and cleared a bit. Ahead a small cornice topped the ridge and beyond that rose the summit. After edging by the snow along the steep slope below the cornice, we stopped to consider our next move. It wasn't the easy scramble that I was expecting; because of the snow, a clear, easy route wasn't evident.

My first attempt became too treacherous, so I dropped down and tried another route. Dinah followed me, but she soon became uncomfortable and decided to turn back. I watched her as she picked her way back down when suddenly she fell backward and began rolling down. The slope wasn't overly steep, so thankfully she didn't pick up speed and soon stopped after tumbling down 3-4 metres.

Pumped with adrenaline, I reached her in seconds and grabbed her by her pack to prevent her from falling further. She began babbling, as was her way of dealing with the shock. She told me that the rock she had been holding onto came free. She was surprised as she had tested and used this rock on her ascent. But on her descent, when she paused to consider her next move, the rock suddenly became loose. The tumble had left her with cuts and bruises as well as a sore knee. After taking a few minutes to collect herself, we dropped down to a safer perch.

She assured me she was okay, so I decided to try another way up while she hung back. It had started snowing a while ago, and now the flurries were really flying. Nonetheless, I slowly made my way up toward the summit, kicking in the snow and testing the rocks. I hadn't gone very far when Dinah called out to me that her knee was swollen and quite sore. While pausing to consider if I should push on or if I should turn back to see if she needed assistance, a thunderclap made up my mind for me. Like my experience on Loaf Mountain, we had to descend immediately. I was 20 metres below the summit when I turned around.

Soon after I started my descent, I heard a buzzing. Unlike my previous experiences in a thunderstorm, though, it wasn't my GPS receiver that was buzzing but my head! Soon it was followed by something even more alarming. Sharp shocks assailed the back of my neck and head. In sensation, they ranged from pinpricks to bee stings. I quickened my pace.

Meanwhile Dinah wasn't experiencing any of this. She wondered why I appeared frightened. When I caught to her, I explained that I was being zapped, but I was puzzled why she felt nothing. I must be a better conductor (maybe I should reduce the iron in my diet!).

As we continued our retreat down Indian Ridge, it was apparent that Dinah's knee was getting worse and slowing her down. Given the gentle grade of the ridge and Dinah's slowness, we didn't drop down much. Fortunately the storm passed quickly, and the electric assault on my head ceased.

When it appeared safe to stop, we took a closer look at Dinah's knee. I had given her my trekking pole so she now had two, but it was apparent she still needed a lot of assistance in getting down. She could barely bend her knee, and she found descending quite painful. I strapped her pack to mine, and we started down again. When I came across some snow, I filled a zip-lock bag with it and wrapped it with a tensor bandage against her knee.

Dinah hobbled back to the tram car station, and we were soon at the hospital. They gave her shots and put her leg in a brace. The x-rays came back negative, but little could be determined because her knee was too swollen and inflexible. For the five-hour drive back to Calgary, she sat in the back seat with her leg elevated.

By the following day, Dinah's knee showed improvement. Much of the swelling had gone down and flexibility began to return. She decided to dispense with the brace. Instead of twisting her knee, it's likely she suffered an impact injury that meant a relatively quick recovery. (We returned and climbed it successfully in August.)

The tram took 7 minutes and carried us up almost 1000 m.
All scrambles should start this way!

The tram station is partially hidden in a cloud

Hiking up to Whistler Summit on the tourist trail

The cloud layers created a surreal background

Descending from Whistlers summit, the summit of Indian Ridge is hidden in clouds

Clouds began to thicken and partly hide Pyramid Mountain

Ascending into the mist

We're unable to see anything behind us now

We were hit with sleet as we made our way along the trail

The offtrail hike suddenly became a formidable scramble just below the summit

Dinah traverses below a small cornice as we retreated

While heading down in a snow squall and thunderstorm, my head would soon start getting zapped

The clouds clear around Pyramid Mountain

The storm passes to the east

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