Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jasper Peak


The shortening days are more noticeable as we head into Fall. Two months ago I was driving to Hessie in sunlight - today it was darkness. I parked up as the sky was lightening. It was 32 degrees and a crisp frost covered the ground. It would undoubtedly get warmer as the sun climbed, but this first hour was going to be challenging. I still haven't accepted the need to carry a lightweight fleece or gloves...maybe two more weeks and I'll succumb to the inevitable.

Fall colors are evident everywhere, and earlier than last year. Even below 10,000 feet the grasses are showing distinct autumnal tinges.

With the political conventions now over the Presidential election is in full swing and there is a lot for a nation to think about. I followed events as carefully as travel enabled and my general feelings have been negative. I was particularly disappointed with the lost opportunity to put both candidates on the spot with respect to science and how their views of science would impact policy. Scientific American polled eminent scientists and came up with a series of questions to which both candidates have responded. The questions are terrible and are phrased in such a way as to allow candidates to waffle. The outcome is that I am no clearer on where either candidate stands with regards to science. For example, the following questions should have been asked...

  • if the findings of science contradict your beliefs, which will carry precedent and why?
  • do you believe and accept the theory of evolution? If not, what is the scientific basis of your rejection?
  • do you accept the scientific fact of climate change caused largely by human activity? If not, what is the scientific basis of your rejection?
  • when does human life begin and what scientific evidence supports your opinion?
  • would you support stem cell research and provide state funding?
  • what have you learned from recent scientific research in molecular biology and the human genome?
  • can you provide an example of where you changed an established belief because of scientific discovery?
Scientific American completely ducked the issue in my view and I am left with only a rough idea of how I think the respective candidates would align on these issues. Sadly, I think Romney will be the most challenged. 

Hessie is my favorite trailhead and I enjoy all the routes that depart from here. Leaving so early meant I would have the initial trail to myself and I set off towards Jasper Lake on the Devil's Thumb trail.

The temperature rose as we climbed towards the lake which lies just below 11,000 feet. The trail is steep in places and I wasn't interested in breaking any speed records today. I think Livvy was relieved and we just took our time gaining altitude in the early morning sun.

I passed by Jasper Lake just a few weeks ago and I was surprised how low the water was today in comparison. The route we would follow involved skirting the south shoreline passing the campsites. There is a sign for Camp 7 which is the trail to take and this eventually deposits you by the entry creek at the extreme west end of the lake. In the photo above Jasper Peak is in the far distance left of center. It lies just below 13,000 feet so we still had 2,600 feet of climbing ahead of us. We would follow the creek up the obvious valley toward Storm Lake.

This is the view back to Jasper Lake as we began to ascend next to the creek.

This is the view up the creek from the same point as the previous photo.There is a very good trail up to Storm Lake...after that it is definitely off trail.

I'm annoyed with Romney for reasons that have much more to do with the fact that he is Republican. I know, and like, many Republicans, but Romney annoys me because he so obviously is prepared to do and say anything to become President. His stance on Gay marriage is just one example.

There was a lot of coverage last week of a a pro-footballer declaring his support for Gay marriage and being reprimanded by a politician (a Democrat no less) who seemed to want to limit his First Amendment rights. Then we had the spectacle of a Veteran confronting Romney directly on the issue of Gay marriage. What started out as an ideal photo opp for Romney quickly deteriorated as the reality of his questioner sunk in.

So what is it with Republicans and Gay marriage? Clearly the influence of the evangelical Christian right is at the heart of this, but surely they see public opinion is working against them? And what right does any human have to restrict the freedoms of other humans for reasons based on bigotry and ignorance? As we see Romney repeat that he believes "marriage is between a man and a woman", what is he frightened of? What does he care what the couple next door do in the privacy of their own home?

So I have some questions for Romney on the issue of Gay marriage.
  • in what way does gay marriage constitute a threat to heterosexual marriage?
  • do you believe that individuals "choose" to be gay? If so, at what point in your life did you "choose" not to be gay?
  • does the presence of married gays cause you to have doubts about your own sexual orientation? Are you concerned that you'll suddenly be tempted to be gay?
  • you have publicly stated your support for heterosexual marriage is because of procreation, so why allow infertile couple to marry? Why allow mentally retarded couple to marry?
This issue is the purest form of bigotry and has everything to do with pandering to the fears expressed by the lowest common denominator in this debate. We need a President who can take a moral lead, not one who fans the flames of bigotry.

As I thought about these issues this morning I tried to remain optimistic and kept trying to refocus on my environment.

Approaching Storm Lake the view back to Jasper was beautiful. The screeches of Alpine Marmots kept Livvy entertained and I knew we still had a lot of climbing ahead of us.

We skirted to the right (north) of Storm Lake and struck up the slope towards Jasper peak directly below the tiny snowfield just left of center. 

The cold of the morning seems to be conveyed by this photo. A breeze was blowing across the lake and I didn't want to hang around. 

Just below 12,000 feet we passed Upper Storm Lake. This lake is nearly always ice-bound the whole year, but the warm summer has released it from its ice coating. 

The final mile up to the summit was brutal. The peak of Jasper on the skyline is actually a false summit and we struck up the grass slopes taking a direct line to the obvious col. This slope was 56 degrees in places and it took longer than I expected to reach the summit.

I was surprised to find only a light wind on the summit. I signed the summit register - we were only the 22nd ascentionists this year. Jasper Peak is often admired from afar but very rarely visited because the approach is so long - I clocked 7.25 miles on my GPS, and we still hadn't reached half-way on our intended trip.

Mount Neva lay to the north. I had ascended this peak a month or so ago from the far side and then descended between the lakes in the foreground. That was a great trip.

After a 10 minute break we descended to the south aiming for Devil's Peak, which is the small mound at the end of the obvious ridge. It is possible to see James Peak way in the distance top left.

We got a great view of the Devil's Thumb and the lake of the same name as we descended the steep shoulder. I could see, in the distance, the first human activity of the morning.

We were both tired at this point and we had steep talus to descend towards the Devil's Thumb trail. It was going to be another 90 minutes before we would get back to the car.

Lest you are in any doubt that Fall is early this year, the evidence was all around us.

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