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After a few days with Alan (and his cats, and his other temporary flatmate - it was quite a housefull), I went to Toronto and stayed with Craig (ex. AMULET) and his wife and five-month-old son (and cat - though not quite as hairy as Alan's). Son Luke obviously keeps Craig and Sandra fully occupied, but Craig and I did find time to catch up over a couple of beers in his neighbourhood Irish pub. Then I took myslef to Niagara Falls for the day.
I had been preparing myself for a tourist hotspot and Craig wwarned me that it is Canada's answer to Blackpool, but I was pleasantly surprised. I think that the sheer scale of the falls - ten times the water-volume of Iceland's Dettifoss falling about the same distance - dwarfs any human constructions on the banks. It was a sunny day and there were rainbows everywhere. Very picturesque.
Next I took a train to Chicago. Don't ask why. So I got to spend thirteen hours on a train. I will write more about this once I have no need to pass through a U.S. frontier EVER AGAIN. On the U.S. side of the border the train was full of crazies who will "never get on a plane again". Aarggh. Then Chicago and a night in a "Quality Inn" that seemed to be an integral part of an eight-lane motorway junction. Anyway thankfully I am now back in lovely Canada.
I've now been in Banff for nearly a week and have done embarassingly little! Getting out of my tent early enough in the morning to climb a mountain is the problem. Anyway, I did manage this one-and-a-half times. I got to the top of Mount Rundle, a 2948m peak that overlooks the town. (Banff is at about 1400m, so that's about 1550m of ascent.) It was a fairly gentle, but long, plod through trees, followed by some loose scree to the ridge, then an easy scramble along to the actual summit. Other people had been turning back due to cloud, but I pressed on and from the top had views over the cloud to other peaks in the distance. Mount Assiniboine (?) is a spectacular (and hard) Matterhorn-like peak that dominates the view.
The following morning, snow had fallen: here's the view of Mt Rundle from the campsite.
The "half" was Mount Bourgeau. I set off late and walked up to some lovely corrie lakes and then up to a pass at about 2500m from where there was a view, but mostly of approaching rainclouds, so I called it a day.
In an effort to climb some more of these lovely peaks (and they really are very beautifull) I'm going to Mosquito Creek hostel next, where I hope staying in bed too long will be harder! I fancy Observation Peak, which has views out over one of the icefields and has a nice high-altitude start.
Of course there are other things to do in Banff. I've walked most of the valley trails, and this afternoon went to the hot springs. It's not quite the same as Iceland but is a pleasant way to relax, and it has a great view of Mt Rundle.
Afterwards I had afternoon tea at the very exclusive Banff Springs Hotel with some people I'd met on the mountain and bumped into again at the springs. The hotel reminded me of Neuschwanstein Castle - enormous and faux-medieval!
So I'll be here for a while longer, so expect some more updates with news of more peaks that I've climbed.
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