Alpine Climbing in the Bugaboos, British Columbia.

In August, Erin Smart and I took a week-long trip to the world famous Bugaboo Mountains in the Purcell Range of British Columbia. Here an amazing collection of granite spires rise out of alpine glaciers draw climbers from around the world while temperamental weather conditions add to the unpredictable nature of climbing in the area.

_10B6358 One of the spires of the Bugaboos comes into view during the hike up.
_10B6368 The trail up to the alpine includes one ladder and several sections with bolted chains to assist with a safe ascent along the trail.
Erin Smart reviews her climbing guide below Bugaboo Spire. Erin Smart reviews her climbing guide below Bugaboo Spire.
Applebee camp sits on the granite prow below Eastpost Spire. Applebee camp sits on the granite prow below Eastpost Spire.
Sunrise on Snowpatch Spire, above the Crescent Glacier. Bugaboo Range. Sunrise on Snowpatch Spire, above the Crescent Glacier. Bugaboo Range.
IMG_4604 Sunrise over peaks to the North of the Bugaboo Range and the massive tongue of the Vowell glacier below them. As seen from the ridge between Bugaboo Spire and Crescent Spire.
IMG_4611 Just as we arrived to the base of the steepest section of Bugaboo Spire’s northeast ridge an electrical storm rolled in. Erin shares her thoughts about the situation from where she hunkered down in the talus. Snowpatch Spire beyond disappears into the clouds.
IMG_4617 After the lightning passed we retrieved our metal climbing gear from under a blanket of hale at the base of the route and retreated down the ridge.
Erin Smart laying out gear to dry out after a summer storm in the Bugaboos. Erin Smart laying out gear to dry out after the storm in the Bugaboos.
_10B6502 Climber on the second pitch of MacTech Arete (5.10b) on Crescent Spire, a beautiful line on a magnificent granite face.
IMG_4645 Erin racks up to lead out on MacTech Direct on Crescent Spire. Snowpatch Spire and the Crescent Glacier beyond.
IMG_4655 Erin Smart getting down to business on a roof on the forth pitch of the route (5.9).
Erin Smart sending the roof on the 4th Pitch of McTech Arete (direct). Erin Smart sending the roof on the 4th Pitch of McTech Direct.
IMG_4725 Jason Cramm leading high on the route next door to us, Paddle Flake Direct.
IMG_4727 Jason Cramm on Paddle Flake Direct with the northeast ridge of Bugaboo Spire beyond.
IMG_4807 Unidentified climber on the false summit of Pigeon Spire. Howser Spires and the upper Vowell Glacier beyond.
IMG_4921 Second attempt was a success for Erin and I on Bugaboo Spire’s northeast ridge (Grade IV, 5.8). Here Erin traverses from the north summit to the south summit for our descent down the south ridge of the mountain.
IMG_4916 Looking down on Snowpatch Spire from close to the summit of Bugaboo Spire.
_10B6539 This beautiful mountain range is quickly changing–not from the climbers that flock to the area but climate change. Glaciers in this part of the Purcell Mountains are in fast retreat due to climate change, apparent here from the vast stretches of bare glacial ice and the very thin remaining snow cover of much of the rest of them. The Crescent glacier, in the foreground, no longer has an accumulation zone and it is only a matter of time before the ice which remains disappears completely. Learn more about climate change at 350.org.
IMG_0795 A basket of “mucky fires” and a pint of IPA at the Pedal and Tap in Kimberly, BC was a perfect way to celebrate a successful trip to a stunning location!

Wildlife Tracking Certifications In Europe

This fall Casey McFarland, Mark Elbroch and myself delivered wildlife tracking workshops and certifications in the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands.

Casey McFarland discussing wildlife sign Casey McFarland discusses the sign left by a wild boar rubbing on the base of a tree in the Saxony region of Germany during a Track and Sign Certification event.
Wild Boar Track Footprint of a wild boar (Sus scrofa). Eastern Germany.
Investigating wildlife sign on a tree. Participants in a Track and Sign Certification Event in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia inspect sign left by a brown bear (Ursus arctos) climbing a large tree.
Cormorrant tracks Tracks of a Great cormorant from the shore of a reservoir in the Liptovsky region of Slovakia.
Wolf and badger tracks Tracks of two young wolves (Canis lupus, left and middle) and a large European badger (Meles meles) in sand. Saxony, Germany.
IMG_5025 Footprints from a stone marten (Martes foina) found under a bridge in eastern Germany. Note that a Euro 2 cent peice is the same size as a US penny.
Woodpecker feeding sign. While Europe and North America share many similar species, there are a number of behaviors typical in Animals in each location which are not common in similar species in the other. The Great Spotted woodpecker, similar to the North American Hairy woodpecker, collects and breaks open pine and other conifer cones for the seeds within, in a mannor not typically observed in North America.
Wood mouse Front (below) and hind (above) tracks of a wood mouse (Apodemus species). Saxony, Germany.
Cybertracker Conservation Certification Numerous certificates where awarded in all 4 countries we visited including everyone who participated in the evaluation in Germany, pictured here. Congratulations to everyone. We will be finding an online home for the names and certification levels of folks certified in Europe through Cybertracker Conservation shortly. Stay tuned!

A Taste of the Canadian Rockies

Banff, Jasper, and Kootenay National Parks

This July I made my first trip to the heart of the Canadian Rockies, having previously only been as far north as Waterton National Park along the Canadian-United States boarder. Joined by fellow adventurer Marcus Reynerson, we departed Seattle on a sunny Thursday, bound for some of the tallest and grandest mountains in North America.

Kootenay River in Kootenay National Park The Kootenay River flows from the crest of the Rockies through Kootenay National Park to the west, its waters eventually joining the Columbia River and heading to the Pacific Ocean.
Canoe on Lake Louis, Canadian Rockies The massive peaks and glacier dwarf a canoe on Lake Louis, one of the most popular destinations in Banff National Park. Later in my trip I was joined by several family members who dealt admirably with my camera affliction, including here while on Lake Louis.

Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies in Banff and Jasper National Parks

Marcus and I spent a number of days exploring alpine tundra, high mountain meadows, wetlands and riparian corridors searching for tracks and signs of wildlife. Highlights included signs of black and grizzly bears, Canadian lynx, and lots of moose and elk sign. Feeding sign of several species of woodpeckers was another highlight in the dense spruce-fir forests which dominated much of the lower elevations of the mountains.

Red-napped sapsucker wells This distinctive pattern on a lodgepole pine is the work of a red-napped sapsucker which drills into the bark to get the tree to exude sap. This sap attracts insects which the sapsucker returns to feed on. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Hoary marmot in Banff National Park A hoary marmot scampers along an alpine ridge. Banff National Park.
Bighorn Sheep Ram A mature bighorn sheep ram lifts his head to pick up scents on the wind. Jasper National Park, Alberta.
Clarke's nutcracker Clarke’s nutcrackers are ubiquitous in the subalpine forests of the Canadian Rockies. Related to crows and jays, these intelligent birds often linger where people are abundant, hoping to score a free meal.
American pika Likely the Rockies cutest mammal inhabitant, an American pika feeds on subalpine plants on the edge of an old glacial moraine. Pika are the mountain specialists of the rabbit family. Banff National Park, Canada.

Road Ecology and Wildlife Crossing Structures in Banff National Park

Given my involvement in an ongoing research project on wildlife and road ecology in the Washington Cascades (Cascade Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project), I was very excited to check out the crossing structures and fencing along Canadian Highway 1 which runs through the Bow River Valley in the heart of Banff National Park. The design of these structures was ground breaking work for the field and much of the design of our project in the Cascades was deeply influenced by this project.

Highway Crossing strucuture for wildlife A number of crossing structures both over and under the TransCanadian Highway in Banff National Park allow wildlife to cross the highway and decrease the risk of wildlife getting hit by vehicles along the highway. Highways such as this can be a major obsticle to movement of many species across the landscape.
Fencing to keep wildlife off of the road along with crossing structures such as this wildlife overpass are part of contemporary efforts to reduce the impacts of roads on wildlife movement in critical habitat. Canadian Highway 1 in the Bow Valley, Banff National Park, Alberta.

Astounding mountain scenery

Find a few more images from my trip to the Canadian Rockies in my photography galleries.

Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park. Still water reflects the evening light and mountains above Maligne Lake. Jasper National Park, Alberta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Climbing the Stuart Glacier Couloir, Mount Stuart, North Cascades

Snow, Ice, and Rock on One of the Tallest Peaks in the North Cascades

In early June, two colleagues of mine from Northwest Outward Bound School,  Trever Waage and Joel Reid,  and I set off to climb the Stuart Glacier Couloir, a classic steep snow/ice and rock route on the north side of Mount Stuart, one of the tallest non-volcanic peaks in the Cascades.

Climbers camp below Mount Stuart We made our camp at the base of the Sherpa and Ice Cliff glaciers close to where our descent route would return us to at the end of the route. For the alpine start we were planning for summit day we turned in early.
Navigating the Stuart Glacier by headlamp We crossed the Stuart Glacier in the dark, having left camp around 2 AM. Here Joel Reid navigates a crevasse on the glacier by headlamp.
Joel Reid leads out on a pitch of mixed climbing We crossed the burgshrund on the top of the glacier at first light and ascended the lower section of the couloir, about 40-50 firm snow, which runs up the northwest face of the peak. At the narrowest section of the couloir are two steps of steeper terrain. Here Joel Reid leads out to climb a pitch of mixed rock, ice, and snow with a belay from Trever Waage. Trevor lead the next step of ice.
Climbers at the top of the Stuart Glacier Couloir Joel and Trevor approach the top of the couloir on Mount Stuart’s west ridge.
Climber on the west ridge of Mount Stuart The route to the summit finishes on the West ridge; beautiful granite and stunning exposure.
Climber on the west ridge of Mount Stuart Trevor reaching for a good hand hold, high on the west ridge. The Stuart Glacier Couloir drops away below him.
Summit of Mount Stuart Joel Reid tops out on the summit of Mount Stuart.
Mountain Goats After a careful descent to the east and then down the Sherpa Glacier we made it back to our camp, greated by a family of mountain goats.

mountain goat

Wildlife Track and Sign Certification: Southern Washington Cascades

Wildlife Around Mount St. Helens

This month, Mount St. Helens Institute hosted a Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certficiation in the southern Washington Cascades. The Institute’s mission is to promote stewardship, science and appreciation of volcanic landscapes of Mount St. Helens and the Pacific Northwest. We spent two days examining the wide variety of wildlife tracks and signs found in the forests south of Mount St. Helens.

The timber industry is very active in the southern Washington Cascades. Here huge clearcuts cover entire hillsides above the Swift Reservoir on the Lewis River. The swath of trees along the water's edge is a mandated setback from fish bearing waters required by Washington State environmental regulations. While the mountain itself is a protected National Monument, outside of its boundaries the timber industry is very active in the southern Washington Cascades. Here huge clearcuts cover entire hillsides above the Swift Reservoir on the Lewis River. The swath of trees along the water’s edge is a mandated setback from fish bearing waters required by Washington State environmental regulations.
Tracks of a cow elk (above) and her young calf (below) found on a forest road during the evaluation. Tracks of a cow elk (above) and her young calf (below) found on a forest road during the evaluation.
The lush forests along the upper Lewis River are home to a large herd of elk and numerous other species of wildlife. The lush forests along the upper Lewis River are home to a large herd of elk and numerous other species of wildlife.
IMG_4341 Left hind track of a bush-tailed woodrat (Neatomoa cinerea) in fine dust under a bridge along Pine Creek.
Laura Belson inspects an elk antler rub on a red alder on the edge of a wetland. Laura Belson inspects an elk antler rub on a red alder on the edge of a wetland.
Justin Miller inspects the sign left behind by a woodpecker foraging on mountain pine bark beetles on a lodgepole pine. Justin Miller inspects the sign left behind by a woodpecker foraging on mountain pine bark beetles on a lodgepole pine.
Participant Lloyd Murray inspects one of the questions on the evaluation. Participant Lloyd Murray inspects wildlife sign on the edge of the Muddy River.

 

Certificates Earned

Congratuations to Maggie Starr, Tonja Spanish-Fish and Lloyd Murray who earned a Level 1 Certification and to Teri Lysak who earned a Level 3 Certification. For a complete list of certified trackers in North America click here. To learn more about Cybertracker Conservation and Track and Sign Certification click here or visit cybertracker.org.

Afternoon with a Monk Seal

Endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals on Kauai’s Napali Coast

During my recent trip to the Napali Coast in Hawaii I camped out on the Kalalau beach with Darcy Ottey. One afternoon, after a walk in the jungle, we returned to the beach to discover an endangered Hawaiian monk seal had hauled out on the beach. We watched it for several hours before it returned to the ocean during an evening downpour. A few weeks later the New York Times ran a really interesting article, “Who would kill a monk seal?” by Jon Mooallem which explores the complex history and current situation around the conservation of this species, endemic to the Hawaiian island chain.

_MG_5462 An endangered Hawaiian monk seal sleeps on a remote beach on Kauai.
Apparently the world can be overwhelming, even for creatures that spend much of their time lounging on the beach in Hawaii.
Hawaiian monk seal turning around While very graceful in the water, monk seals move awkwardly on land where they are vulnerable to harassment or worse from humans.

Hawaiian monk seal turning

Hawaiian monk seal heading back to the ocean.
Swimming Hawaiian monk seal Once in the water, monk seals can move more easily.

Hawaiian monk seal and rainbow.

 Check out more photos of this monk seal and the Hawaiian islands here or more conservation oriented photographs here!

Wrapping up the Wildlife Tracking Intensive for 2013

Black bears, mountain lions, and much much more…

May marked the end of this years Wildlife Tracking Intensive at Wilderness Awareness School. We spent one more weekend exploring wild lands in the region looking for tracks and signs of wildlife and testing our skills in the field.

Mark Kang-O'Higgins inspects the marks left on a leaning alder by a scent marking black bear. Mark Kang-O’Higgins inspects the marks left on a leaning alder by a scent marking black bear.
_10B2013 Douglas Cowan inspects a scent marking scrape next to a rotting log from a mountain lion found on a trail along the edge of a wetland on the western edge of the Cascade Mountains.

Advanced Path Student Projects

Saturday afternoon our two Advanced Path students presented on their research projects.

From Field to Font Erin Campbells project for completing the advanced path of the Tracking Intensive involved writing and publishing a series of articles on wildlife tracking on Wilderness Awareness School’s content website, NatureSkills.com.

 

 

As Time Passes Chris Olson completed the Advanced Path with a project looking at the process of track aging in western Washington.

Thanks to all of our students this year for their passion for developing their skills as wildlife trackers and naturalists! It was another great year!

Interested in learning more about the Wildlife Tracking Intensive? Check it out here! Applications now being accepted for next years class which starts in September!

Wildlife Tracking at the Slickrock Gathering hosted by B.O.S.S.

Every spring Boulder Outdoor Survival School hosts the Slickrock Gathering, an opportunity for their staff and students to come together and learn primitive skills such as flint knapping, pottery making, and hide tanning. This spring, I was invited to join the gathering to teach wildlife tracking. During three days in the field with a group of instructors for the school, we visited several locations close to Boulder, Utah. We spent the first day focused on learning to identify tracks and interpret the stories left behind in the trails of wildlife.

A myriad of prints of small animals including mice, voles, woodrats, lizards, a snake, and numerous insects were found zigzaggging across the sand protected under this rock overhang along Deer Creek. A myriad of prints of small animals including mice, voles, woodrats, lizards, a snake, and numerous insects were found zig-zaggging across the sand protected under this rock overhang along Deer Creek.
BOSS instructor Lori Jonestrask and Apprenticeship Director and instructor Bryan Puskar inspect the tiny nest of a humingbird found under another overhang along the creek. BOSS instructor Lori Jonestrask and Apprenticeship Director and instructor Bryan Puskar inspect the tiny nest of a humingbird found under another overhang along the creek.

Trailing Elk and Mountain Lion

On the following two days we focused our attention on following the trails of wildlife. One day we spent half the day following the fresh trail of a mountain lion, piecing together the story of her hunt through clearings, aspen stands, open pine forest, and oak scrub over a couple of miles. On the third day we picked up the very fresh trail of a group of elk and followed them, determining they had been foraging above the creek we had been following, eventually abandoning their trail as the heat of the day set in, anticipating their trail heading away from the canyon bottom, was likely leading to where they were currently bedded down.

Trailing a Mountain Lion in southern Utah. We first cut the trail of the mountain lion on an old road southeast of Boulder Mountain.
Left hind track of a mountain lion The left hind track of the mountain lion discovered on the road.
Trailing a Mountain Lion in southern Utah. When the large cat left the road and began meandering through aspen stands, grassy clearings, and through open pine forests, the trail became much more difficult, forcing us to anticipate where we believed the cat likely traveled and search for clues of its passage along this route. This process of prediction and follow up allows the tracker to move much more efficiently across challenging substrates.

Trailing Workshop and Track and Sign Certification: Northern Arizona

In early May I had the opportunity to travel to northern Arizona to deliver a Trailing workshop and a Track and Sign Certification around Flagstaff and Sedona for a group of local naturalists, hosted by Earth Encounters LLC. While I was in Arizona, I also gave a slideshow on Wolves in the Pacific Northwest hosted by the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project.

Trailing Workshop

During the two day trailing workshop, participants practiced various component skills which are required to effectively and efficiently follow the trail of an animal over challenging terrain. These include detecting tracks in grass, leaf litter and other challenging substrates, anticipating how an animal will likely move across the landscape, and stealth in movement so as not to alert the animal being trailed to your presence. After a morning of exercises we spent the afternoon trailing a group of mule deer for several hours, finally getting to observe them foraging as an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. On the second day we spent the day trailing a small herd of elk through a forested landscape.

Rayne Zhausome on the trail of a herd of elk during a trailing workshop held north of Flagstaff Arizona. Rayne Zhaughsome on the trail of a herd of elk during a trailing workshop held north of Flagstaff Arizona.

Deer browse on a hillside outside of Flaggstaff Arizona

Chris Dawkins observes several deer after following their trail for a couple of hours.

Track and Sign Certification

Day 1 of the Track and Sign certification took place outside of Sedona, in a desert landcape and along the riparian corridor of a stream. Species whose tracks we encountered included kit fox, bobcat, kangaroo rat, striped skunk, black bear, river otter, beaver, coyote, cottontail rabbit, and lizard among many others.

Jill Cooper and Rebecca Fitzpatrick inspect the trail of a turtle under a rock overhang. Jill Cooper and Rebecca Fitzpatrick inspect the trail of a turtle under a rock overhang.
These tracks of a kit fox in dust where one of the first questions during the evaluation. Their small size, very slender shape of the hind foot and diminutive size of the metatarsal pads differentiate these tracks from those of a grey fox. These tracks of a kit fox in dust where one of the first questions during the evaluation. Their small size, very slender shape of the hind foot and diminutive size of the metatarsal pads differentiate these tracks from those of a grey fox.
Local expert Matt Monjello, seen here discussing sapsucker feeding sign left on a juniper tree, organized and assisted with the evaluation. Local expert Matt Monjello, seen here discussing sapsucker feeding sign left on a juniper tree, organized and assisted with the evaluation.

On the second day of the evaluation we spent the day in a forested area outside of Flagstaff where we encountered a wide variety of signs of wildlife including acorn woodpeckers, elk, deer, bobcat, coyote, deer mice, and jackrabbits.

Rayne inspects the remains of a mule deer during the evaluation. It can be hard or impossible to definitively say how an animal such as this one died but several clues indicated that this deer may have been consumed by a mountain lion and scavenged by coyotes. Rayne inspects the remains of a mule deer during the evaluation. It can be hard or impossible to definitively say how an animal such as this one died but several clues indicated that this deer may have been consumed by a mountain lion and scavenged by coyotes.

IMG_0696

9 people received certificates from the evaluation:

Level 1: John Behrman, Adam Bailey, Rayne Zhaughsome

Level 2: Chris Dawkins, Emily Nelson

Level 3: Jill Cooper, Micaela Pomatto, Rebecca Fitzpatrick, Liz Snair

For a complete list of certified trackers in North America visit trackercertification.com.

Track and Sign Certification in the Swan Valley, Montana with Northwest Connections

Northwest Connections is an innovative organization which runs a variety of biological monitoring, conservation, and educational programs all revolving around the unique and wild landscape of the Swan Valley in northwestern Montana where they are based. In April, I delivered a Cybertracker Conservation Track and Sign Certification Event for them.

A very talented group endured challenging field conditions (including about 5 inches of fresh snow Saturday night and Sunday!) and everyone in the group earned a Certificate. My friend and colleague Emily Gibson came along to take some photographs and I am grateful to her for sharing a number of the images for this post!

David Moskowitz explaining how the evaluation process works. We started the evaluation on the Northwest Connections campus on the Swan River. Here I am explaining how the evaluation process works at the start of the first day.
Remains of a deer likely killed and definately consumed by wolves. Swan Valley, Montana The evaluation included a number of questions about the remains of a white-tailed deer which had been consumed by wolves.
Inspecting a leg bone from the deer which had been partially consumed by the wolves revealed the bone marrow which offers clues to the health of the deer at the time it died. Inspecting a leg bone from the deer which had been partially consumed by the wolves revealed the bone marrow which offers clues to the health of the deer at the time it died.
Taking an answer from a participant. Mike Mayernik taking an answer from participant Andrea Stephens about the elk antler rub on the tree between them.
i know that cougar scat is here somewhere Heavy snow Saturday night and Sunday morning called for desperate measures. Here Adam Lieberg, Conservation Program Coordinator for Northwest Connections, uses a broom to brush snow off of sign we had found during our scouting for the evaluation.
Mountain lion claw marks of a tree. The scratch marks left by a mountain lion on a leaning tree along a well used game trail above the Swan River.
Pointing out a mountain lion scat and scrape. Mike points out one of the questions on the evaluation about a mountain lion scat and scrape, created by a scent marking behavior of the large cat, found along the same game trail as the claw marks from the previous photo.
Tracking under a bridge We took refuge under a bridge for a few questions on the snowy Sunday.
Who? A blade of grass points to the tip of a mink track found under the bridge.
Discussing a question after everyone has submitted their answers Every question on the evaluation is discussed thoroughly after all the participants have submitted their answers. Here we are discussing the sign left behind by an elk which used its incisors to peel bark on a small tree and then rub its head against the tree, a common scent marking behavior of elk.
Close up of elk incisor marking sign. The shredded bark has all been peeled upwards due to the fact that elk only have lower incisors. Numerous hairs from the elk got stuck in the ragged bark and sticky pitch of the tree.
_MG_7152 Congratulations to everyone who participated in the evaluation. In this particularly talented group of wildlife trackers, everyone earned a Level 2 certificate or higher!

Level 2 Certificates Awarded: Jim Quinn, Trenton Harper, Scott Tomson, Andrea Stephens

Level 3 Certificates Awarded: Cassie March, Luke Lamar, Lara Arvidson, Mike Stevenson, Alissa Anderson, Rebekah Rafferty

For a complete list of certified trackers in North America visit trackercertification.com

 

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