Heavenly Bush may be an elusive myth in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
Calgary is in minus 25 degree C weather on this very early morning departure. Today's objective is to locate a 175 meter (575 ft) WI - 2, WI - 3, ice waterfall in Kananaskis Country named Heavenly Bush.
A light dusting of snow with ice fog over iced roads makes driving treacherous. Snow-making machines at the Nakiska Ski Resort give the illusion of inverse pyroclastic flow on the slopes of Mount Allan below Oylmpic Summit.
The turn off Kananaskis Trail leads into the Kananaskis Emergency Services and RCMP location across from the Nakiska Ski Resort, and a four-wheel drive into the closed-for-the-winter Ranger cabin. The temperature is quite brisk at minus 30.
Changing footwear at this temperature is unappealing so the hike will proceed in stiff-soled, ice climbing boots equipped with hiking crampons.
Access time to the ice fall is expected to be about an hour. For ice climbing, a short access is desirable so there is plenty of time and energy remaining for top-roping and climbing. In winter months, daylight is short so it can be important to complete the mission and get back out before darkness sets in. The first 15 minutes of access is easy on old fire road.
The search begins by heading off-trail up a major drainage to surprisingly discover the ice in the stream is thin and unsafe with many sections of open flowing water. The narrow stream must have a warm water feed from springs somewhere back in the mountains. Walking up the ice is not consistently possible.
The alternative is to climb off-trail up the canyon floor into the draw over snow-covered rock fall and through very dense forest littered with dead fall.
Progress is slow and challenging. After about 200 M of elevation gain, snow depth increases from 5 cm to 15 cm. After more than two hours of battling an off-trail route through brutally rugged terrain there is still no sign of Heavenly Bush.
On this brief but arduous, reconnaissance jaunt there is no encouraging news or sightings. The ice fall should have revealed it's presence long before now.
The conclusion is that searching is likely occurring in the wrong drainage. The mission is scrapped and footsteps in snow through rugged terrain return to the Jeep. Two hours later the Ranger cabin is a welcome sign. The only decision remaining is whether to have lunch at Kananaskis Lodge or, like real men, eat our Mr. Noodles, made with lukewarm water, under the veranda of the Ranger Cabin.
At Kananaskis Lodge the customary table is chosen near welcome warmth from the fireplace hosting spectacular views of Mount Kidd looming above on the other side of thick, floor to ceiling, plate glass windows. Layering down filthy clothing in the busy, upscale dining lounge results in branches, twigs, and dry leaves flying around and littering the carpet which makes a larger gratuity obligatory. The hot chocolate, wild mushroom soup and onion rings on a stick taste extraordinarily good. There are many polar bears at the Kananaskis Delta Lodge and halls are decorated beautifully for Christmas.
Although this day's search for Heavenly Bush is unsuccessful, and there is no ice climb as planned, it is still a great day. The off-trail has been a very physical trial in the wilderness and the opportunity to practice carrying bulky ice climbing gear through nearly impossible terrain has been exhilarating.
A good percentage of the day's energy is expended simply maintaining a positive and enthusiastic attitude. The search for Heavenly Bush will continue another day.