A foreshadowing of winter on Mount Broadwood
By Dan Hicks
As September advanced, the warm days dwindled, and summer faded from the Rockies.
On the east side of Mount Broadwood, beneath the China Wall, sunlight illuminated an aspen grove as the trees bent to an upslope breeze.
Mount Broadwood and the lower Wigwam River are within the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Elk Valley Heritage Conservation Area. A September 2018 survey by a small party of Rocky Mountain Naturalists revealed that the whitebark pine seedlings, planted by dedicated Rocky Mountain Naturalists on this very slope two years previously, had perished in the dry heat of succeeding summers.
Picturesque whitebark pine is the highest elevation pine, a source of seeds and habitat for various subalpine creatures, its numbers have been much diminished, and its very existence threatened, by white pine blister rust, the mountain pine beetle (aided by rising temperatures), and an absence of cyclic low-intensity surface fires.
In montane ecosystems, surviving as a tree is challenging, but growing to become one is even more daunting.
Lead image: Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), looking south from above Spectrum Pass Creek canyon (north side) to the Tchaikazan River (upstream), Friendly Peak (centre), and Carefree Mountain (right, in cloud); Tsylos Provincial Park, BC. August 2013. Dan Hicks photos