Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Yamnuska -- March 15, 2008

After Sunday's gorgeous hike up Yamnuska, D and I thought we'd give it a try on Saturday. After all, a week of gorgeous weather could only mean the trails would be in ever *better* shape, right?

Not so much. Temperatures dropped below zero the night before (we even had snow in the city), and all the lovely melting snow solidified into the dreaded ice. Not to mention the weather that Saturday was bizarre.

The hike started out well enough -- it was early afternoon, and it had warmed up enough that all the mud at the lower part of the hike was positively mushy. It wasn't long before our Yak-Traks were caked in mud and sliding all over our shoes. Off they came.

Naturally, as trail got steeper, the snow became more and more prevalent, as did the ice. There was a stretch about 1/3 of the way up where I don't think we let go of the trees once, for fear of sliding back downhill. But once through there, we hit a bare (and dry) section that lasted the majority of the hike.

But the skies remained grey and overcast:

On Sunday, once N and I hit the treeline, or troubles appeared to be over -- the snow at the top was deep and crispy, typical March snow without any worry of ice. What a difference six days makes! D and I encountered even more ice as we approached the summit, and once again resorted to clinging to trees to navigate the icy patches.

This was a relatively bare patch near the treeline, can you spot the ice:

We're not ones to back down from a challenge, but about 10-15 minutes from the summit we decided to turn around for safety reasons. The approach to the rockface might be the steepest part of the climb. It wasn't as icy as some stretches down below, but thanks to the steeper incline, any footholds were much less secure and the white ice underneath the snow was treacherous.

It had already taken 2.5 hours to make it to this point... usually we're at the rockface in under 2 hours.

At the top, the sun was beating down on us, and it felt like it could be 7-8 C easily. Much different from the grey skies we saw on the way up the mountain. However, when the weather turned, it turned quickly. First the temperature of the wind seemed to drop by 10 degrees in minutes, and became very reminiscent of certain gusts down Portage Ave in Winnipeg. Strangely enough, the hike down seemed less icy (the ice had melted a little perhaps), and we made it through the extremely icy parts quickly. Just in time too... just after we made it past the last of the really bad ice, a snow storm came out of nowhere.


We didn't make it to the rockface, but it's certainly a hike we won't be forgetting for a long time!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yamnuska -- March 9, 2008

The weather here has been ridiculously warm. While the eastern part of the country (and continent) suffer through countless snowstorms and arctic temperatures, we've hardly seen any snow and the thermometer has only dipped to the truly chilly for a handful of days.

When it does snow, it's usually thick wet late spring type snow, which causes problems on its own through avalanches. Even the warm weather has its price.

I didn't appreciate the weather until my trip to Winnipeg. I just kept thinking it would end eventually and we'd go back to the cold -- this nice weather was just a tease. A weekend in Winnipeg made me appreciate the gift of chinooks and the unseasonably warm weather. This past week it's been warmer here than in Arkansas.

It was with this renewed enthusiasm N and I picked Yamnuska as our Sunday hike. Enough with the make-do hikes until the weather improves! The sun is shining, the snow exists only in tiny little patches, if at all. To the mountains!

This is the Yamnuska that greeted us in the first week of March. It's hard to believe:

The snow did deepen on the way up, though still not as much as we had expected. The real danger was the ice. As long as the sun was hitting the snow, it was nice and slushy and posed no problem, but once the snow was in the shade, the path would get much slicker. Going up the mountain was mostly fine. Coming down a few hours later was the tricky part.

N spotted this tree about mid-way up. It had split twice in the same spot, allowing it to bend rather than break. The split looked old too... this tree has just kept on growing:

View of the Bow Valley, with the "heart-shaped" pond front and centre. The pond actually leads to a river and from other angles looks nothing like a heart, but this is always a nice shot, especially when frozen over. The view is unbeatable already:

The Rockies from Yamnuska. Again, shouldn't there be more snow in early March?

Near the treeline the snow deepened, but again, it was thick and slushy and actually much easier to navigate than the slicker stuff further down the mountain. Even here, near the top, the snow never really got knee-deep unless it had drifted:

At the top. Still little to no snow. Definitely colder though, thanks to the ever-present wind:

The hike down was, well, interesting with all the ice. It might be the first time it took longer to hike down Yamnuska than up. But to hike Yamnuska in March? Totally worth it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fullerton Loop - February 24, 2008

It was a gray day, with just the smallest amount of snow falling, but as always, a wonderful morning to be by the water....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Five for Friday

I'm very flattered to be included in As The Crackerhead Crumbles' "Five for Friday" photo collection. There are some stunning photos there, I'm a little gobsmacked to be included with them.

Sorry for my extended absence -- traveled to Winnipeg and back, and there's really not a lot of hiking content there. ;-)

Blog news coming soon....