Expedition may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but everything tends to turn into a bit of an expedition when you’re doing it with small children – at least when it comes to logistics.
We last spent a winter night up at Elizabeth Parker hut when the Moosling was just seven months old – it was his first hut trip.
This time it was three families, each with one child, who set off from the trailhead. Only having one child each does certainly make it easier. The two wee ones travelled in Chariots, while the Moosling was supposed to be skiing.
He was definitely travelling on skis, but worked out early on that he could grab onto the back of a Chariot to hitch a ride. So when he wasn’t being towed uphill, he was often finding other ways to be assisted up.
We broke for lunch at the half-way picnic table. The offspring all roared and pretended to be lions, while the adults ate and rehydrated. Then all the kids were inserted into their ski cages (with some kicking and wailing and gnashing of teeth), and the towing continued.
The Lake O’Hara road can be a long haul when you’re towing Chariots, and have kids to keep happy. It went fairly smoothly though, all things considered. Occasionally travelling in one big group, then splintering and reforming. Sometimes singing.
The Moosling was released from his pulky prison when we reached the summer bus stop, so he could ski the final kilometre or so to the hut. But first he spent some time being an assistant ski coach.
The final section was a little steeper and twistier than I remembered it being, but still didn’t take very long to coax a 5 year old through (at one point he made the call it was easier to remove his skis than side step up a hill section though).
And then we were at the hut, saving ourselves spots along the bunk, and letting the kids run about while we had the luxury of enjoying whole place to ourselves.
It was great having a pack of us there – this was our first group hut trip, and it’s a fantastic idea. The divide and conquer approach means you can have people making a meal, people chatting and relaxing, and people entertaining the kids – instead of having to ineffectively manage everything between two.
The hut was fully booked, but a big group had already filled out the smaller hut, so we only had a small party to share our sleeping quarters with.
We had a pleasant evening of relaxing by the fire, chopping wood, collecting snow, eating chocolate, drinking port, reading books to kids, trying to convince kids not to pile up all the sleeping bags and jackets into one enormous heap and jump on them, and reading the logbook.
We even slept ok! As far as sleeping in huts goes, I’ve had far worse nights without kids.
And then it was morning, and time for breakfast (French toast – our meal!), hut maintenance, and snow adventures. Getting out to play in the snow with the kids was great, and we probably should have spent time doing it the night before too.
Children were thrown into snow…
It had been snowing overnight, and just kept snowing and snowing throughout the morning.
Holes were dug….
But then it was finally time to get moving. We finished packing up, and started the ski ‘down’. Because it’s not really down is it. It feels like it should be. Maybe it even is if you’re skiing on fast snow without overnight gear. But when you’re towing a pulk through a few inches of fresh snow (Alex), or trying to tow a 5 year old up all of the slight rises (me… and Patrick), it just doesn’t quite feel like it. That road is definitely in my top 10 list of trails that are uphill both ways.
But with all the fresh snow, everything was beautiful. Eventually the snow stopped falling, and the descent really is much quicker than going in the other direction, so it must be at least vaguely downhill.
We arrived back at the cars, got packed up, high-fived each other for such a successful trip, then went to drive out of the parking lot. There was a train. What? It had been there for about half an hour. What?! Phone calls to various bodies of authority ensued. We all ended up piled into the back of the minivan for 45 minutes, until finally, miraculously, the train started to move. We were free!
Ski in: 11.5km, 460m elevation gain, elapsed time 5hr, moving time 3hr15min
Ski out: 11.5km, elapsed time 3hr15min, moving time 2hr15min