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bikes canada general moosling trip reports

Elk Lakes overnighter

Last minute trips are the best trips! We got an invite to bikepack out to Elk Lakes, and who could say no to that?

We’d been kind of planning to hike Arethusa Cirque with Tanya on  the Saturday morning. But it had snowed a lot, and hiking motivation wasn’t high. I struggle more with hiking than biking, and the boy wasn’t in a hiking mood. So rather than fight that, we decided to keep it short, and get to the trailhead for the bike trip.

It was a bit chilly – the forecast had been threatening snow, or maybe freezing rain, or maybe just to be generally unpleasant. We gambled and won. Except for having to carry all those pesky waterproof layers. Thankfully the boy is carrying a bigger load on his bike these days, which helps matters.

We were taking it slow – our friends were already in at Elk Lake, and we’d ended up leaving the trailhead with plenty of daylight up our sleeves (or in the sky, which is where you’d usually keep it).

Anyway, we were pleasantly surprised when we got to Elk Pass to discover this rather awesome gateway feature had been installed.

Some online research showed that it had been installed just recently, and was a joint project between Elkford , Sparwood and Fernie schools and the Ktunaxa nation. The students chose the imagery and helped carve the poles – there’s one pole representing the human elements of the valley, and one pole representing the animals.

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Very cool.

Anyway, it was all downhill from here! Thankfully only literally and not figuratively.

Down into British Columbia we went, with the day actually warming up and turning out pretty pleasant.

On arrival, we walked into Elk Lakes to lie in the sun and throw rocks, and not fall in the lake (much).

After some wood chopping, fire feeding and rabbit chasing outside, it was time for dinner and lego and other important cabin-based fun.

Bikepackers assemble! Elk Lakes Cabin is one of the few bike accessible Alpine Club huts, and definitely a fun destination. It’s not the best beginner/kids bikepack destination though, just because of the number of hills that are a bit demoralising on the way in and out. But if you’re ok with pushing your bike up a hill occasionally – then have at it! It is only 10.5km after all.

Some of the group was hiking out, but the seven of us were biking. At least, mostly biking. Except for the hills that were too steep to bike up, or the hills that were too steep to bike down.

The best bit about joining other families on trips like this is seeing the kids biking together, hanging out and chatting (and  assuming as a result that this is a totally normal thing that all kids do MUAH HA HA HAH!).

All outdoor clothes and gear should only be sold in bright colours. I love the current colour trends!

There’s nothing like seeing kids having a blast battling up enormous hills on their tiny heavy bikes to inspire you to be as awesome as them.

And there’s nothing like convincing a tired kid to keep pushing a bike up a hill to make you really appreciate the times when you’re out on the trail alone and it’s just your own cranky hungry tired meltdowns  you have to deal with.

(He didn’t actually have a meltdown, but it did need some entertainment and bribery to keep him going for a while there)

Once we were over the pass (where we stopped for a nice long lunch in the sun), it was pretty fast going. The other two boys had fatter tyres than Finn, at 2.8″ and 4″ and they really handled the rough track well compared to his tiny 2.1″ tyres – he might have some fatter tyres in his future.

Beautiful day to ride out, and a great trip. Let there be more bikepacking trips with kids!

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canada general moosling snow trip reports

Easter at Wheeler Hut

*** First up, the disclaimer… I’m finally updating here after months of no posts. I’ve been dealing with some pretty nasty fatigue issues for most of this year, which have turned out to be related to a reactivation of mono/glandular fever in my system. So adventures have been few and far between, and I’m still not feeling great, but I’m going to try and catch up on telling some stories and sharing photos.***

So, although I wasn’t feeling great, we had a family hut trip booked at Easter, and I figured I should be able to manage the ski in. It’s only about 1km from the road in to Wheeler Hut after all.

Roger’s Pass was fairly warm, and after getting all sorted we set off up the steep climb up from the road. Once you’re up this it’s basically flat the whole way. The first bit is definitely pretty steep though.

We were trying out new AT conversion attachments on Finn’s skis. They clip into the downhill bindings on a pair of kid-size skis, converting them into something that lets him lift his heel. But – they also end up being fairly heavy, and he’s quite high off the ground. He was also in a bit of a cranky mood. And so the attempt to get him to try them out didn’t go so well.

In the end we took them off and he did just as well just using his downhill skis with climbing skins on the base. Adorable tiny climbing skins that Alex had made by cutting down an old pair for skis he didn’t own any more.

I struggled more on that 1.2km ski in than I have on 50km trail runs. Finn wasn’t having a great time either. But we made it – slowly, very very slowly!

Once we reached the hut, everything got better. Most of the crew we’d met before on previous Tanya trips, but there were also new people to meet. I was feeling exhausted though, and curled up in the corner and read, and napped, as around me games were played, pokemon cards were battled, drawings were coloured, snow balls made, people went skiing…

Finn convinced people to play Settlers of Catan…

toboggan tracks were built…

and crafts were made, meals were cooked, brie was eaten (I definitely helped with that), fires were stoked, and the kids played and played.

It bucketed down snow.

The Easter bunny got busy and there were eggs hidden everywhere surrounding the hut. On Easter morning the troops assembled and ready to hunt for eggs first thing, mostly still wearing pyjamas under down jackets.

Kids climbed onto the roof of the hut…

And teamed up to try and get to the top…

By the last day the roof had melted off a lot.

We skied out on a beautifully sunny and warm morning, and discovered that the flat ski in was one of those pernicious slight uphills. It was much more pleasant in the other direction, and with company to boot.

And Finn’s years of skiing are apparently paying off – he flew down the sketchy icy descent and had a blast

Although not as much fun as he had afterwards, playing on the snowy cliff by the trailhead with the other kids. They would have happily played there all day. Who needs to go skiing when you have a snowy slope to play on?

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canada general hiking moosling

Asulkan hut trip

We were lucky enough to be invited along on another TanyaTrip™, when another family had to pull out. With the entire Asulkan Hut booked out for our group, and us never having spent time in the Rogers Pass area at all in summer, we were very excited to be able to say yes.

We’d been a bit distracted in the lead up to the hike, and so when we turned up in the parking lot, we were only kind of organised. I had my rainbow fur gaiters and unicorn head though, so really, what else would we possibly need? We’d skied in to the hut before in winter, so we knew it was about 7km in – along the valley at first, and then steeply up. And we knew the weather was likely to be stormy on the first day. What am I saying, we were totally prepared!

It was great to catch up with some of the crew from our Easter Elizabeth Parker Hut trip. I gained a new hiking best buddy, and I’m still wearing the rainbow woollen bracelet she finger-knitted for me.

As we got further upstream and out of the trees, the views became absurdly spectacular. Asulkan Valley, you are beautiful.

But then the threatening clouds kicked into action, and there was a downpour! We darted under a tree and got rain coats on. After a little indecision we just kept hiking, wandering past Tanya and her family sensibly hiding under a tarp. For a while it was hailing!

But then, as quickly as a chocolate-stuffed waffle is eaten, the clouds passed, and we were hiking in the sun again.

The kids were getting to know each other again too, discussing the merits of pack covers among other equally weighty and serious topics of conversation.

As we started to climb up onto the moraine, we were eyeing the skies suspiciously. Thunder and lightning had been rumbling through, but it seemed like we’d have enough of a window to get up to the hut before another storm came to the valley.

It was good incentive to power our way up the steep moraine though!

The kids rocked it – although there were many questions about when we’d be able to see the hut. Asulkan is what we’ve now dubbed a ‘Hidey Hut’ – because you don’t see it until you’re basically there.

Just before we got to the hut there was a huge snow patch for some sliding fun!

And then, hut time! We settled in, then wandered down to the stream and watched a fat looking ptarmigan stand up to reveal three chicks hidden beneath her plumage.

The unicorn showed up again.

And then swung by the hut to visit the kids…

And as the weather turned, the kids settled in to read books, play with lego, and invent new versions of gameplay for Carcassonne.

The thunderstorms swept in with a vengeance, and there was a roaring wind and hailstorms as we sat snugly in the safety of the hut. Getting the kids out to the outhouse before bedtime was something of an adventure, as we raced through the wind and hung on tight to the small ones so they wouldn’t be swept up by the wind and blown away (ok, not actually a legitimate worry, but it was pretty windy).

The stairs in the Asulkan Hut are a little on the steep side – more a ladder than stairs. But they make for a great training facility for budding climbers and goofballs alike.

The next morning our family  had to hike out and head into Golden, missing the second night in the hut – boo!

But first, it was time for some photos. The old standard – unicorn and children posing with Canadian flag on top of a moraine.

And then a group shot of our excellent crew of three families.

Then it was time to head downhill. We’d allowed plenty of time, but were surprised how quick the hike out was.

The moraine was steep, but fairly fast to hike down. Even with frequent photo stops.

The day was shaping up to be lovely and sunny.

And the boy is getting better and better at jumping.

I attempted to get a photo of my awesome hiking outfit – the rainbow fur gaiters sure do garner a lot of attention, and brighten up cloudy days.

Down into the green overgrowth, we started yelling out for bears, and spying marmots. I’ve never hiked an area with so many marmots, we saw more than ten of them in just a few minutes.

On the way out we stopped to admire some of the ruins of Glacier House, one of CPR’s first great railway hotels (eventually closed after the railway was rerouted due to avalanche hazard). Oh to be one of the mountaineering folks from the early 1900s.

Distance: 7km one-way
Elevation gain: ~850m on the way in
Time: 4hr45min in, 2hr30min out (total times, including lunch breaks and such)

Categories
canada general snow trip reports

Elk Pass

Our very first sans-kid overnight trip was a success. Well, a success in that we had fun and he had fun. Less successful in that when we went to pick him up on Saturday afternoon he was annoyed with us for turning up and taking him away from his friend’s house where he’d been having so much fun. So annoyed he refused to so much as hug me for the rest of the day. On the plus side, he really wants to have more sleepovers now.

We’d been invited on an adults only trip to Elk Lakes Cabin, with everyone leaving their kids behind at home.

Everyone else was on heavy cross-country skis – and although our telemark gear and skins seemed ludicrously heavy, I really wouldn’t have swapped it for anything else. We could happily cruise downhill on any surface, and climbing with skins was simple and straightforward, and far less hassle than waxing or struggling with grip on waxless skis that weren’t meant for the weight of a person plus a backpack.

After arriving at the hut in a completely leisurely fashion, a few of us wandered out to the Lake.

We found a unicorn there. And confirmed that it was indeed a lake, sat in a hole, jumped in the air, the usual.

Back at the hut, someone had laid out a trap for the more obsessive members of the party – a partially completed jigsaw puzzle. And with all of the easy parts done – all that remained were a pile of snowy pieces with trees or sky in the background. And no box to try and work out what we were supposed to be making.

More than once I’d meant to walk past the table on my way somewhere else, and ended u trapped, trying to fit in just one more puzzle piece.

A pleasantly warm evening spent around an outdoor campfire was wonderful, as we spotted satellites, debated constellations (I’m still not properly familiar with the northern hemisphere night sky) and didn’t have to worry about getting kids to bed.

After a great night’s sleep (no coughing or squirming kid!) we got up and made french toast, our contribution to the shared meals for the group.

Then it was time for a warm and leisurely ski back out again: uphill to Elk Pass, then snacks in the sun by the picnic table, and the delightful descent (mostly) to the car.

On the drive back home we even saw a young boy moose standing in the forest. But then onwards, to pick up our irritated five year old.

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canada general moosling snow trip reports

Amazing Elizabeth Parker hut expedition

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