canada general moosling snow

The luge run

One particularly amazing edition to our Elizabeth Parker hut trip, aside from the maze and quinzee, was the luge run we built up behind the hut. Referring to something so epic as a mere toboggan track would be inadequate.

There was a lot of engineering that went into the design, and some epic berms were built. But it was still difficult to design a track to handle such a variety of sled weights, and so there were parents stationed at a few tree-well points along the way. Which was good, as kids on toboggans went flying over the berms a couple of times before we decided that two kids in a black sled was a bad combination (and banned that particular combination).

And so now I’ll just leave you with some of the photos, which should give you some idea how fun it was!

So fun that we went back again the next morning – but this time round, only launched from half way up, because it had set so fast and icy…

I may have had just as much, if not more fun, than the kids. Apparently growing up without snow meant a very neglected childhood, so I have to make up for it with extra tobogganing now.

canada general moosling snow trip reports

Easter at Elizabeth Parker hut

This was a trip that came about in a more unusual way than most. I met Tanya through Instagram, where she posts as @mountainmomyyc. And we started chatting, in an online kind of way, and she said “Hey, we should go on an adventure together some time” – and I agreed. So when one of the families had to drop out of the Elizabeth Parker hut trip she had planned for Easter, I was among the families she shouted out the invitation to. And as we’d just had a fantastic fun trip up there, we jumped at the chance.

And so, in one of those moments where the internet shines and demonstrates that it’s not just a cesspit of the awfulness of humanity, we set off for a trip to a hut with a bunch of other families we’d never met before. And hoped none of them were axe murderers (spoilers: they weren’t).

At the trailhead we parked next to Andrea and David and their three kids – introducing ourselves and starting the process of getting to know folks.

As we skied up the 11 kilometres to the hut we skied with different people, and chatted, and got to know each other, and I ended up losing my own family entirely and skied along having interesting conversations with other peoples kids.

One of the interesting things was the variety of towing mechanisms everyone was using. We were just working with an old inner tube with a couple of slings attached, based on the system I’d used a few times up at Jackrabbits. But there was one very nice carabiner/bungee/rope/tow bar setup that I think we’ll try and copy for next time.

One family was just hiking in with a sled, and towards the end of the trip quite a few of the kids had switched from skis to snowshoes or boots. It’s a long uphill slog when you’re only five years old.

And then we settled into the huts. There were nine adults, eight kids (aged five to nine), and another two people who’d booked into the hut before Tanya had been able to book it out entirely. We were a little worried they’d be horrified, but they were lovely, and played Settlers of Catan with the kids (and one of them played guitar! and the other was Australian! Lovely I tell you!)

The benefit of having older kids along, is that they can sit and read to the other kids. And so the bunks were covered first with wrestling kids, then with kids playing lego and reading to each other, and then it was time for dinner.

Bedtime went about as smoothly as could be expected with all that excitement, but I managed to sleep fairly well that night, and didn’t have to get out of my sleeping bag until 7.30am, so I shall declare it a success.

After breakfast and some inside play, we decided to play near the hut for the first part of the morning. Which meant it was snow maze time!

Alex and I started digging out the snow maze we’d created last time we were up here, and soon recruited lots of helpers, and expanded the maze even further. David began digging out a quinzee in the middle of the maze, and it turned into an amazing nest of amazingness.

The kids had a ball running about, climbing up and down and jumping from wall to wall.

But then it was time to leave the maze, and go for a wander out towards Mary Lake. There was a delightful mix of snowshoes and skis, and we all wandered along together.

Including the unicorn, who had great difficulty keeping on track for some reason.

After skiing out halfway across the lake, we turned about and had lunch/snacks on the lake shore. Well, nearly the lake shore. I was wandering around at one point and punched straight through into slush. I don’t recommend that, although it definitely woke me up.

Meanwhile the unicorn got smaller, more fluorescent and significantly more dejected.

From there we wandered around to Lake O’Hara proper. Some of the crew headed back to the hut, some kept going to the far side of the lake to check out the waterfall, and some of us just opted to laze about in the sun.

You can see below which of those three camps we fell into.

The kids built a kicker to ski off, and dug a hole; the dads napped in the sun; the mums chatted, and were there to witness brave and fearless launches off the not very big or structurally sound kicker.

The afternoon brought the completion of the quinzee, and more snow maze time. And then tobogganing – which I have so many photos of that it’s going to get its own post.

Cupcakes were baked, and the kids got to decorate them, Easter style. And thanks to an eyeliner pencil that someone had thoughtfully (?) left behind in the hut, a lot of the kids developed rabbit whiskers.

And so the day started to draw to a close, and we retreated to the hut for dinner. Meanwhile the Easter Bunnies laid plans about an Easter Egg hunt.

The kids were exhausted, and so were supposed to fall asleep easily. However, mine was so overexcited that I had to crawl into my sleeping bag next to him in an attempt to get him to lie down and actually fall asleep. I assume it must have been successful, because the next thing I remember is waking up close to a midnight to a hut that was dark and quiet.

The next morning was Easter Sunday, and the Easter Bunny had been! He had conveniently left eggs around in groups of eight, so each of the kids could find one at each location – in and out of the huts, in the trees, in the snow maze, and all about.

The kids retreated to the bunks to assess their stashes. Some opened everything, eating the ones they liked as they went, and then handing all the ones they didn’t like back to their parents (that would be Finn). Others opened everything and then categorised their spoils according to size, type and colour. Needless to say, there was much excitement.

But then it was time to start packing up, and a few of our party left and started the journey back down to the trailhead.

Those of us who were left…. went tobogganing again!

Our luge track had set up firm and icy overnight, and we decided that a half-way launch point was probably the best option if we wanted to escape the weekend without major injuries. There were many more laps, but then it was time to go…

A toboggan train was dragged back to the huts, final checks were made, and the crew set off along the long road home.

The initial twisty turny section proved as interesting as ever, but we made it through unscathed and grouped together to begin the assault on the epic ‘downhill’ back to the cars.

With the warm weather, the trail had set fast… maybe tooo fast. We were flying down the hills, and some of us were terrified on occasions. We regrouped and re-jellybeaned at every kilometre marker, then stopped for lunch at the half-way picnic table. There we ran into a huge crew from Banff who were skiing in to the hut – our kids intermingled, and there was snowy mayhem in the sun, and the whisky jacks swarmed around us with delight.

Then the final stretch – with less downhill, and small legs getting tired, this took a little longer. But we made it! (Thanks to a combination of food-based bribery, conversation and songs)

Two of the coolest five year olds around, posing with victory at the bottom of the trail… then we packed up our cars, said our goodbyes, and drove home. New friends, fun weekend, more family trips must happen soon!

Note – Tanya’s write up of the trip can be found here.

Distance: 11.5km one way
Elevation gain: About 470m on the way in
Time to ski in: 6 hours in (we’ve done this in less time previously, and I took longer than my menfolk)
Time to ski out: 3.5 hours

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

bikes canada general hiking trip reports

Lake O’Hara – I think this might be paradise

A gloriously cunning plan came together at the last minute, after our original weekend plans were scuppered. I sat refreshing the Lake O’Hara website until I saw that someone had cancelled and there was a free night of camping for either Friday or Saturday night. I missed the first Saturday, and then a Friday spot, but was successful in snagging the next Friday spot that someone had cancelled – presumably because they didn’t fancy the rain-filled forecast.

Due to the afore-mentioned rain, we didn’t bother booking the early bus up. Instead we opted for the 3.30pm bus, and while the menfolk sat at home putting the final touches on packing (by which I mean, assuming I’d done a good enough job, and sitting around playing computer games) I set off from home on my road bike.

It wasn’t raining at all! Well, not at first. It was mostly uphill, and a bit headwindy, but it often seems to be in that direction. I’d allowed four hours, which is about what it took. Four hours and 95km later, I was slightly soggy but pulling into the Lake O’Hara trailhead parking lot, pretty sure that I had beaten the menfolk in their fancy car.

I stashed the bike in the trees, did a few laps of the parking lot to confirm they hadn’t somehow snuck by me, then sat and ate the rest of my food while I waited for them to arrive. Which they did. With some nice dry clothes for me, and thankfully with at least 10 minutes to spare before it was time to jump on the bus. I did a quick carpark change into dry hiking/running clothes, draped my stinky bike clothes artfully about our car interior to dry, then we leapt onto the bus.

The buses that run up and down the Lake O’Hara access road are big old school bus type things. Loud and roaring, they do the job without much grace, but a certain amount of jolliness.

At camp, we nabbed a site, got the tent set up and semi-assembled, then went prowling about. The boy wanted to find friends, while we wanted to go for a walk to the lake.

We managed to convince him to walk first, then he spent the rest of the evening in seventh heaven as a hoard of other small children descended on the camping area.

His new best friend was a fellow 4 year old, a Czech-Columbian girl named Kati. She was just as boisterous as him, and they had great fun running about in the rain and the mud.

We huddled in the tiny shelters to cook dinner. Our fellow campers were all lovely and friendly, and despite the cramped quarters it was a much more enjoyable experience than our recent Assiniboine stay. The rain showers passed, and we emerged to sit around the fire pit in the social area – chatting, and stepping in to prevent the children from getting too Lord of the Flies when necessary.

After a lazy sort of morning in the tent, we eventually got up and found that the morning was gorgeous and clear, and congratulated ourselves on winning the weather forecast lottery.

After a delicious and fulfilling breakfast of a Clif Bar, I set off to run the alpine loop while the menfolk went for a hike. I shot straight up to Wiwaxy Gap, trying to make up a little time after a late start.

Then it was over to Lake Oesa, which I’d never seen before, and it was at about this point I began to realise just how beautiful this area was. We’d been up to Lake O’Hara before, but never much higher, and higher is really where it’s at.

From Lake Oesa, a trail through the scree lured me around to the Yukness Ledges Alpine Route.

I was surprised how much of the alpine routes were runnable. Although I spent a lot of time distracted by the scenery, and not running at all. And I couldn’t bring myself to put my camera away, which made running a little more awkward anyway.

Then it was down to Hungabee Lakes, and through a little nest of lakes that had drawn herds of photographers to them like bees to some particular bright coloured and pollen laden flowers. It wasn’t just photogenic, it felt like a dream. It was the sort of place that made me just want to stop and lie down and gaze at the world in wonder.

And yet, I kept running. Up along All Souls’ Alpine Route, and a quick stop at All Soul’s Prospect.

Then down, down down, and as fast as I could go back to camp. There I tagged off Alex who took off on his own run.

The boy had already been out for a hike, so we sat and lunched, and he played with Kati. There was chatting, and relaxing in the sun, and then more food and lazing.

Alex made it back in time for us to catch the 4.30pm bus, so we jumped on it. Although it was running about 10 minutes late, I managed to retrive my road bike and be ready to start pedalling at around 5.20pm.

I had some lights for the bike. I wasn’t sure how good they would be, but as long as I didn’t dawdle too much, I figured I shouldn’t have to do too much riding in the dark. The up-side of riding uphill most of the way there though, was that it really was downhill nearly all the way home. And not raining! And reasonably warm! And basically a perfect calm, clear September evening. It was hero riding weather, and I enjoyed every pedal stroke.

I even made the 95km home without having to turn my lights on!

canada general hiking moosling trail running

Lake O’Hara: The latest in the crazy summer adventures series

Another summer day, another silly plan. This time we decided we wanted to visit Lake O’Hara. We’d been there a few times in winter, but never in summer. Paying for the bus was inconceivable however, so we fashioned a cunning plan whereby we would push the Chariot up to the lake. There we could leave the Chariot, and release the Moosling, hopefully heading up onto some of the higher trails (or just around the lake).

Lake O’Hara

We ran on and off to cover the 10km up to the lake. Sometimes the Moosling hopped out and walked, other times he stood up in the Chariot and made incomprehensible demands, and otherwise he just sat and read his choo-choo book (and asked lots of questions about helicopters).

The big push up the road to get to the lake (no bikes allowed – it’s either walk or pay for the bus)

Up at the lake we stopped for lunch, then set off a-wandering. We headed up towards Lake Oesa, after an initial false start (where the Moosling threw up on Alex, and they both retreated to Lake O’Hara for a quick clean-up). Then it was decided that Alex didn’t like the look of the exposed ledges on the high circuit path, so rather than trying to cover the whole circuit, we’d just retreat to the lake, and do the easy circuit.

Looking down on Lake O’Hara

Released from his Ergo, the Moosling thought this was a great idea, and happily ran around the lake. Even better when we found some snow up at the far end that he could throw at us.

Traversing the lake

Back at the day cabin, we picked up the Chariot, transferred Moosling into Chariot (where he promptly fell asleep until we hit the carpark). Then then run down the hill, taking it in turns to run with the Chariot (which is a bit of an interesting proposition when you’re running downhill and you don’t have the version with brakes). The kilometre markers all the way along the trail helped with equitable distribution of Chariot time, and we even managed to make it back down to the carpark at the same time as the bus, after seeing people sitting around waiting for it, and essentially deciding it was obviously a race.

Thoroughly recommended, although I’d really love to do the full alpine high circuit now.