Some shots taken while out running so far this year…
Because doing things the easy way is boring, I decided to try heading up to the summit of Ha Ling Peak on foot, all the way from town. That’s the way it was originally done by its namesake, so I’ve been meaning for a long time to do the full ascent. It would, perhaps, have been easier in summer though.
The temperature was hovering around -16oC in the valley, so I was really hoping for an inversion. It was jolly cold all the way up to the pass, and then interesting to get onto the trail. Huge snow drifts barred the way into the trees, but I waded through and hoped the going would get easier. It didn’t look like there’d been any foot traffic since the last snow, so I was slowed down to a slog. On the plus side, it started to get warmer and warmer as I climbed – an inversion, hurrah!
Although there were hoards in the Goat Creek car park, they all had skis and were heading in the other direction, so I had the whole mountain to myself. The only question would be whether I could actually make it past the treeline. There’s usually a section there with deep drifts of snow, before you reach the wind scoured scree slopes up higher.
Although the snow got deep, I could largely stay on the pre-compacted trail. The few times I lost it I immediately plunged into thigh-deep powder, and easily hauled myself out and back onto the proper trail again. That’s the only section I really wished for snow shoes. Beyond, the going was easy, and the summit was beautiful – warm and still, and gorgeous views. Well, comparatively warm.
And the only unfortunate part was having to descend into the cold weather again.
Elevation gain: 1324m
Lake Minnewanka and the Cascade Fire Trail share a trail-head; and so we hatched a cunning plan where I would run along the shoreline of the lake, while Alex would take Moosling and Chariot and go towing up the Cascade Fire Trail. The plan was to turn around after an hour or so, and be back at the car at 11.30am (so we could then get back to Canmore to watch the finals of the Cross-Country Skiing World Cup sprints at the Nordic Centre).
The trail was well-packed to the bridge and beyond,to the high point of the climb up and around the spur.
After turning around to head north-east though, the trail was progressively less and less travelled, and by the time things flattened out it was just me and some old animal tracks. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground, but it was still slow going. And a little eerie, as I kept running about four kilometres past the last sign of people tracks. There wasn’t a sign of another creature, human or animal, the whole time I was out past the bridge though.
Thanks to relatively benign weather so far this winter, the lake remains un-frozen. The trail was in the shade until 11am though, so it still wasn’t the warmest of runs.
The appearance of the sun was cause for celebration though.
(And the plan worked, and we went and watched the World Cup, and clashed cow bells with great enthusiasm, and were amazed at how fast everyone could ski)
Although I couldn’t really claim to have run all fifty of the kilometres – like most people, I walked a lot of the steep uphills. On a course with 1700 metres of climbing, there were definitely some steep little climbs in there. And I did stop for a bathroom break, and to stock up on food. And to take a photo. But mostly I ran. And ran. And ran. For over five hours. But it was strangely easier than I was expecting. I was assuming there would be soul-crushing agony, teeth-gnashing, and stomach-gurgling, dead legs and embittered spirit. But instead there was just tree roots to jump over, people to high five, and say hello to, signs to look for, and more people to chase.
The course was at the Nordic Centre, so all the trails were familiar, mainly because I’d mountain-biked a lot of the single trail many times before. The sections of double-track were familiar from winter skiing adventures, and less fun to run on, but not as bad as I was expecting either. Although single track is much more fun, it also takes a lot more concentration to run on.
A team of friends were doing the whole thing as a relay, so I spent each leg wondering if I could catch up to them, or maybe catch a glimpse of them on the few sections of overlapping track. Instead I just found them all every time I ran through transition, with the next person already sent out on the leg I was about to embark on – although I did catch the first and last person for high-five action on the track as we passed.
All in all, it was an awesome event. Well organised, fairly well signed (Leg 3 and 4 could have both done with a few more signs to clarify things a little better at a few points), and a lot of fun. The variety of the five different legs made the 50 kilometres travel by a lot quicker than it might have done otherwise too.
A couple of years ago I assumed that people who ran 20 kilometres were a little crazy – forgetting that I’d kind of done that sort of thing when we were rogaining a lot about ten years ago – but then the running was more of a by-product rather than the main goal, so it never seemed to count. You never really know what crazy things you’ll end up enjoying.
More Autumn running. This time driving up to Sunshine Village around the time of the last bus, and then leaving Moosling and Grandma Moose by Rock Isle Lake, Alex and I ran out to Citadel Pass. Aaaaallllll the way this time.
The larches were bright yellow, and there were only two other people on the entire trail.
By the time we reached Citadel Pass the sun was starting to hide behind the peaks.
On the way home I managed to crash at one point, clipping my foot on a rock, and doing an impressive superman dive onto my chest. I was winded, but thankfully no bears or cougars came to eat me while I was lying on the ground trying to regain my breath.
A fantastic 20km return run from Sunshine Village.