bikes canada climbing general trip reports

ice-capades on a frozen lake

Looking through the guidebook for an ice climb to do on a windy day with high avalanche risk, we struck upon the climbs down by the edge of Lake Minnewanke.

The guidebook told us that the first ascent team had used iceskates to get to the climbs – but for later in the season recommended bikes. “Ok”, we thought, “bikes it is, that sounds like a great idea”.


Walking the bikes across Lake Minnewanke


Arriving at the lake we had to hunt around for a while to find a good place to get onto the ice – neither of us were keen on heading out across the middle of the lake, but along the southern shore all the ice was buckled creating huge impassable water trenches. So we cycled along the the half-way parking spot, and followed some fishermen out onto the lake. “It’ll be fine”, they reassured us, “at least six inches of ice as far as you can see”.


Ice heaving at the edge of Lake Minnewanke


So we set out across the lake with our bikes – initially there was too much snow to ride. Then suddenly there was no snow at all, and the glossy smooth ice threw had us walking immediately. “That’s ok”, we said, “it looks like it’ll be more rideable near the shore”. So we headed off towards the southern shoreline… and walked … and walked… and shuffled… and it got no closer. The ice was clear, and the water beneath was dark and deep. Huge cracks were running everywhere – deep lake-crossing cracks that looked to be nearly 3 feet deep, and tiny 5cm cat cracks, and everything in-between. The cracks were unsettling but the smooth patches between the cracks were worse, as there was nothing to convince your brain you weren’t just walking on water.

At this point we still didn’t have our crampons on, and so were shuffling across and trying not to fall over. This makes no sense of course, but we didn’t want to anger the lake monsters, and the ice was just so pretty! Our crampons would damage the perfect surface. So the bikes were being caught by the wind, and we’d be blown along bike and all, sliding along the ice.

By the time we reach the shoreline we’d both fallen over at least once and were well and truly over any worries about damaging the ice. Stashing the bikes, we decided to put crampons on, the headed off down lake again.


Reflection in the frozen lake


All the time walking up the lake we had a tailwind behind us – ice skates would have been scary, but maybe a sled with a sail? After walking for an hour, it still felt like we hadn’t covered much distance. That lake really is enormous. There was a stop for lunch, and then we finally reached the ice climb (which I haven’t included a photo of, as it wasn’t particularly exciting).


Sitting on water – Amy adjusts her crampons


Post ice climb we stuffed ourselves with some more food, then trudged off into the headwind. It was about as fun as could be expected. I developed a wind rating system:

Gale Force 1 – Necessitates modification of walking style, although progress can continue.
Gale Force 2 – Must stop walking and brace yourself into wind.
Gale Force 3 – Must stop and crouch to provide smaller surface area to wind.
Gale Force 4 – Must turn around and crouch with back to wind.
Gale Force 5 – Even crouching with your back to the wind you get blown over. Best option is to sit with your back to the wind and lift your crampons – you will get blown along the lake.

We experienced all of those. The only consolation was that it was a sunny day, the mountains were beautiful, and the frozen lake was still pretty amazing. And as we picked up our bikes again and headed for the car, the sun was setting.


Sunset across Lake Minnwanke


canada hiking trip reports

almost entirely unlike the edge of a knife

Mount Lady Macdonald – with an altitude of 2,606 m (8,550 ft) gives a 1200 metre elevation gain hiking from town. It was named in 1886 after Susan Agnes Macdonald, wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada (this is what wikipedia claims anyway, but there are all sorts of made-up things slipping in there these days, we all know Canada doesn’t even have a Prime Minister).

A typical 9 o’clock start had us leaving the house around 10 (we being Siggs and I, not Alex, who is stuck doing 14+ hour days at work this weekend), and walking towards Lady Mac – along a cunning short cut that actually forced us to walk uphill, and then ended up being tantalisingly close to the path we wanted, without actually reaching it. So we had to walk downhill again.

With the sore legs of people who had spent yesterday doing silly things (a 60km bike ride and hiking up Cascade mountain respectively), we hit auto-pilot on the way up, and told our legs to shut up and just keep walking.


Looking up Mount Lady Mac from the abandoned teahouse


We reached the teahouse and begun some heavy duty snacking. You could probably have even called it lunch, but for the fact we had a second one a few hours later. And the teahouse isn’t so much a teahouse as an unfinished wooden construction with lots of burn marks from where teenagers with no self-preservation have been lighting fires ON the teahouse using wood FROM the teahouse. It does provide a nice viewing and lunching platform though.



Following the teahouse there was a thankfully short slog up a scree slope until we reached the *dramatic chords* KNIFE-EDGE RIDGE. This was where I left Siggs, who has far too much common sense to be ignoring the fact she’s on a very skinny bit of rock with a definite cliff on one side, and a very steep slide on the other. There was only a light breeze, so the scramble across was actually really fun – there’s no technical difficulty to it, just the difficulty of ignoring your brain going ARGH, MY GOD IT’S A CLIFF, WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE! Thanks to climbing I’m accustomed to my brain’s panicked warnings of impending doom. Although I didn’t stop to get my camera out along the way – I’m coordinated when it comes to not dropping me off a cliff, I have a bad track record when it comes to cameras and cliffs however.


Looking back along the ridge from the summit (this photo doesn’t really do justice to the steepness either, it’s really quite narrow at the top, though you can spend a lot of the time with your hands on the top of the ridge, walking your feet along holds on the slopey non-cliff side)


So I hit the summit – finally, that ridge seemed to go forever. Maybe it’s about 150 metres? I had Siggs at the start of it as a reference point, and she was certainly a distant blob. The journey back was quicker and easier, as I spent much less time going “Am I at the summit now? Nope, this isn’t it, maybe it’s that next bit.”



We sat at the top of the scree slope and looked down at the teahouse, helicopter pad, and Canmore while enjoying a second lunch. Followed by interminable plodding back down a path that seemed a lot less steep than it had done on the way up, and gradual removal of layers as we hit the warm valley air.

canada general trip reports

grotto mountain

I started off on this hike with the vague idea that it would only take a couple of hours. I mean, the mountain’s just there! In my backyard! Surely it shouldn’t take too long to walk to the top. As I stumbled out the front door, I noticed snow on all of the surrounding mountains – ooohhh, that’s right, it was raining last night, I guess it must have been colder than I realised – curse this ‘Summer’ of the Canadian Rockies. And then I could have turned around and picked up my gaiters, but it seemed warm, surely it wouldn’t be too bad. Perhaps the snow would melt before we got there.

Meandering across from home and through the Benchland trails, we eventually hit the northwest spur of Grotto Mountain and started the hike up. The trail was obvious, and kept zig-zagging up the spur until we reached this white lurking presence which hung in the trees, and covered the ground making it all slippery and wet. With a bit more backsliding we wandered on up to the edge of the scree slope and on towards the false summit. Ahhh, snow covered scree, my favourite thing. Wind-blown snow covered scree is even better.


Canmore and its many mountains

Hitting the ridge the wind picked up, which didn’t make our snow-soaked shoes and pants feel any warmer. As we crossed the kilometre of ridgeline between the false summit and actual summit, the wind veered between ‘chilly breeze’ and ‘oxygen-stealing force of doom’. Following the ridge along, I tried to pick the line of least snow (and avoid being blown off). Summit – quickly take photos then retreat. Must escape wind. Cold wind. Views! But wind too cold. Descend, shelter from wind, devour sugar, drink water.



As we hit the treeline my brain started to function again. The snowline had crept a long way up the mountain since we’d started out this morning, and as we dropped further into the valley the wind died away and the temperature slowly crept up, until eventually I was warm.

It was about then that we came across these odd birds… the female Dusky Grouse (no, I didn’t know what it was at the time, I had to ask the internet afterwards) was herding about her flock of three chicks, and looking at us suspiciously, while her male friend sat in a tree nearby, before jumping out to parade past us.


Female Dusky Grouse

Male Dusky Grouse

On arrival home I discovered that the summit is at 2706 metres (8878ft) – so an altitude gain of 1300 metres or so. That could be why it took a while.

general travel trip reports

the south america round-up

kitten fishing in santiago de chile
mendoza, argentina
the southest i’ve ever been
arriving in patagonia
parque nacional torres del paine
around the park
into bolivia
hot-tubbing bolivian style
my very first geyser (a.k.a. i can see why safety fences are sometimes a good idea)
through the altiplano
hotel de sal (yes i licked the walls)
salar de uyuni
uyuni, bolivia
lake titicaca
cusco, peru
inka trail – day one
inka trail – day two
inka trail – day three
inka trail to machu picchu
lima, peru
screaming slugs – the highlights

canada general trip reports


Just to prove that you’re never too old to get excited about dinosaurs, we went to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, and gazed awestruck at all of the dinosaur skeletons they had. I’m pretty sure there were other things we looked at too (in fact there were probably even some real live Galapagos tortoises there as part of a display about the life of Charles Darwin), but the dinosaurs are all I really remember. Even if they had changed the diplodocus so it doesn’t put it’s head up any more, and had a label explaining how scientists now believe that they wouldn’t have had neck muscles strong enough to hold their head up above the level of their back (and back in my day, Pluto was a planet!).



Toronoto: City of many bicycles, Tim Horton’s, and dinosaurs.