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”.
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”.
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.
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).
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.