Monday, January 25, 2010

Enforced Rest

Now that my arm is out of its sling I can catch up my ramblings here - yes, I dislocated my shoulder again last week. The last week hasn't been quite as active for me, but I have managed to get out & see & do a few things. I think it was Saturday over a week ago that Tristan & Margie (Adele flatted with them for a while in Timaru) turned up from the west coast - we had a great dinner catching up & teaching the group how to play Monopoly Deal (the card game I was given by the guy next to me on the flight over). Much hilarity ensued - the game has proved to be quite a hit & seldom a day goes by without at least one game. My enforced rest started right at the top of my first back-country ski touring day - Megan & Alex took Adele & me out for a taste of touring. We headed about forty-five minutes out of Canmore in to Kananaskis Country & headed for Chester Lake from the parking lot. With skins on our skis, we were able to walk/shuffle (the heels of the boots are clipped down, so one can perform a walking action, but really you just slide the ski along the snow) up the trail that immediately started climbing up towards the lake. It was great to be out amongst the trees & seemingly a million miles from anyone else - I instantly loved touring (I'm a little weird, I've always found some enjoyment in working up hills - whether on a bike, hiking or on skis, as it turns out). The day was a little overcast, & perhaps a little over freezing point - but the touring proved to be a good work out, so we were soon shedding layers, gloves & toques (Canada-speak for beanies). Once we reached the lake after a good ninety minutes - two hours, Alex led us off the trail up much steeper hill; it may not have been much stepper, but there was a lot of powder & that made it a little tougher.
We finally got above the trees (after some challenging turns on steep uphills) & went up a nice slope we were going to stop & have lunch & admire the view. In the end, the cold wind persuaded us to take our skins off & find a lunch spot further down the hill. Unfortunately my downhill skiing in half a metre of powder on telemarks (no touring skis left at the rental shop) was not really up to scratch & I bailed a few times. That in itself wasn't so bad as the powder was nice & soft; getting up proved to be a bit more difficult as it was had to get any sort of coordination on such a soft, steep slope. In my flailing around the third time I managed to put my arm behind me, put some weight on it & pop my shoulder out - not that I was sure I had done it. But my inability to use my arm seemed to suggest that I had. After a bit of drama trying to get off the slope & on to a reasonably flat spot to try & relocate the pesky arm; it took a few attempts to get it back in & then I was slinged up, lunch was had, my skins were put back on & we were off again. Getting back through the powder & trees proved to be a bit difficult for both Adele & me (Adele spent a good few minutes looking for a ski that she lost in the snow, & I had trouble getting up the few times that I fell), but once we were back on the trail the going got easier. Around the lake the trail was overall pretty flat, so I as able to keep ahead with one arm & two skins. Skinning down the hill was more work that going down should have been, but it meant I didn't ever get out of control & crash. Eventually we were all safely back at the car - quite the adventure & apart from the fifteen minutes of pain, it was a great day & I loved it.

I took it pretty easy on Monday while Adele, James, Craig, Tristan & Margie hit the slopes again. Don't think I did a lot, did manage to make the seventy minute walk in to town through what snow remained & along the river, meet Becca for her lunch break, get a round of cards in & then try out the much talked about chocolate-chai (delicious) at the Bagel Company. I tagged along when Craig took Tristan & Margie ice-climbing at the Grotto on Tuesday - a good chance to get out of the house & it still wasn't too cold to be standing around at the bottom of an ice wall. We donned our crampons for the walk up the frozen stream, it was quite pretty walking up the narrow (but shallow) gorge to the ice. There were two faces to be climbed, but we had to wait awhile for a couple of groups to get off it before the others had a go. I spent the time looking around & chatting to whoever was not halfway up the wall.
Due to the recent warm temperatures & snow fall, the avalanche risk was too great for our planned overnight trip in to Bow Hut. Therefore on Wednesday we (James, Becca, Craig, Tristan, Margie & Adele on touring skis, me on snowshoes) headed back to Kananaskis Country for the Burstall Pass trail. The parking lot was pretty much opposite where we started the ill-fated trip to Chester Lake three days prior. This day was clearer, & a little colder. The trail started off a lot flatter than Sunday's & snowshoes turned out to be pretty easy (especially on the packed trail) & it wasn't nearly as much of a work out as touring skis & skins; I don't think I had to strip off any layers all day & I was pleased not to be holding everyone up with my one arm & snowshoes (apparently, I looked pretty funny). We reached the bottom of a few lakes on the river down the valley & as they were all frozen & snowed over we dived off the trail & walked up the lake through more powder & in to the sun for quite a while, before having lunch sitting on skis in the sun & out of the wind - it was surprisingly warm. After lunch & above the lake, the trail got a lot steeper & the snowshoes once again proved an asset. A couple of skiers coming down told us that the fog was rolling in above the trees, but thankfully we got a few good views when it got a bit flatter out of the trees. The others' eyes were salivating at the sight of the powder slopes ahead, but as the fog was rolling in & I was not so excited about such slopes on snowshoes, I turned around to get a bit of a head start on the (supposedly) faster skis for the run down hill. I had a very pleasant solitary walk back down through the snow & as it turned out I got down almost two hours before the others. Another great day out in the wilderness - it's beautiful here.

Thursday was a bit more a restful day (except for James & Craig who had a great day on the hill) & after Becca eventually won a game of Monopoly we picked up Margie & Tristan & headed for Banff to meet James & Craig & spend an hour or so soaking in the hot pools again - this time it wasn't snowing & it was daylight, so we could see the mountains (on the way in we saw the Olympic torch making its way slowly towards Vancouver). Friday I had another morning resting my arm while Adele went rock climbing with James - she was very excited on returning, having led for the first time. Becca somehow got the afternoon off work, so she took Adele & us out for a little outing to Johnston Canyon - basically an hour or so walking up a beautiful canyon to see the very frozen Lower & Upper Falls. Adele's friend, Mark (he worked in Timaru Hospital for a while & is now back living & working in New Hampshire), arrived for a week's vacation & was quickly initiated in to the ways of Monopoly Deal.

As Mark had been working so much recently, Saturday was declared a non-strenuous day & we (Adele, Tristan & Margie included) had a nice late start to the day & we drove the hour or so up to Lake Louise to check out the ice carving on the lake. There was a thirty-eight hour competition spread over Friday, Saturday & Sunday; the large works were starting to come together beside the lake. Back down in the village, we were just in time to catch the speed-carving competition - billed as one man, one block of ice, one hour. It was very neat to see the twelve competitors create some magnificent sculptures with chainsaws, chisels & who-knows-what-else from just one 300lb block of ice. There was even a Kiwi having a go (apparently his first weekend ice carving) - his Maori face with moko was pretty cool; none of us really liked the one that won, but there was plenty to keep us interested before we returned to the lake (after a spot more gear shopping) for ice-skating (I sat that out, in deference to my shoulder, & walked across the lake instead - it was finally getting cold, my the moisture from my breath on froze my scarf & ruined any insulating properties my scarf previously held). I was most pleased to see a traditionally uniformed Mountie; I was very tempted to break in to song though - " I cut down trees, I eat my lunch, I go to the lavatory, on Wednesdays I go shopping & have buttered scones for tea". Back at the ice rink the others were finishing up around this cool fire in a stump - there was no wood inside it, it was burning the stump from the inside-out. The large carvings were coming along nicely too. We split to return to our favourite (& only that we know of) restaurant in Lake Louise - the Alpine Club. We had to get the poutine (sounds remarkably like pootang), heart attack in a bowl apparently - a dish from Quebec (I think) that is basically fries with gravy & cheese curd, absolutely fantastic.
After a discussion on tipping, our waitress turned out to be a bit of a plonker - didn't bring ordered drinks, brought out two lots of burnt nachos, brought us the bill after Mark had just paid & brought two mints for a table that had had five people at it all night. Luckily, the guy that we had last time was around to keep things going.

By Sunday, Adele & I had gone to stay with Mark at the cabin he is staying in & I seem to remember a lot of trips to the supermarket. The cabin is a short walk from town (much shorter than the hour from Three Sisters) & I popped in to town to find a post box & get my bearings for this part of town. I was surprised to see all the wild domestic bunnies loping around the straight. Apparently a few/many years ago someone's pet rabbit(s) escaped & they have since breed like rabbits do. The first two were pretty cute, but after seeing a dozen or so in a short space of time chewing away at what grass they could find amongst the snow I could see how they could be a pest. They are particularly prolific around this part of town as it is further from the hills & the predators (coyotes & so on) up there. Apparently the town has taken a vote on whether the town should let them alone or push them off their mortal coils. It would seem the cuteness factor won out. We seemed to be going to the supermarket quite a bit, the last time was to stock up for our traditional January barbecue - Tristan & Margie's last night in town. January barbecues make a lot more sense in the southern hemisphere; it was quite novel to be out grilling steak & sausages in the snow & -8ÂșC - can't think why no one would come out & join me for a beer around the barbie. A great night (unless you happen to be a plate or handle - they somehow ended up endangered species) with pretty much everyone Adele & I know in Canmore.

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