Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Back on the bike

After really starting to wish I was back riding sweet singletrack on my bike as winter drags on, I was quite surprised to get the opportunity to go for a ride yesterday.  I enjoyed a little sleep-in, lounging around reading my book (I've started another epic - "London" by the same guy that wrote the last book & epic I read.  The narrative is not quite as compelling, but the history of the city is fascinating.) & then having a nap before Alex texted with the idea for a ride.  It was a nice clear day & almost up to freezing point, so conditions were perfect. 

I dragged my bike out, rugged up a bit & cautiously took my first ride on the snowy streets.  Thankfully it wasn't too icy.  Riding on the hard packed snow was straight forward, although I was quickly reminded of the fact that my entire drivetrain needs replacing before the summer & that my rear tyre is particularly bald.  The riverside paths & Engine Bridge were easy pedalling.

 Ice floating down the Bow River, from the Engine Bridge, the Three Sisters in the background

We took a detour around the small island that is in the river between town & the power station runout on Mineside.  There hadn't been nearly as much traffic down this trail & it was a lot narrower & bumpier.  Alex progressed easier than I did as he had fitted studded tyres; progress was slow, it was hard to keep much balance & as soon as you dabbed your foot just sank in to the unpacked snow. 

Mt Rundle behind me

Looking across the Bow & town to Grotto

I made a snow-bike angel

Ready-made bike stand

Back on the packed trail we ambled up to Quarry Lake - I was pleased to find I still had some climbing legs left.  We rode along under the power line to Peaks of Grassi before winding our way down various paths & stairs (some of which Alex could ride) to the Riverside Trail.  I was grinning most of the time with the pleasure of being back on my bike.


Mt Stanley Touring

I did intend to write this yesterday as it was a public holiday (as far as I can work out Family Day is a "we haven't had a public holiday for almost two months - let's make one up so we have the day off" type of holiday), but just as I got home to start writing the tragic events in Christchurch started to unfold.  I was well pleased to get a text from Adele ninety minutes later to let me know that she, Mum & Dad were safe & well.  It's such times that one does feel a long way from home; watching & reading all the coverage has been pretty shocking, sobering & just plain hard.  I'm very much looking forward to seeing some close NZ friends & family in thirty-six hours.

Back to the long weekend's adventures.  It was nice & clear & not too cold Sunday morning when five of us popped over to BC & Kootenay National Park for the easyish tour Alex had planned.  Basically we crossed the creek by the parking lot, climbed gradually while traversing towards a spur for an hour & then climbed a lot more rapidly up the spur.  The climbing was quite manageable (but then I was plodding along as tail end Charlie for a lot of the time) & after three months of winter I was starting to miss my bike & the challenge & technical variety that is climbing steep hills (not to mention the sweet downhill).  Most of the trees we went through had been burnt out in time past, leaving blackened trunks & a few spindly branches.
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Lincoln, me & Al
As we got nearer to our highest point I was starting the eye the thickening trees on the steepening slope nervously.  Would I be able to get down through those gaps while making turns & staying in control?  I was starting to feel like Dennis Denuto standing outside the Federal Courthouse.

The trees thinned as we reached our lunch spot where it was nicely warm & we had great views down the valley along Highway 93S.
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Lincoln & Jess(i?)e

The ski down wasn't as bad as I feared & I was able to make some turns & negotiate my way through most of the gaps between the trees - there are some advantages to being a skinny weed.  The trickiest things were the small skinny trees that were hard to see straight away & any fallen wood that wasn't immediately apparent.  I managed to stop myself against one pretty large tree, glide in to a bit of treefell & get tangled in a lot of spindly trees.  Overall the ski down was quite fun & I was pleased that the climb was worth it.  Here's a few more pictures of me that I've once again shamelessly pinched from Alex - when you're the fast one, you can afford to stop & take pictures.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Most of a hockey game & cold Sunshine

It was still proper cold on Friday night (-20ºC) as I wandered the few blocks west to meet up with work-mates for pizza before we headed to the hockey game over the road at the Rec Center.  The hockey in this game was much better than the previous game I had been to - much faster & open, I was quite enjoying the play.  Unfortunately, when you go to hockey games they spend more time not playing than on the ice.  After the first period (of which there are three, each twenty minutes long) they brought out the Timbits (Tim Hortons must sponsor local hockey, as timbits are little balls of donut goodness that must be made from making the hole in donuts) for a little game.  These were five or six year olds having a little game in the centre of the rink - & possibly the cutest thing I have seen in a long time.  Most of them looked about as good as me on skates & spent a lot of the time dragging themselves off the ice.  It was hilarious.

The second period was pretty good also, even though we were losing (I think this game was a dead rubber - last week of regular season before the playoff & all that) & then came another indeterminable interval.  In two hours we had seen forty minutes of the game - which is just retarded, in two hours you can get through eighty minutes of rugby or ninety minutes of football (soccer).  I'd had enough of the waiting & snippets of bad songs, so it wasn't difficult to persuade me to pop around to a workmate's house for a drink or two - which was a pity, as the game was interesting.

For the second day in a row, it started off at -30ºC so I wrapped up with five layers of icebreaker (& outer layers of course) before driving up the hill to get (snowboarder) Alex for a morning at Sunshine.  For a long weekend, it wasn't overly busy (probably something to do with the frigidness).  I think I've been spoilt this year - I wasn't enjoying the lack of fresh snow & the hard pack was just plain slow.  Nonetheless, it was a gorgeous clear day & we had a good seventeen or so runs in between popping inside to warm up.  Alex thought I would handle the double black diamond South Side Chutes, but I wasn't overly convinced.  But a bit of encouragement is a good thing, so we ended up at the top of the chutes where there wasn't a lot of snow & plenty of rocks that slowed my entry down a bit/lot.  Looking at the map, I think we dropped in to Far Side - which wasn't too bad.  I had one of my little backward falls coming out of a turn, but managed my way down with some long turns.  The snow was friendlier in the bottom half & we passed the camera around a bit.

The chutes run in to Eagle Creek, another black diamond run that is first a pleasant little road-ish ski before dropping in to the much skinnier creek canyon - this was good fun as it was twisty & bumpy.  Avoiding the cliff face (where apparently someone went over unbeknown to them, landed heavily & broke their back) we were eventually back at Goat's Eye base station.  A couple of nice runs down Scapegoat & we'd had enough of the cold - so we headed home.

Some kind-hearted & smart person had got Megan the wonderfully titled "Killer Bunnies" card game for her birthday.  That's amusing on many levels with the obvious Monty Python reference (there's also a weapon called the Trojan Bunny),

& my fear that the plague of domestic bunnies that have infested downtown Canmore will one day turn crazy & started jumping at people's throats.  The game is quite amusing with many different cards ranging from the Cyber Bunny, the Ebola Virus, Large Prune Danish & so on.  I'm still not completely won over as the winning of the game pretty much comes down to a lottery & the rules & cards are somewhat ambiguous.  Still, it's a bit of fun.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Some different Goat Creek pictures

I managed to get hold of some photos with me in them - thanks Karin.  Here are some that prove I was actually there.

Joel, Lincoln, Kristy, Adam, me, Al, Megan & Finn, Karin (rear to front, left to right) at the lunch stop


Second (proper) bridge crossing

I think Karin got bored of me stopping to de-snow my skis, 
so she had to keep herself (& us) amused by falling over

In other news, Lincoln & Al (more Aussies, friends of Joel's visiting for two months) are moving in to our spare room this weekend - so we'll have a full house, which should (better) be fun.  I'm off to my second (ice) hockey game shortly - just a local one.  It's a work function as Lafarge is one of the key sponsors - should be a nice change as we're in the middle of a kiln shutdown & everyone else is very busy (I just keep doing my little projects) at work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Back on the skis - Goat Creek XC

Two weeks was long enough to give my shoulder a break before I went stir crazy, so on Saturday I joined seven others (Finn came along for the ride too) to cross-country ski the Goat Creek trail to Banff (the trail starts up behind Canmore & runs the length of the other side of Mt Rundle).  Some warm, moist air rolled in from somewhere & unforecast snow fell on us all day.


It was pretty sticky & for most of the first half of the day, I had big clumps of snow sticking to the bottom of my skis - I definitely put too much grip wax was on.  Consequently, I couldn't glide down the hills for quite some time & had to keep the walk/grip action going.  Before the first creek crossing, most of us were starving - so here was our lunch stop.  All that extra resistance had obviously made me hungry - as well as the lunch I brought, (some of) all the food Kristy & Joel had brought to share was much appreciated - more sandwiches, zucchini slice & ANZAC biscuits.

By this time I'd scraped a lot of the grip wax from my skis & after lunch I was finally able to keep too much snow accumulating & even glide down some hills.  On one particular hill I was sliding quite nicely until the snow built up too much on my right ski & it stopped in a hurry.  Not wanting to put my arm out to break my fall I ended up with a face full of fresh snow - much to Adam & Karin's amusement.

The snow kept falling & there ended up being quite a bit on the Chariot.  Extra weight for Megan to stoically pull.

Although the trail has a net descent of a few hundred metres, to many of us there seemed to be a lot more climbing than there should be.  But I didn't mind, as after lunch life was much easier for me as I didn't have to work downhill as well as up.
Adam, Karin & Megan on one of the descents near the end of the day.

After fifteen or sixteen kilometres, Finn decided that he'd had enough of the inside of the Chariot - so I ended up with the pleasure of towing it while Megan carried Finn.  This I was pleased with, as having the Chariot trailing behind me made life a little more interesting.  Five and a half hours later (plenty of stops with a nice big group) we made it to the parking lot at the end - some walked up to the hot springs while three of us returned (in the car parked in the lot the night before) to the trail head to pick up the other cars to return to Banff & pick every one up.

I'm slowly learning how to use my GPS & actually getting out & doing a trail helped to give me something to muck around with.  So here's a little plot of Saturday's outing - which you can manipulate a bit.  You can see how much my speed increased in the second part of the day (View Details down in the bottom right).

Sunday, Alex & I headed out to Sunshine for the morning.  It was still snowing a bit & down out of the wind the skiing was pretty good.  But up in the wind the slopes were well scoured out & pretty nasty.  I was pleased how my shoulder fared - not falling on it helped a lot.  After lunch we did a couple of runs before rushing out to beat the avalanche control access road closure.  I had a little time before dashing off to Calgary on an airport run to pick up (another) Alex returning from her weeks of snowboard-cross competitions.  After that somewhat tiring weekend - it's nice to be sitting at home now on the couch watching a pretty cheesy episode of Chuck.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Snow-sports for the incapacitated

Yes, shoeshoeing was the best option for getting outside & doing something without risking popping my shoulder again so soon.  After a much needed sleep-in Saturday morning (I spent much of the week strangely exhausted & napping after work - I blame the trauma of the shoulder incident & perhaps a couple of months of skiing a lot), Megan, Finn & I headed up the Spray Valley to the Mt Shark cross-country ski area for a little return trip to Watridge Lake.  We'd last been up here at the end of our Assiniboine hike in July, when the last few kilometres to the parking lot took an absolute age (six weeks before Finn was born [at full-term] & we'd walked 57 km in three days; I still maintain Megan was crazy, but she just pleads Australianism - perhaps they're synonymous) - it was a lot snowier this time.

It was about an hour's drive out & I was surprised so many people would be out here to go XC skiing, but it was very peaceful & beautiful.  As I was on the easy snowshoes, I was hauling Finn in the Chariot - which was pretty easy, it just meant that I couldn't go cavorting around in all the deep snow (about the only fun thing to do on snowshoes, as far as I can see) as I would've buried the Chariot.

After about forty-five minutes we reached Watridge Lake.

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To burn a little extra energy, I headed over the lake making fresh tracks to our lunch spot on the opposite shore (is it still a shore if you can't tell the difference between the snow-covered lake & the snow-covered ground?).

Lunch over & done with it was back off to the car - the snowfall picked up briefly, but mostly it was very light, sunny & warm all day.  The return trip had a surprising amount of gradual downhill that we didn't remember from the outward leg or (especially) July.  Megan gets the photo credits & I assume she took this one to voice her disgust at the lack of distance indications on the signs in this park - someone else had obviously felt the same way.

On the drive home we came across these two moose - the closest I've been to any yet on my visit.  They seemed a bit confused as to how to escape a slowly approaching car & started to run faster & faster along the road before finally diving off in to the trees.  That reminded me a little of giraffes in Nakuru National Park (Kenya) - but the giraffes were a lot bigger & able to outrun our little Vitara.

Back in town we were able to satisfy our craving for chocolate chais & finally get a game of Cities & Knights (Settlers).  By the time I walked home it was absolutely puking snow in town & I was ruing the fact I couldn't/shouldn't go skiing today.  But it eased off & it seems they got hardly any fresh snow up at the hill, so a nice Sunday at home doing odds & sods doesn't seems so bad now.