Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ross Lake

Persuaded out of my plan to spend the day on the couch reading & preparing computer things for the roadtrip, I joined Kristy, Joel, Megan & Finn for a easy ski-tour to Ross Lake.  We just crossed into BC & Yoho National Park & set off from the Lake Ohara parking lot.  The first two kilometres were along the old Highway 1A.

We then turned up into the trees sharply & climbed the hundred or so metres up to the lake.

We got to the lake about an hour after putting our skis on, snacked, took a few photos & enjoyed the sun & warmth.

Leaving the lake we gently climbed up a hundred metres more as we traversed towards the Lake Ohara road.  Eventually, the skins came off & we cruised down through the trees to the road & then back to the car.

A very pleasant two and a half hours out in the sun.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Snow is good for skiing, not so much for hiking

I got the jump on the long-weekend crowds at Sunshine this morning & managed a good nine runs around Goat's Eye before leaving just prior to eleven o'clock.  I must say that there was some smug satisfaction driving down the access road, having put in some tiring skiing while there are plenty of others still parking up.  I didn't have to queue for a lift once & mostly rode up by myself.  Skiing by yourself can be quite tiring as you don't have enforced rests & after two hours of the hardpack (bit of a change from the last few visits) my legs were actually aching a little.  Gorgeous day though (warm too):

Heading back to Canmore, the TransCanada was a gongshow going the opposite way (into Banff National Park) - comparatively I was passed by only one vehicle & passed none myself.  After a quick lunch, it was nice to walk through town & not battle the out-of-towners (read: Calgarians) to meet Megan & Finn for a little jaunt up Ha Ling.  It's the easiest hike of the peaks surrounding Canmore & I've done it a few times before.  In summer it's a breeze (unless the wind is more than a breeze & you lose your sunnies over the edge & don't make it to the top) & even at the start of February 2010 Megan & I made it to the top easily.  Today the trail up through the trees for the first hour was hard packed & quite easy going - less effort than having to negotiate rocks & roots in the summer.  Once we got out of the trees, we were wallowing in the snow up to our waists.  After trying to progress with the one walking pole we had (which eventually ended up stranded between us as I threw it rather poorly) & just sinking further & further and laughing more & more, we thought it best if we didn't bury Finn in snow.  So for the second time in a row, I've failed to summit Ha Ling.  It was a good hundred-odd minutes of getting outside & doing something, so I wasn't displeased.

You can just see the top of the retaining wall that is at the height of the summer trail - we were well over a metre above it.  Crazy to think we are halfway through spring.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three breakfast Sunday

In most ways, it was a pretty quiet weekend that, in retrospect, seems to have revolved a lot around food.  Karin & Adam were back in town (from Vancouver) as Karin's parents & their friends are visiting western Canada from WA (that's Western Australia for the non-antipodeans).  Sometime Friday a plan was hatched to make pizzas - by the time all the out-of-towners turned up our pizza production was in full swing & we had well too many.   Good to catch up with Adam & Karin & hear some of their plans - I look forward to seeing them in Vancouver, plans are afoot.

With the older generation booked into dog-sledding up the Spray Valley (I assume) somewhere, Karin & Adam were free to have their last ski of the season with Kristy, Anya & me.  Another moist band of air had moved its way up from Montana (Calgary got hit pretty hard with snow early on Thursday), there was a little new snow & it snowed on us most of the day.  After the inevitable delays (it took Adam quite a while to rent telemark skis) we got a good day's skiing in.  The light was a bit flat at times & made life a little interesting.
Adam & Karin somewhere off Wawa

I was most amused by a lot of falls from Adam trying to remember how to telemark & from Karin trying to keep up with me - most impressed by our little adventure down the South-side Chutes, it was carnage for the multitudes down there.  After my best run of the day it was very funny & slightly horrifying to see Karin sliding head first down a steep slope for more than ten metres.  But she's a trooper & after eventually getting skis back on, we were back playing in the trees.
The sun came out briefly, so we mucked around a bit taking group photos
Mt Borgeau looking out over us & the gondola on the ski-out

A quick dash back to Canmore to scrub up a little & then we were back in Banff to take the western-Australians out for some good Alberta beef at a rib-house.  They were very good ribs, but I'm a little concerned that the highlight of the meal for me was the broccoli - it was scrumptious.  Perhaps that is more a reflection of the quality of fresh produce that we get at the grocery stores here in Canmore.

More snow was still falling as most of us slept-in Sunday morning - eventually I got around to organising late brunch at Megan & Alex's.  I finally had an opportunity to cook that divine French Toast that Shelley produced on my last day in London six or so weeks ago.  We managed to get the ingredients together between four of us & it was surprisingly easy to cook - not quite as good as Shelley's (think I put a bit too much milk in), but it was great & got polished off easily.

No one was particularly energetic & vague plans for watching films at our place were made.  Quite a few hours, a bit of reading, a nap & many episodes of Corner Gas ("You can tell me that your dog ran away, then tell me that it took three days") later - we finally decided on what to watch.  Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel was as good as the first time I saw it & The Fantastic Mr Fox was exceptionally good - so much more than we were expecting.    Kristy brought bags of bagels around & we whipped up scrambled eggs & other accompaniments to make my third breakfast for the day.

I'm on my third vehicle in a week - the first loan car (a large mid-nineties Buick that needs just as much work on the suspension [albeit, different] as my forlorn Outback) has problems holding charge & I've had to give it a boost/jump-start twice already.  I've now got a Chevy Venture (minivan) & I hope it starts in the morning.  With a bit of luck, I'll have my car back before Easter weekend.

While I'm talking about boosting a car to get it started, I'll make a note for my own future reference of some Canadian sayings:
  • Giterdun - Get her done, basically do something
  • For sure - answering in the affirmative
  • Right on - I agree
  • Hoser - bogan
  • Buddy or buddy - used to describe an acquaintance/work-mate whom one doesn't necessarily know the name of.  Often capitalised.
I'm sure there are more that I'll remember later.  Winter still dragging on, -12ºC this morning; only two weeks until the roadtrip begins & I can go south & find some warmth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I sat on my car & it broke

Another pleasant full day at Sunshine on Saturday with Joel, Kristy & Anya.  There was no fresh snow, but the base is still getting bigger - apparently it's spring, but the snow just keeps coming.  We had the morning up the top, before a leisurely lunch (I had a burger with pineapple & beetroot in it - it's been a long time, GBK in London springs to mind), a few more runs at the top before heading down for a lot of runs off Goat's Eye.  At one stage we lost Anya off Standish (this happens when four people take four different runs down) for a little while.  But then she turned up with one of these, much to our surprise.
It's a little hard to see, but apparently it's a vole - "a mouse with no ears".  We definitely don't have these in NZ; it was scurrying across the snow so Anya picked it up so it wouldn't be hit by somebody/a snowboarder.  Hopefully it's doing well around Trappers.

Earlier in the week, Steve had found the rotisserie & was keen to hurry summer along a bit, so Saturday night dinner was at our place for a change.  With seven people, Steve got two roasts (we had plenty of leftovers) - the beef was good & the pork fantastic.  Once again, the whole beets done on the barbecue were just brilliant.
After quite a few bottles of wine, there was still the ice-wine to go with dessert - Kristy whipped up a divine cheesecake (I love cheesecake).

Sunday morning was suitably lazy, finally.  I still woke up with the ever-earlier daylight, but quite happily finished the latest Jack Reacher novel & then jailbroke my Kindle so I could put screensavers of my choice on it.  After texts being delayed somewhere in the ether, a group of us (Joel, Kristy, Steve, Alex, Megan & Finn) eventually headed out in the afternoon for a nice little jaunt ski-touring to Boom Lake.  As we arrived at the parking lot, light snow began to fall (it did so for the rest of our trip).  Although some of snow is melting in places, there was still plenty on the five kilometre trail up to the lake.  A bit on this bridge too.

It took us almost ninety minutes to reach the lake, but it wasn't too strenuous.  There were some nice off-camber bits for Finn & the Chariot to be potentially lost to the woods, but he survived.  It was even warm enough to just be in a single layer of Icebreaker & a light fleece with no toque/beanie.  As we sat on the edge of Boom Lake, we heard a couple of booms & saw one avalanche come off the opposite Boom Mountain.

It was only about sixty minutes back to the car, but as most of the trail at the lake end was flattish the skins didn't come off until quite close to the end.

Back to the title story - when I went out to drive to work this morning, as I sat down on the driver's seat I heard an almighty crack.  The front left spring had sheared in two & then managed to insert itself through the tyre.  So most of my morning was spent arranging a tow-truck & getting my rather sad looking car to a workshop.  Unfortunately, both sides of the front suspension have to be replaced (I don't really want a lopsided car) with springs, struts, plates & bearings - $1400, ouch (oh & another tyre).  Quite an unusual failure, & a complete pain in the butt - I'm glad it didn't happen when I was on the highway (complete tyre shredding would have ensued I reckon) or parked in some obscure lot in the back of the beyond.

Still, I need a car for the upcoming roadtrip - so I have little choice but to cough up the money.  On a brighter note, I got my rear bike wheel back from the shop today - the freewheel/freehub is so much better with new pawls in it & the whole drivetrain just sounds great (as in, it doesn't sound).  Alex & I went for a little reconnoitre on the sunny side of the valley to see how much snow had gone from the trails.  We didn't get near the trails as there was still too much snow on the walking paths - still, it was a pleasant leg stretch & not too cold.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

All that snow wasn't completely annoying

After getting through that rather snowy triathlon we were rewarded with a great day's skiing on Sunday.  I had great plans of heading to Lake Louise for the first time, but with Sunshine showing markedly more snowfall Steve & I headed back there.  It was a little hard dragging myself out of bed, but my legs weren't hurting & it was completely worth it.  We spent all morning on Goat's Eye & there was deep snow everywhere.  We got a few runs in where we were putting down fresh tracks & had a blast.  It was a beautifully sunny day, with no wind & the crowds out enjoying the great conditions weren't unbearably bad (the parking lot seemed more full than the mountain).  It was the first time I'd skied with Steve & it was good to get him out - he (as with most people) has been skiing a lot longer than I have & I was pleased to get some quite helpful tips.

In general news, my bike is back together (although I think I need to replace my freewheel/freehub) - the tubeless conversion took the longest.  I got the first tyre on easily & got it to seal straight away; however the Crossmark on the back just wouldn't seal.  It turned out it was just because I was using a floor pump - it inflated straight away with a compressor.  That summer of riding is getting closer...

I decided against the GoPro helmet cam as consolation for not buying another bike - I really can't be bothered spending time editing footage (I've seen how long some of Megan's videos take her to compile) to make it look good.  I'm just not into that sort of stuff.  So after ordering it on Thursday, & a trip from Seattle to South Dakota to Kentucky to Calgary to Canmore my Kindle arrived this afternoon.  So I have a way of carrying many books around on my travels without much mass or volume at all.  I've played with it a little tonight - it's pretty nifty.  I just have to stop watching my favourite Canadian sitcom on YouTube (a rather charming, folksy story about a very small town in Saskatchewan) & I can start reading books.  I'm also enjoying Diamond Geezer's trip around Bexley - the London borough where I lived last year & will return to in August.  Hall Place deserves the review it got & Foots Cray Meadows was the place I invariably ended up if I wanted to ride my bike off the skinny London streets.

Canmore Winter Meltdown Triathlon

A few weeks ago at work an opportunity to compete (I use that term loosely now) in the Canmore Winter Meltdown Triathlon at the Nordic Center with a couple of workmates.  As Lafarge was one of the main sponsors, we were to get a complimentary entry ("it was for free"); my teammates pulled out a couple of weeks after that so I organised Megan to do the 10 km (skate) ski & talked Anya into running 5 km - I was to ride 10 km on the snow.  With the spring melt progressing quite well over the last couple of weeks I was worried that the course might be very slushy (judging by last year's photos there wasn't much snow off trail).  How wrong we were, a big storm blew in Friday night & when we got up on Saturday morning there was a good 15-20 cm of snow everywhere.  At least it was around 0ºC.  Here's a quick outline of our day - we didn't come close to challenging the leaderboard, as this event is a fundraiser for athletes there were many tip-top athletes in the field (i.e. most of the entrants).  Oh, & while we were doing the triathlon as a team Alex somewhat crazily/gamely took on the event by himself.

Me & Anya doing some good Lafarge stretches - Greg standing by bemused.

Finn's Minions trying to look worried by all the snow.

Megan & Alex before the start - which was delayed (very casual event), I assume for the snow.

Most of the field setting off.

Kristy did a great job of looking after our evil overlord/mascot, Finn.

Megan heading out for her second lap - skiing was OK apparently (at least it wasn't concrete-ice), apart from trying to pass when one had to go wide into the deep snow.

That's me heading out on the bike - the first lap was the hardest five kilometres I've done in a long time (not helped by it being only 5 km I've done in anger for over four months).  The snow was deep & rutted out - which meant that any time you hit a strange line you were suddenly going a different direction.

Alex finishing his ski leg before heading out on the bike.
Heading out on my second lap - yes, I look like a midget.  Megan lent me her new 29er & I had the seat low as I knew I would be dabbing (putting my foot down) a lot.  The wheels were great, the Crossmarks (tyres) not excellent for drive.  The second lap was easier as a racing line had developed in some places & in others I'd learnt that the 29er was great for hitting the side of the trail & the fresh snow.

Anya heading out on the run.
Anya heading for the finish line - while the snow continues to fall, it must be warm as she's ditched the hat.

Alex heading for the finish.

And across the line (said in a good Clarkson voice).
Our star skier receiving the post-race debrief from our coach/mascot/overlord.

I think we are celebrating the fact that we survived the snow.  Worth celebrating too, a fun morning & we scored some Icebreaker spot prizes.

An indication of just how much snow there was to compete with - my car was cleared before the race & this was about four hours later.

The rest of the afternoon was pretty relaxing with a late lunch, a trip to the Hot Springs in Banff to soak & a great big Irish stew that Megan cooked up accompanied by wine, lemon meringue pie & games.
(Thanks to Megan & Kristy for some of the photos.)