Only for the truly desperate

-Nice conditions on Patterson. The challenge lies in getting here.-

I could have easily broken my record for going fast today. Trouble is, I probably wouldn’t be here to tell you about it. I decided the wisest choice would be to walk down the steep part of the Elk Pass hill when I was returning to the trailhead.

Elk Pass at 3K. Kerry and Carol were at the point on the trail where the conditions got a lot better.

Elk Pass at 3K. Kerry and Carol were at the point on the trail where the conditions got a lot better.

The temperature at the Elk Pass parking lot at 1:30 pm was zero, but I didn’t know what I’d find on the trail. Snow or ice? I filled my pockets with sticky wax and a cork and headed up the hill.

Earlier, I stopped and had a look at Whiskey Jack, just in case I had aspirations of doing the loop.  WJ, at least on the lower part, was icy, even in the middle of the trail. I was not motivated to ski in any direction, up or down, today.

Conditions on the first 3K of Elk Pass were not good.

Conditions on the first 3K of Elk Pass were not good.

The tracks for the first 3K of Elk Pass were icy, and the big hill was mostly scraped down to the hardpack.  There was just enough real snow in the middle of the trail for my wax to get good grip, however, and I managed to get up the big hill without any problem. I could see it wouldn’t be quite so easy coming down. I was still using whatever wax was on my skis from Sunday(which was still on my skis from the end of January).

Elk Pass at 4k was excellent

Elk Pass at 4k was excellent

Coming down the other side was scary. I was in an all-out snowplow and barely kept things under control. You might want to consider wearing some hockey equipment to protect yourself if you ski here. Helmet, shin guards, shoulder and elbow pads would be in order.

Tyrwhitt

Tyrwhitt

The 1800-metre rule was in effect today. When I reached 3K, and 1810 metres elevation, the conditions changed dramatically. I thought I’d reached Nirvana. Good tracks, cold snow, happy times. 3K is near the spot where new Elk Pass meets old Elk Pass. New Elk pass is the new section of trail which was constructed after the floods, and runs from the north Hydroline junction for about 1K.

I met Kerry and Carol right at 3K. They were planning to ski Fox Creek, so I asked them to send in a report. Haven’t heard from them, I hope they made it okay.

A snowmobile had been over the trails but the snow  in the middle was still soft

A snowmobile had been over the trails but the snow in the middle was still soft

Now, rather than being an ordeal, it was enjoyable and fun. It’s remarkable how quickly the transition happens from poor conditions to good conditions.

I went all the way up Elk Pass on very good snow, and continued to the high point on Tyrwhitt. Beautiful. I turned around with my GPS showing I’d travelled 9.6K with a total ascent of 339K.

Hydroline

Hydroline

Returning, I retraced my steps on Tyrwhitt, then took Hydroline and Patterson back to Elk Pass. Hydroline, as usual, had some drifting in the tracks and I found it faster to ski out of the tracks, but the Patterson downhill was excellent.

We are in desperate need of the snow which is in the forecast for Friday. Weather Network is predicting 5 cm, while the Snow Forecast is calling for 23 cm.

Tyrwhitt meadows were fantastic

Tyrwhitt meadows were fantastic

I met a skier on Tyrwhitt who had come all the way from Pocaterra hut. He said the first 4K of Pocaterra was bad. Really icy.

Thanks for the trip reports. As always, we like to hear about your experiences on the trails, whether good or bad. At least we can make an informed decision. Above all, stay safe. Walk if necessary. Many years ago, I was flying down the south side of the big Elk Pass hill in very icy conditions and ended up crashing and sustaining a badly sprained finger.

This verse from Taxi was going through my head today…

Yes she’s flying, afraid to fall
I’ll tell you why baby’s crying
Cause she’s dying
Aren’t we all

The snow gods are really testing our patience this winter. Alberta’s warm weather expected to stick around.

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  1. Wow, I hope the snow forecast is correct. We’ll be heading into Elk Lakes Hut on Saturday for 3 days and I’ll be towing 100lbs of chariot, child and gear. Any idea if there’ll be grooming Friday night if we end up receiving a big dump of snow?

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