While climbing the south side of Kananaskis Fire Lookout(following in Carolyn’s tracks), a blogger has lots of time to think of catchy titles for his next post. While labouring up the killer switchback, which has a 30% grade, the term self-abuse came to mind.
You go so slow, that I sometimes think my GPS is recording it as Stopped Time.
Let’s start at the beginning. Elk pass was trackset last night, and I don’t know what Jody did with that new Pisten-Bully, but I’ve rarely skied on snow that’s so incredibly fast. It wasn’t icy, as I was getting good grip with VR45(-2/-8). The snow was also quite abrasive and I had to re-wax a couple times.
The air temperature at Elk pass at 1 pm was -4°C, and the snow was -5. I met a few skiers in the first 2K, and told everyone my plans for the day included going up to the Kananaskis Fire Lookout. I thought if I did that, I’d be committed to this adventure when I came to the actual trail. The net elevation gain to the Lookout from Elk pass parking lot is 411 metres, and the total ascent is 479 metres.
After chatting with a group of high-spirited skiers who were having lunch at the Elk pass/Hydroline junction, I followed the new grooming up Hydroline to the Lookout junction, again on excellent, fast tracks. I was amazed at how much double-poling I was able to do while going uphill!
On lookout, you start by losing elevation for the first kilometre on a pleasant, trackset trail down to Boulton creek. As we’ve heard on here a few times, the creek is open and you have to come to a sudden stop on a quick downhill to avoid something catastrophic. I had a full head of steam when I saw the hazard and knew I couldn’t stop in time, so I bailed.
The ordeal starts at the creek. Over the next 2.3K, you gain 270 metres net elevation. The trail is so steep, they don’t even bother putting any tracks on it.
At the top, the thermometer on the Fire Lookout building registered -10°C. While suiting up for the quick and cool trip down the north side, Ryan arrived from the north end, having come all the way from Pocaterra hut. He got tired of herring-boning and decided to carry his skis for the last bit.
You couldn’t ask for better conditions for the descent. I slowed to a crawl for about 100 metres while negotiating the steep switchbacks, but still made it down in just over 4 minutes.
The term Steppenwolf snow was coined by Kananaskis tracksetter Jeff, and it perfectly described conditions on Tyrwhitt today. Carolyn referred to it as a dream, and Mary described it as flying. From the high point on Tyrwhitt, I didn’t stop or even take a stride for the next 2.6K. I took photos through the meadows on the fly today.
I easily double-poled my way over the crest of the small hill just past the picnic table. Eventually the thrilling ride comes to an end at a very steep hill, with about a kilometre further to the Elk pass/Hydroline junction.
Elk pass, from the top to the north Hydroline junction was not trackset last night, but the old tracks are still pretty good. Not as fast as the new ones, but still fun. I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be freshly trackset by tomorrow morning.
At the Elk pass/Blueberry hill junction, I talked to two skiers who were just starting up Blueberry hill. It was 3:45 pm and would be dark in one hour. How crazy is that, skiing late in the day on a difficult trail? 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hubert hopes this kindly stranger reads my blog:
“Saturday I left my backpack with all my extra clothing, first aid etc. at the Elk pass trail head, a very kindly person turned my belongings into the Visitors center
Thank you very much.