Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fresh Snow

With the blanket of fresh snow that arrived this past week, it was time for a ski tour to Sunshine Meadows. We enjoyed a crisp, cool day and headed for Howard Douglas Lake. I love this destination winter and summer. I couldn't help but think about past runs through the area and future adventures!
It was awesome skiing with the Citadel and Fatigue Mountain in the back ground all day! Such gorgeous peaks. Of course, there was Mount Assiniboine lingering further in the background and we would get occasional glimpses as the clouds swirled around the summit.

John climbing up from the lake, Citadel Pass in the background

I had great company with these 3 guys: Keith, Stu and John. It was great to get out touring with our friend John. John has been staying at our place this week and has been fantastic company. He has a long history with Sunshine Village as he worked there from 1964 to 1982!! He started as a Lifty and left as General Manager, so the man has a few stories to tell. :)

Mount Assiniboine playing Peek-a-Boo.

Happy Leslie

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Treadmill Debacle

I like to think I'm pretty hardcore, but really I'm a bit of a wuss. I almost fell over when I read that this guy does almost 95% of his training on the treadmill! THE TREADMILL! Yikes, now that is hardcore. How is that for mental fortitude?! It's not that I dislike the treadmill, but that I really, really, REALLY like the outdoors. Now be it that I live in a place where it is winter 6 months of the year, occasionally I have to turn to the Great Indoors, ie. the Treadmill. But I avoid it like the plague. It's hot and sweaty and I always end up just staring compulsively at that little screen aghast that only 20 minutes have gone by and I have a lot more to go.

Anyhow. A Story.

On Tuesday and Wednesday my mid-winter fantasy of climbing Skoki Mountain was put on hold when reality reared it's ugly head. Yep. Winter is back. It dropped a whole bunch of snow on us in the form of a little storm that blew for about 36 hours. It was windy and evil for a few days. So on Wednesday morning, I got up early to to my speedwork on the treadmill. I have been on the treadmill only ONE other time through this entire winter season. The temperature was -20c on Wednesday morning, but it wasn't the temperature that was so bad, it was a full on winter blizzard and it was blowing full force. It took me quite the effort to un-bury my car before I was off to the gym.

So, I'm driving down the hill into town and at first I see what I think is a deer beside the road off in the distance. Only it's not, it's a.....RUNNER. I'm thinking to myself, whaaaaat? It's frickin' 6:30 in the morning and it's blizzarding outside. A runner. Geeeez. Hardcore. I'm still staring out at the Star Wars Snowflakes coming down in the dark in front of my headlights in disbelief at the crazy runner, when I see a CYCLIST coming across the bridge towards me. A cyclist! I'm thinking to myself, Who Is That Idiot....when I really it is this guy, commuting to work. No, not an idiot, just my running buddy Mike. I'm still giggling as I'm driving the car and my windshield wipers are working overtime, when I crest a hill and see....a COUPLE of runners coming down the hill towards me. What the hell? It is 6:30 in the morning, it's dark outside and there is a blizzard!

When I arrive at the gym, it's packed on the Cardio Equipment. The good folks of Banff are getting some exercise, but I've never seen any of these people before. It's been so long since I've run at the gym, that there is a new treadmill for me to use. It's got this big fancy screen and a Cyber Training Babe who is blond, tanned and who's breast size leads me to believe that SHE IS NOT A RUNNER, but she is going to show me HOW to run. Anyhow, I figure it all out and cruise through a 15 minute warm-up before cranking it up and starting the REAL workout. This new treadmill seems to go from really slow, to really fast, really quickly. There's a big awkward pause when you turn it up and then it just speeds up super quick. I get out my IPod, to help me move my early morning ass just a little bit quicker and make my workout that much more enjoyable. It's all good. I'm having fun. I'm enjoying running fast! I survive my first couple of intervals and I'm getting in the groove. On the 3rd interval, just when I'm cranking up the treadmill and there is that awkward pause, my IPod comes out of my pocket, hits the treadmill and fires clear across the room. I'm cursing and laughing and trying to straddle the treadmill, when the ear buds come out as well, hit the treadmill and do the same thing. I have a sudden vision of them somehow going under the treadmill belt wrapping and tangling their way into the very brain of this computer that I am running on, and she is a blond with big boobs with my ear buds tangled in her perfect hair. Does that make sense? Anyhow, I survive the workout unscathed, enjoy myself and am quite glad that I am not outside running in a blizzard. I'm still hardcore AND I got my workout in. But crap, this treadmill thingy takes some coordination!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Return to Minnewanka - Winter Edition

I haven't been up to Lake Minnewanka in a loooooong time, largely due to the fact that the trail is snowbound in wintertime. The shoreline trail is one of my favorite destinations in spring, summer and fall when I want a quick and easy run close to town. I had heard rumours that the lake had been scoured of snow and that it might be possible to skate. Or maybe to run??

Me So Scared!!!

When I started off, there was a little bit of snow but it quickly disappeared after only 5 minutes of running. The rest of the run was on perfect, dark, scary ICE. I decided to just head to the point for a little run, which you can see in the right hand side of this photo. There is no trail on this side of the lake, it is heavily forested and relatively inaccessible. It was cool to be able to run along the frozen lake and check out the south shoreline for the first time! I have seen it from a canoe in summertime, but I've never actually set foot on the south shore.

It was scary running on the ice! It took me almost half of the run to relax and get over the completely irrational fear of going through the ice. From the beginning, I could clearly see that the ice was about 4 feet thick, but it's frightening to see right through the ice. It was so cool to go to the point, it is a landmark that I look at frequently in summer and I love the tower of rock above it!

When I arrived at the point, someone else had been there! There was a nice set of wolf tracks there to greet me. Incidently, I didn't spend much time on the shore.

On the return trip, I got to enjoy the under appreciated side of Cascade Mountain and I got in a great leg-speed flat run! The Kahtoola's were superb on ice and I was flying in a straight line at full speed.

See Mom? The ice is THICK!

Hopefully, if it doesn't snow a return visit is definately in order. It's pretty frickin' cool to run on a giant frozen lake with no snow. One thing though, it is actually hard on the body. I felt beat up after running on such a hard surface! Maybe I can dust off the road shoes and try those out with the Kahtoola's....

Got Photos?

Before I forget, Bob from Canmore is in need of some photos! Bob has been writing a book called Mountain Running in the Canadian Rockies for the past year or so and is looking for running and trail photos to use in the book.

Maybe trail running studs Hugh and Allan could help?! I know you two have a lot of images from the trails over the years. Start sifting through your massive photo collections for the good ones and maybe you could help out Bob. Anyone else out there got photos? Specifically, if you had any good shots of the following areas:

Wind Tower
Elbow Loop
Fullerton Loop
Rummel Lake
Burstall Pass
Upper Kananaskis Lake
Ha Ling
Heart Mountain (Ridgeline)
Pigeon Mountain
Mount Allan
Jura Creek
Mt Rundle
Sulphur Mountain
Healy Pass
Bourgeau Lake/Ridge
Aylmer Lookout

He will accept high quality/resolution photos of either colour or b/w. Jpeg's and Tiff files are great. Please send only good photos of the areas listed to: Shots of trails, runners, and scenery are all great!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Sweet Run to Skoki: a bluebird day in the Rockies

Any trip to Skoki Lodge is enjoyable, but there is nothing better than running there on a blue sky day. It is just so beautiful.

Crossing Ptarmigan Lake

Looking back at Ptarmigan Lake and Redoubt Mountain

Redoubt Mountain

Big Smiles and Ptarmigan Mountain

Keith and I started our day early and had to get moving quickly! It was a chilly -15c when we started the climb up the access road to the back side of the Lake Louise ski hill. Fortunately, the steep uphill warmed us up quickly and we very quickly found ourselves in the wide open spaces of Ptarmigan Lake. It has been 5 weeks since it last snowed and the snowmobile trail was perfect for a long run.
Keith coming UP....

....and OVER Deception Pass

We got quick visit in with our friend Katie, who operates the lodge. It is always good to see her and the family. I got this atrocious, yet funny photograph of me and the demon child doing BATTLE!

Yes, That is a Kahtoola on my head. Not just for running anymore!

Hostess, with the Mostest! Ms. Katie and Skoki Lodge (thanks for the burrito!)

Keith had such a great day! Actually, we had such a great day, but he had no problem with the 29km distance and he rocked the downhills with a big smile. He wants some Kahtoola's so that he can look like a sado-masochistic WWF wrestler and do battle as well!

Keith and Mount Temple

With the lack of snow in the backcountry, I am thinking about doing a couple of adventures out in the Skoki area if the weather cooperates. First, Skoki Mountain is bone dry! I think it might be fun to do the run to Skoki Lodge and then scramble up Skoki Mountain for a winter ascent. It would be very cool to see this view in winter. The second idea is to run to Skoki twice, for a cool 50k winter run. I think it's almost a perfect 50k! We'll see. It all depends on the weather and the window of opportunity!

Hope y'all are having a great weekend. Happy trails!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Magic at Sorcerer Lodge

I have a holiday hangover. You know, that all-over-post-holiday-come-down that hits you like a freight train? Phew. Me So Tired! It didn't stop me from heading out the door for my long run today, but let me tell you: it was ugly out there. I felt like a train wreck, but I was also a little giddy, happy and content with my all over fatigue.

Our holiday destination: Sorcerer Lodge (from the air)

Out the front window - Escargot aka. The Snail
To say my holiday was incredible is a bit of an understatement. I got to travel self-propelled, on my skis, for 6 fantastic days in the Selkirk Mountains! How cool is that? With access by helicopter only, the backcountry surrounding Sorcerer Lodge is epic: it's big, huge and wild.
Sorcerer Lodge is about 200km from Banff, in British Columbia. I had no great expectations, because the area hadn't received much snow this year. In fact, we were told by the owner that the snowpack was the most shallow that they had seen in 20 years! On most years, the lodge is usually buried by snow and it is a great place to go and get some powder turns. Within our group of 14, we were just keen to be getting out for some ski touring in some place new and different. But even with the lack of powder, we were blown away by the jaw dropping landscape of glaciers, rock, ice and snow.

Each day, we were led out into this landscape by 3 ACMG guides who took us on some amazing ski tours and kept us safe from the dangers of winter travel. I'm an experienced resort skiier, but a novice at ski touring. I've taken avalanche courses and am learning more about travelling in winter time with every trip that I do. I've never been on a glacier in winter, because I don't know the first thing about travelling on glaciers and crevasse rescue. All I can say is: Yay for professional Mountain Guides! With their help, our group got to travel across glaciers, climb to high mountain passes, peaks and ridges and enjoy a simply incredible week.

The group. Ready to Go!!

Each day, we were out the door and ready to go by 9:00 and then spent the entire day touring. On average, we were on our skis for the better part of 7 hours daily! Most days would start with a short descent and then would put on our skins and start climbing. And climbing. And climbing. Usually, we would cross a glacier along the way and sometimes the up track was really slick because of the lack of snow. It was challenging and it was awesome! The reward of course, was the ski back down. Considering the marginal snow, we also got in lots of good turns and even found some powder. Sometimes, you just have to look a little harder to find the snow!

It just worked out that each day was better than the previous day. By the end of the week we were a group of happy, exhausted, elated skiiers. We were all thrilled to try something new like travelling on a glacier, skinning on challenging slopes, making turns on a glacier and challenging ourselves physically. O.K, I was thrilled! I was impressed hugely by my friends, who endured some fairly long and challenging days and who were totally up for everything and anything. My husband was a star, with his weight loss of over 20 pounds since last winter, he was moving strongly, confidently and expending way less energy than this time last year. As always, he made the prettiest turns, kept everyone entertained and had waaay too much fun!
Keith and his Ladies
We skiied. We saw pretty places. We ate like kings and queens. We visited with our friends. We made some new ones. We slept like babies. It really was a magical week in a very special place.
We did a LOT of this:

With a side of this.......

And a whole lot of THIS!

My smile muscles are still sore.

I'm off to bed with dreams of a magical place of glaciers and snow, giddy, happy and content with my all over fatigue!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Wind Swept

It’s has been a wild and windy weekend of weather weirdness, here in Banff. And yes, that’s a long winded alliteration. Whoa.

We had wind storms and were pounded by gusts relentlessly for the last 2 days. At one point, I thought my canoe in the backyard was going to blow away. It was lifting away from the fence with each wind gust and I had visions of me chasing it down the street. It was a good day to sit in the sunbeam in my favorite chair, with a cup of herbal tea.

I enjoy this little room each and every day, it’s my favorite spot in my home. Of course, I couldn’t just sit there and eventually I headed out the door for a little windy adventure. On Friday, I enjoyed a nice 3 hour run and was surprised to find this little viewpoint completely scoured of snow.

On Saturday, the evil wind continued and I decided to stay in and do something completely different. I did a brick workout, with my friend Michelle the Iron-Woman-In-Training. We have an outstanding set-up of bikes, trainers and large screen television in our basement garage. We pedalled like crazy for an hour and a quarter and then went outside and braved the wind for a short, sweet, windy 30min. run. Fun!

The wind let up for a little while yesterday, long enough for me to enjoy my long run. I went up and down Sulphur Mountain for 2 hours and than ran out on the Spray River for another 2 hours. When I hit the flats after the 7km descent off the mountain, the transition was a little tough. This should be a great training run for Diablo. It starts with 8 miles uphill, followed by almost the same downhill. It certainly is nice to be able to do these things out the back door!

This week should be a bit of a whirlwind. We got some working and pre-holiday organising to do. We are off to Sorceror Lodge for a one week backcountry trip, leaving on Friday! Woooohooo!
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