After postponing our December snowshoeing trip, because Jack was abit sick and again, after 2 separate January trips to Banff with snowshoeing intentions, we finally did our annual snowshoeing trip. In the Rocky Mountains north of Kananaskis Mountain area and under the snow-veiled shadow of the Black Prince, a locally known peak.
It was our first snowshoeing foray with a group of 15 people, organized by the Outdoor Sports Centre, University of Calgary. They offer well over 15 different trips each winter.
In a group of others, it made us realize that we had snowshuffled far out on our own in self-guided trips over the past decade. Some of our trips were highlighted in my last blog post. Most of our snowshoeing trips covered about 10-18 kms. per trek. If we stayed somewhere in a ski resort, we would snowshoe for 4-5 hrs. each day for several consecutive days.
The trip was originally planned for the Sawmill Ridge area. It was a warm, gentle 4 degree C morning in Calgary. We wondered if it was going to be a sticky snow, slushy trek.
However 2 hours later, our van climbed north and deeper into the mountains, through whipping 50 kms. winds and white-outs across open fields. Thankfully our guide, “Aspen”, decided to turn the van steering wheel to a shorter and wind-protected snowshoeing route tucked in among the pine, spruce and fir forests. We still had ever-changing views of mountain ranges through a gentle veil of dry snowfall. We were grateful since we were a photo shooting, non-competitive group looking for fun and fantastic scenery.
Unfortunately we didn’t spot any moose since this area does have a few moose lumbering in the lowlands. Moose like swampy or moist low-lying areas and meadows fringed by protective woods.
Various areas nearby are prone to avalanches so the uninitiated should tramp about with an experienced snowshoe guide.
Snowshoeing Conquers Fear of Heights
Someone pointed out that snowshoeing allows me to enthusiastically penetrate mountain wilderness areas where I would normally wobble down on cross-country skis or pick my step around narrow mountain side trails. I do have some fear of heights.
I first came face to face with this fear in my late twenties, when we were hiking a narrow rocky trail by the Agean Sea on the Greek island of Santorini. I barely made it across the ¼ km. of rock and sand.Another time, I ended up with aching upper thigh muscles for several days because I could barely descend a no-rail, open staircase that curved around an open pit, dark stairwell inside a lighthouse by Georgian Bay, Ontario. The lighthouse was only four stories high but I only made it up three-quarters up the stairwell before I descended with legs shaking like jelly. Rail trestle bridges converted for cycling in British Columbia, are fine as long as I don’t look down at my pedaling feet, crossing wood ties with light filled spaces plunging 100-500 metres down into a valley or canyon. I haven’t yet walked across Capilano Bridge in North Vancouver. At times, there are steady mountain ascents while snow tramping in the woods.
But puffy piles of pure lush snow, obliterates steep, long declines and narrow twisty turns. The descent on mountain sides are softened as the eye sees kilometres of white purity rolling downward with trees bedecked in snowy chiffon swaths and snow frost- swirled tophats. No doubt, I’m guided by childhood memories of rolling and sliding down snowy, non-rocky hills.
Snow cocoons each mountain snowshoe hike by softening each step in knee-deep fluffiness. Snow blunts an occasional fall or stumble into dimpled puffiness of snow candy. You may not find me creeping up and down steep Mayan temple steps, but give me a marked snowshoeing trail up a mountainside and I will gleefully descend and fall in step with you to marvel the magnificent snowscape.