WooHoo, first post in the Canadian Rockies TR section!
Last month my sister randomly invited my brother, my wife, and I to join this group of 20 people who do a ski trip every Family Day long weekend to a hut in the Rockies. My wife and I have been wanting to expand our hiking into the winter so we were pretty stoked.
This year the group had booked the Elizabeth Parker Hut in Yoho National Park. Having never been into Lake O'Hara before (the crowds have always turned me off) I was super excited to go in the Winter. WOW! Was it ever worth it. The group consisted of all ages and abilities. The youngest was 10 and the oldest was 77! We had a Syrian newcomer that the church had sponsored 6 months ago who came for his first ever trip to the Rockies! Leading the group was about 8 people who were hardcore back country skiers. I do not have permission to post pics of most people in the groups so you will just have to imagine them.
It must be said that I kinda hate downhill skiing, the speed terrifies me, while my wife hates cross country, since she comes from a downhill background. And since snowshoeing is too slow and tiring we decided to buy Altai Hok skishoes and see how well they would work, at least for now.
On Friday night we met at the Castle Mountain Hostel where we introduced ourselves to each other. Very nice hostel, my apologies to the other guests as our group kinda dominated the place.
We got to the Lake O'Hara trailhead around 11 and started skiing in clear weather at around -10. The road took us about 5 hours with loaded packs. It was a great way to get used to our new equipment but in the summer would be quite boring. I was proud of myself for managing to keep pace with the 77 year old Telemark skier...
The snow pack was very hard and the surface covered in a crusty ice so many in our group found walking faster on the way in.
The Ski in
Giving Up and carrying everything on foot
I got my first glimpse of O'Hara around 4 and it did not disappoint. An absolutely gorgeous place that I must come visit again. I was itching to explore some of the ridges and trails around the lake but with the avalanche warning being "Considerable" and a special bulletin warning of large size avalanches I had no illusions about entering that terrain.
We reached the hut around 4:30 and settled in. The Elizabeth Parker Hut is AMAZING! Super comfortable, well taken care of, and plenty of space. We especially appreciated the propane lights on short winter days. Meals were divided up into groups of 4 and most people went all out. We had Moroccan stew with homemade cherry crisp, bacon and eggs, Chana Masala, and some very nice wine.
Elizabeth Parker and the mountains behind Lake O'Hara
The view at night
Overnight about 3 inches of fresh powder fell and so for Sunday we decided that due to the avalanche conditions we would try a tour out to Lake McArthur. The trail was up and down and fairly easy to follow and was in the trees 90% of the time. We found that the Hoks did better in the powder when not following the tracks laid down by AT skiers. It was a great chance to learn, I fell down atleast 20 times and even fell into a tree well. My wife got some good telemark lessons from a couple of old hands. The snow started to come down hard and we turned back just before Lake McArthur with many in our group finding the final terrain a bit too hard. Some stopped at Shaffer bowl to try some turns while the rest of us headed back to the Hut for dinner!
Climbing the first hill right behind the Hut
Me awkwardly skiing in the deep powder. Stayed up this time!
Turning back from Lake McArthur
After a final night of singing, eating, and playing games we headed back Monday. The ski out took less than 2 hours which was great because we had a long drive back to Edmonton. The trip was a real pleasure, the company was great, the new gear worked well, and I can't wait to go play in the snow again.
A perfect night