Suggestions for 2-4 day trip in Alberta mid March - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2013, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
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Default Suggestions for 2-4 day trip in Alberta mid March

I'll be in Edmonton for about a week (March 9-17) and was really hoping to get a few nights of backpacking in. I'd really like to find a trail somewhere in the mountains that's passable and doesn't require snowshoeing the whole way. Obviously, it's going to be a chilly and many of the trails in the Rockies are snowbound.

FYI there would likely be two experienced backpackers and one newbie going.

Anyone have any suggestions?

I've been told that the Kootenay Plains may be a possible location, but I don't know anything about the area. I have the David Thompson Highway hiking guidebook coming in Friday. Are there any other resources I should be looking into?

Thanks,
Josiah
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2013, 10:41 PM
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I guess after the storms in the past week it will be almost impossible to find a trail that doesn't require snowshoes. If there are some, then you'll be looking at David Thompson (lots of bushwhacking), very front part of Kananaskis, and Crowsnest. Jasper or further north definitely requires snowshoes even for the frontmost peaks..

And then the problem is, there aren't that many backpacking trails in these front country. They are very easily accessible, and backpacking is probably not required. All those popular backpacking trails you can find on internet (which are further west) surely require snowshoes...
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 01:07 AM
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You could try something in the Ghost. The access is 4WD, but, you could just walk down the big hill instead of driving down. Or try around Prairie Mountain area. Neither of those areas are typically backpacked, but you certainly could camp out if you choose.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 08:46 AM
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Oh boy, mid March is dead winter in the Rockies. The mountains usually get most of winter precipitation in March-early April, so you have better chances finding areas with little snow in December or January.

No one can tell you with certainty as conditions are very unstable this time of year. Warm weather may melt most snow in valley bottoms in the eastern ranges or along the foothills before a new storm deposits up to 20-30cm of snow.

In mid-March temperature in the Rockies can easily plunge to below -20C at night. This is not the best time of year to introduce your newbie friend to wilderness camping. I suggest you take a plane to Vancouver or Victoria. It's full-blown spring over there in the low elevation by this time of year.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 09:50 AM
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Sorry, I don't want you to think we're ignoring your question, but I haven't replied because I have no ideas and hoped someone else might. We don't backpack in March, we ski tour...

In March I don't know if you could get *to* the big hill without 4WD. The creek that floods the road a way before the hill is usually still one big mass of ice then, and if it does warm up enough to lose the snow, then you have a creek to drive through..
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 10:52 AM
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In the Kootenay Plains area, the nearest overnight hike would be Kinglet Lake. While there may not be much snow on the plains, expect it to be snowbound around the lake until mid-May.

The Ya Ha Tinda area is another possibility. I spent a night at Eagle Lake in early May several years ago and didn't need snowshoes. I did, however, wish I had hockey skates, stick and puck for the smooth ice on the lake. If you stayed on the north side of the Red Deer River, I'm sure you could wander some distance before running into a lot of snow, and the south facing slopes could be hiked for some good views.

But I agree with Rachel, March will be prime ski season in the Rockies.

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post #7 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 03:35 PM
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If you're in Edmonton and do want to get to the mountains (and noting from other posters you really should be skiing - David Thompson Country is your best bet, although I heard Nordegg got a 20 cm dump last weekend, not sure about the plains.

If you get high you are going to be wallowing in snow but you can do a 20 km loop on the plains that could be passable without snowshoes - check out the Figure of 8 loop in the DTH book.

Once you are past the Siffleur bridge you won't see a soul and you can random camp as little as a few km from the car once you're out of the ecological reserve.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 05:25 PM
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These are good suggestions but the problem is no one can predict conditions in this time of year. Several years ago I checked out Siffleur Falls in Kootenay Plains in late March with very little snow on the ground but it doesn't mean it's going to be the same again this year.

I wanted to suggest a few options in Livingstone and Crowsnest Pass areas before checking weather forecast. A big storm is underway and the area should get up to 20cm of snow today. The snow may melt in a week or it may snow again. No one knows.

I think Jewel Bay campground near Barrier Lake is the safest bet as this area sees steady traffic in the winter so snow will most likely be packed. And it's fairly close to civilization if it gets too cold.


That brings another issue. I think it's a really bad idea to introduce a newbie from warm Missisipi to Alberta winter camping. People from down South don't understand how brutally cold it can occasionally get in the mountains in March. A few years ago the temperature dropped to -30C (-22F) when I camped near Maligne Lake in early March. I still think the best suggestion for these guys is to board a plane to Vancouver and explore Southwestern BC.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 06:04 PM
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If you do head to the Coast, then I'll recommend Garibaldi Lake. The last 5km of the trail will be snow covered but it's unlikely that snowshoes are required. It should be hard packed. You can camp at the lake, and go in the lake to explore. Of course you might have to post-hole if you only have ski tracks to follow.

That being said, you can walk then you can snowshoe. The shoes are pretty cheap if you go for the cheap ones.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 06:36 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by StevenSong

If you do head to the Coast, then I'll recommend Garibaldi Lake. The last 5km of the trail will be snow covered but it's unlikely that snowshoes are required. It should be hard packed.
Wrong! I go regularly around that timeframe & snowshoes are must.

Engor said the right thing ("Newbie friend ..."). In general winter in Canada is unpredictable. With a little luck, best bet is still somewhere in the foothills (i.e. Brag Creek or Barrier area)
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 06:47 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by zeljkok

Quote:
quote:Originally posted by StevenSong

If you do head to the Coast, then I'll recommend Garibaldi Lake. The last 5km of the trail will be snow covered but it's unlikely that snowshoes are required. It should be hard packed.
Wrong! I go regularly around that timeframe & snowshoes are must.

Engor said the right thing ("Newbie friend ..."). In general winter in Canada is unpredictable. With a little luck, best bet is still somewhere in the foothills (i.e. Brag Creek or Barrier area)
I see. That being said I got lucky in 2010, as I didn't need snowshoes until half an hour into the Lake. I also went up Taylor Meadows and didn't need snowshoes neither.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 03-06-2013, 07:31 PM
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You won't get anywhere worthwhile at that timeframe, even in the front-country, without skis/snow shoes. Unless you get lucky with the weather, but even then a front can come in and you'd struggle to get out again.

Maybe stay in a hostel and rent some skis or snowshoes. Then you can be assured of being warm and getting dry at night. Some are more rustic than others.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 03-07-2013, 08:55 AM Thread Starter
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Wow, I really appreciate all of the input. I'm going to take some time this afternoon to sort it all out and do some research before replying in depth, but I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer my question. this seems like a great community.

-Josiah
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 03-07-2013, 12:05 PM
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Glad you found your way over to Club Tread.

Like others have mentioned we are still enjoying Winter and planning all our big ski tours.

If you are driving the Jasper to Banff highway then you might look at renting some snowshoe from Mountain Equipment Co-op in Edmonton and doing some day trips along the way. There is a sting of hostels along the highway and you could look at booking the Hilda hostel which is just off the highway but accessible by snowshoes and is heated. If you rent a shovel you might try to build a quincy or snow cave near the hostel and try out some Winter camping with the hostel as a warm backup.

Also note that you may be traveling through avalanche terrain which is something you may not be familiar with in Mississippi.




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post #15 of (permalink) Old 03-11-2013, 05:03 PM Thread Starter
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We've decided to go to jasper and check out the Saturday nigh loop. We'll snowshoe in to our first campsite and if all goes well complete the loop Tuesday and Wednesday. If its rough going, we'll just walk back the way we came. We have some other plans in the mountains that we can just move up a few days if we change our minds. Thanks for all of the advice.
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