The midwest contingent of skiers completed our 24-hour drive to Canmore on Sunday the 21st of August. After a day and half in car, two busted tire rims, and a night sleeping meters away from a set of busy train tracks, we were happy to have arrived. The nine of us piled out of the cars and took the opportunity to shake out the legs and check out the rollerski track at the Canmore Nordic Center. Great ski trails also turn out to make great rollerski trails; you just have to make sure you ski the hills in the correct direction! One more night of sleeping on the ground (or on top of a picnic table in my case) and we were up bright and early to rearrange our gear and meet up with the other groups with whom we'd be heading into camp. After 50 minutes of Bear Training with diehard Ranger Josh (who managed to complement himself on his polyester uniform during his presentation), I now know the proper way to defend myself in a bear attack, be it grizzly or black bear. We also learned that bears prefer to eat runners over hikers, especially if they are wearing one of those obnoxious nordie drink belts. We then drove down a very dusty but scenic backcountry road to the helicopter gear drop.
From there we headed to the trailhead in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in Kananaskis Country, Alberta to make the 18k "hike" (run when the ranger's not looking) up to our alpine camp. Upon arrival we checked out the digs and were informed that due to high winds, the helicopter couldn't make the flight in with our packs and we'd have to hope for better weather tomorrow. So no chance to enjoy the hot shower that was available, due to the complete lack of soap, towels, or clean clothes. But we had an excellent dinner and then curled up on bare bunks in our running clothes.
Dawn on the Glacier came like Christmas morning. As we breakfasted we eagerly awaited the sound of an approaching helicopter. Just after 7AM, as we finished eating, we heard the sound--like Santa's sleigh bells--of a helicopter coming over the ridge. We congregated outside to greet it. Clean clothes! Sleeping bags! Toothbrush! Soap! Finally we were able to settle into life on Haig and get down to business.
7AM Tuesday morning, the wind is down enough for the chopper to come in with our gear.
Our daily routine consisted of waking up just after dawn, breakfast at 7:00, and then beginning the hike to the snow at 7:45 or so. The hike took 45 to 50 minutes of Level 1 climbing. We'd arrive up top where our skis were waiting for us, change clothes and boots, and get on snow just before 9AM. Most days the skiing started out boilerplate-hard and rocket-fast. So we'd skate for at least the first hour. As the shadow covering the Haig receded, the snow gradually softened until around 10:30 the whole snowfield was bathed in sunlight. My new Atomic WorldCup Hard Track skate skis handled the changing conditions wonderfully. Despite being a medium flex ski, I felt I had great control in the hard, rutted snow, and as the snow turned to mush, they continued to glide effortlessly and didn't get sucked down in the moisture--something I really appreciated training at 9,000 feet. Classic skiing usually got good around 10:30 when I would switch to Atomic's new waxless Skintec skis, which use a magnetized mo-hair insert on the kick zone. These skis offer great kick and superior glide to traditional waxless fishscale skis. It was so nice not to have to mess around with klister and instead focus on my training. After 2 to 2.5 hours of skiing we'd change gear again and make the trek back to camp for lunch, boot skiing as much of the way down as possible.
The afternoons were for recovery. We'd eat, foam roll, stretch, soak in freezing-cold glacial water, nap and read. One afternoon we ran back down below tree line to Lake Maude and then over to British Columbia where there was a beautiful green valley to view. Another afternoon we just walked to the enormous waterfall at the edge of the plateau and chucked rocks off the top for a while.
Life on the Glacier was pretty sweet. Three hot meals a day were prepared by the camp staff, Haakon and Joel, who also did the daily grooming up on the snowfield. There was a hot show, solar power, occasional internet access, and the lovely incinerator toilettes, which remained a subject of fascination for the whole group while we were there. We also completely lucked out with the weather, not seeing a drop of rain our entire stay. We had nothing but beautiful bluebird days all week. But 3.5 to 5 hour training days at 8,000 and 9,000 feet wear on anybody, and by day seven I was sad but also relieved to leave such a beautiful and extreme place. Can't wait to go back next year!
Striding it out on the Haig
|Salomon Autumn Trail Series Volume III, issue 1. 112 registrants, my best turnout yet!|
|Nothing like a little mud on the tires (and in your face) to recover from a hard block of training|