Upper Kananaskis Lake - Winter
Date Walked: 24th January 2012
Distance: 6.4 miles (10.4km)
Actual Ascent: 419ft (128m)
Time Taken: 3 hours
The week long cold spell that saw temperatures struggling to rise above -20 in the middle of the afternoon has cleared away and we are back to a balmy +2 degrees. I scoured my maps for a nice wander concious of the weather forecast saying strong winds and snow in the mountains today (to go with the 7 days of snow previously) I selected a 16km hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake, I assumed staying at the lower levels within the forest would provide me the cover I would need for the day. The map below tells its own story, I only made one third of the circuit before turning back, but at least I got a nice little 10k wander (though it felt like more)
Once off the main drag the road conditions were very poor but my shiny new man-truck handled it well though I arrived at the car park later than planned as a result of the conditions.
It was nice to be greeted by the 'Whiskey Jacks' (Grey Jay or Canada Jay) scrounging for titbits as usual, the chronic snow conditions left me feeling sorry for the 3 birds that hopped around the truck seeking food so I opened the grub early and sat in the back of the truck sharing the fresh brown bread from my sandwiches.
after just a few minutes they were happy to take the food right out of my hands as the sequence below shows, it was nice to feel the tiny feet of this friendly little bird gripping my fingers as it stole the bread away. It was a lovely way to start my walk.
it was not immediately apparent where the trailhead was but the snow covered toilet block and information board were a good clue
The wind was whipping round already and sending huge spirals of spindrift up from the mountains and from the lake but a well trodden path left me feeling I could still make the circuit if I maintained a reasonable average time.
The lake itself is well frozen and snow covered, looking to the south as I start the hike the grey clouds are circling
for the first 1.5km the path is well trodden though stepping too close to the edge sees me sink up to the thigh every time, a good line in the centre and it is great going. Even as the snow starts to fall the shelter of the forest is sufficient to keep me comfortable.
The trees open up frequently providing great views out across the lake, I think Sarah would like this place and I make a mental note to return here with her in summertime.
really fine snow is blowing around in all directions and a balaclava is necessary to keep warm.
soon the trail has disappeared beneath drifts and every step sees me sink to the knee through the dust like powder, it is beginning to be hard work.
crossing the multitude of avalanche slopes is hilarious as I sink to my waist and find myself almost swimming in snow at times, I'm beginning to wonder about my average time and stop to consult the GPS.
My average time is only 3.5 kph thanks to the ever increasing number of avalanche slopes; another avalanche slope displays its entire route through the forest and I begin to wonder about my security as I look around the lake and see dozens of these things.
the sheer sided mountains around the lake are stepped well back from the eastern edge but even at this distance they dump huge quantities of snow along chutes leading down to the lake.
looking forward the path is still long gone and I'm hauling my legs in and out of ever deepening drifts, the cloud is closing in and the spin-drift is whipping up fiercely, I check the GPS again, I've covered 5.2 km, one third of the total distance. I stop for a drink and consider my options, there's little fun in this now and looking across the lake there are many more avalanche chutes than this side. If I'm going to carry on and make the circuit I'll need the head torch toward the end, I don't think I'm that keen to do this circuit turning back now will still give me a nice 10k wander and I'll at least have my own footprints/leg holes to walk in.
turning back I look out across the lake and in particular at the numerous avalanche chutes I have avoided, I feel better about the decision already :)
it's a lot warmer now too with the wind behind me and I am back to enjoying the hike, even through the deep stuff
looking at my trail marks I wonder why I carried on this far, it's just a series of holes with ruffled snow between them where I have dragged the boots through the powder....its easier going back and I begin contemplating snow shoes.
It was not so long ago that I passed this spot yet the wind and fine snow have combined to cover my tracks already
crossing the last of the avalanche chutes before the better, more trodden trail returns I look back to see almost white out conditions at the south end of the lake
it was nice to finally pick up the well trodden path again and make the last 1.5km in comfort on a good trail with plenty of shelter from the forest.
I really enjoyed this walk, it was hard work but enjoyable. I'm sure I will be back here to complete the circuit sometime :)