Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blisters and Beauty

Last week I did one of the classic tours around here in the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Shark to Sunshine Village ski area via Mt. Assiniboine. Winter or summer the beauty of this high alpine traverse is amazing. I’ve vowed to go back this winter and make the trip in 2 days. My venture began at the Shark trail system (back up nordic venue for ‘88 Olympics). The trail to Assiniboine was ~25 Km. I counted 5 storm squalls along the way. The higher I hiked up Marvel pass the worse storm #4 got. Tonnes of lightning and a lot of hail put me under a tree for a few minutes while I calculated my move over the exposed alpine pass. There seemed to be a window of clearing so I bolted for it. I found out later that even down in the valley the storm got pretty adverse as it knocked power out in Canmore for 2 hours. Up high- you can imagine the lightning peril!

The view over the pass was amazing though. Crossing over into BC I could see the Tamaracks were getting ready to turn brilliant yellow and drop their needles. Just as I got into the trees storm #5 hit and the lightning cranked up again. Man was I feeling blessed, lucky, etc.! I was planning on camping, but there are a series of huts (Naiset hut system) that only cost 15$ per night, so I went for it. The rain was really picking up and only a few meters higher the rain was turning to snow. As luck would have it, the cabin I went to had an incredibly friendly couple that had not only stoked the fire making for a toasty warm hut, they’d just finished their dinner and had a lot left over. Not wanting to pack out the leftovers out they begged me to finish it off for them. I was sort of expecting them to dissapear a.l.a. "Angels are Us"...that’s how unbelievable everything seemed.

Before setting out on day #2 I had to spend some time just soaking in the views of the majestic Mt. Assiniboine. While sitting on a bench looking across lake Magog up to this Matterhorn wanna be mountain, I was so struck by the stunning beauty I was so overcome.. I think there were tears in my eyes....(ok, enough of this sensitive ‘90's man stuff).

The only glitch in the day was the ball of my left foot. A blister had been forming. Day 2 saw another 22km of trail and that blister really worsened and then another started forming on my right foot in the exact same place. By the end of the day I had the 2 most ginormous blisters I’d ever kidding they were both 4x7 cm!! I was pretty relieved to get to camp at Douglas lake. The last day’s hike out was a mere 13km in the Sunshine Meadows. It was so nice up there. I was really wishing though that it was winter because then I could ski out the last 9km all downhill. Hiking with those blisters was painful!!

Lessons I learned:
-I really, really like the new sleeping pad I got for the trip. Big Agnes from MEC. 97$ and well worth it. It’s an air mattress with Prima loft....toasty warm!

- don’t use lightweight hiking shoes when carrying a pack. I think you need the extra support hiking boots give, even with a lighter pack (mine was 30-35 pounds). I think this was the cause for the blisters