Friday, 25 March 2011

Snowshoeing, for a change

I like snowshoeing, but in the past have gone skiing on my precious free days. Now that every one of my days is free, I wanted to get in more winter hiking, so today took my snowshoes and went up to Chester Lake.

I haven't heard anything about road conditions, so went in via Hwy 40, and came out via the Spray Lakes Road and Canmore. It was overcast and not nice to about the Fortress Junction this morning, then the sun came out and while there was some high scud clouds, the light was very good.

While I like Chester as a destination, in the summer I generally avoid it as I described here. I've never been up here in the winter, but figured mid week I would have the place mostly to myself, and I was correct. There were some skiers getting ready in the parking lot (with their very sweet but chicken, 120 lb Bernese puppy Max), and I ran into a solo snowshoer on my way up, and two more on my way down.

The snowshoe trail showed obvious freeze thaw conditions. It was quite crusty in the morning's -3° temps, and the snow to the sides of the trail had  2-4 cm sun crust on it anywhere the sun could have hit it.
The trail is steeper than I thought, with a peak of a 14° slope. I was way overdressed for the climb up, and ended up doing it in a t-shirt, light fleece lined shell, no gloves and no hat (and a sweatband would have been helpful). Once you get up to the meadow level, you finally get views, both towards Chester...
...and back, toward Mt. French & Mt. Robertson.
There were a few avis, but not as many as I expected, the biggest coming off the flanks of Mt. Chester itself (probably a 2.5).
There's no visible lake...
...and the creek itself only shows up once or twice.
There is a LOT of snow up here. I have passed this "No Camping" sign in the summer. It's at least 4' tall.
I got to the lake at 1 PM, just in time for it to start socking in.
It flurried a bit in the afternoon on the way down. The snow conditions changed from powder and ice crust in the AM to packing snow on the trail on the way down. This packed up in the metal claws of my snowshoes, necessitating endless stops to get it out, else it was like walking with a softball tied to the ball of my foot. By the time I hit the parking lot at 3:30, it was +5°.

The drive home up the Spray Lakes road was a muddy somewhat rutted mess, and my car got filthy. For that reason alone, I suggest using the Hwy 40 access and spending the least amount of time on Hwy 742 as you can.

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