No, I wasn’t accompanied by Wallace and Gromit, more’s the pity.
Today, I had a lazy start, and finding myself alone in the house, I walked the devil-dog and prepared for a trip up Grouse Mountain. My son had gone camping in Whistler with the Venturers in support of the Cub Pack’s trip there. All well and good – I’m glad he’s volunteering his time to help others – but he’d taken half my gear with him! Instead of my lazy pull-on snow boots, I had to wear my leather Zamberlan fell-walking boots. No problem, it gave me an excuse to try out my new gaiters from MEC. (One of many presents I bought myself at Christmas… well SOMEONE has to, right?!)
It was raining steadily as I arrived at the base of the Skyride, but as we broke through, up into the cloud, it turned to gentle snow. Nothing major, but nice and refreshing. I put on my snowshoes (yes – also a Christmas self-present) and set off. It was quite heavy going with wet, soggy snow underfoot. Apparently there’d been no real fresh snow for over a day. As planned, I made 3 brief stops to take a breath and a sip of water, and was quite pleased to reach the summit of the walk in 46 minutes by my watch.
I was a bit disappointed by the lack of view due to the low cloud, and had a chewy seed bar (like the sweepings from a parrot’s cage mixed with honey) to replenish my corpulence. One other hiker caught me up while I was at the top and we briefly chatted about the “high heels” feature on our snowshoes, since he had the same ones: MSR Evo Tour. They make a surprisingly big difference to the steeper uphill parts. They’re a pig to drop back down though, despite the rubber tab for the purpose.
In the MSR product photo you can see the steel bar at the back. You flip this up and it gives your heel something to push against when the snowshoes are at an inclined angle. So much more positive grip than just using your toes. Glad I paid the extra and got this model.
Well, I packed up my litter and headed back down. Part way back, I bumped into an older Asian couple who were deciding whether to turn back or not. The lady had dropped her hiking pole but was busy helping her (apparently perfectly capable) husband sort himself out. Men can be “needy” at the best of times, but I’ve noticed that some societies seem to accept it more than others. She seemed genuinely grateful when I picked up her pole and handed it to her, saving her having to bend down on the steep slope to retrieve it herself.
Slightly further on, there was a particularly steep section, and a bloke was stood to the side weighing up the best line to take. I took one glance, exclaimed “Bugger THAT” and took off into the virgin snow down the side. Obviously I had come UP that slope (aided by my high heels), but going down seemed likely to end only in one very fast arse slide…
I made good time down and within sight of the bear den the SnowShoe Grind (SSG) suddenly veers off the main track and takes a very steep 10m descent. Confident of my new snowshoes, I barely broke pace as I swung 90 degrees and set off down the slope. Remember that wet, soggy snow I mentioned earlier? Well… under the (too much) weight of an over-confident bloke it doesn’t matter how good your snow shoes are… it gives way.
I took my first arse slide since using my new snowshoes… right at the end. It was actually quite fun, once you remember to keep your feet up so the snowshoes don’t snag. Of course, I got snow up my back, but that was OK… I was pretty hot anyway.
Back at the lodge I finally (it was my third attempt at the SSG – second completed) found the electronic timing post for those wanting to be officially timed, and have their ascents added to their Grouse Grind totals. Typical – found it when it was too late.
Back home for tea with a nice warm “got outside and did something” feeling in my legs. Luxurious bath filled the bathroom with my own personal steam cloud, and all is well with the world.
Turns out there’s a race up the SSG next weekend. I’m tempted. Not to seriously compete in the race obviously (I think you need to have completed it more than twice to be a contender, really!), but potentially just to say I was there, I took part, I finished.
What do you think? Want to join me? It’s in the morning though… too early to have a beer afterwards. Not for tea and scones though!