Second trimester hiking: Ptarmigan Cirque & Tips!

The forecast for this weekend looked less than promising: a system was coming in from the west and snow had already fallen above treeline this week.  So, it (obviously?!) seemed like the perfect weekend to check out Ptarmigan Cirque!   Sounds crazy, I realize, but the hike is really a short 4km loop with around 200m of elevation gain.  It’s located right at the Highwood Pass which at 2200m, is the highest paved road in Canada.  Since the weather was so uncertain, we thought it would be better to do a quick hike we could get on and off of in case the weather turned.  The hike had also been on our hit list but usually when we drive as far as Highwood Pass, we opt to do something a bit longer.

Looking into the Cirque

Looking into the Cirque

Turns out there was a lot more snow than we expected and it felt more like a winter hike than fall hike!  Had I realized how snowy it would be, I would have brought gaiters and spikes.  In some areas, the snow drifts were almost up to my waist!  Needless to say, we did not complete the loop as the trail had only been well trampled to the back of the cirque and we wound have had to have broken trail on the second half of the loop in snow.

Ran into this troupe!

Ran into this troupe!

It was still a fun day out and we even saw a heard of mountain sheep!  The larches weren’t as spectacular as I had hoped they might be.  They were still nice but for a real, bright yellow larch experience I would still head to the Lake Louise/ Moraine Lake area rather than Kananaskis.

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

You can see how deep the snow was by looking at my poles!

This is my fourth hike now in my second trimester and here are some things I’ve figured out along the way:

  • Wear an SI support band designed for pregnancy.  This was recommended to me by a girlfriend and it’s been a lifesaver.  It keeps my hips from getting too sore and it also helps keep pressure off your bladder so you’re not peeing as much.
  • Bring LOTS of water that is easily accessible (ie in a bladder with a hose).  On cooler hikes I tend to drink less but I’m still drinking more water than usual so we now overpack on water with the idea that we can dump what we don’t need if it gets too heavy.
  • Bring LOTS of snacky, high protein foods.  I’m hungry most of the time but that changes to all of the time when I’m hiking!  My favourites so far have been trail mix cookies, babybel cheese, boiled eggs, nuts, protein bars and dried fruit.
  • Bring extra snacks & water for the drive to/from the trailhead.  Unless you live closer than I do, 1-2hrs is a lot of time to sit in a car when you’re hungry or thirsty.
  • Pass on the backpack.  I’m a bit slower when I hike now, but I can usually keep up a very reasonable pace without my pack.  I’ll admit it’s a bit of a blow to my ego to let my husband carry everything when I’m used to carrying my own things but it really helps make hiking more enjoyable.  We joke it’s good weight training for him!
  • Think about what hiking clothes will fit you and if you’ll be comfortable in them.  Warm hikes were easier to deal with.  I wore my Lululemon tank tops which are extra long & their shorts which have a panel waist.  Cold hikes were harder as Lululemon fabric tends to attract snow and dirt and my regular technical pants/jackets didn’t fit.  My solution was to borrow from maternity hiking clothes friends and in a pinch, steal my husband’s jackets!
  • Wear lightweight shoes.  For most of my hikes I wore my favourite Columbia trail runners as they’re light and waterproof with great treads.  Only on this last hike did I wear my lightweight Vasque hikers since I thought there might be a bit of snow.
  • Bring poles.  Even on mellow terrain, I find them worthwhile as they seem to take some of the pressure of my hips and knees.
  • If you think there is the possibility of snow, bring spikes.  Worrying about slipping on trails is overrated so I think I’ll be bringing my spikes on the next few hikes.

*Whew*, I think that’s it!  I’m sure YMMV on those tips but that’s what’s worked for me.

Lots of snow!

Lots of snow!

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