Mountains, molehills, and parenting

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Friday morning, I began my least favourite Friday tradition: trying to decide what to do on the weekend.  Or lately, with winter MIA, whether my plans need to be changed.  Those topics join a list of others that I’m finding challenging of late.  The challenge being that there is no cut and dried solution to any of them.  The name of the game seems to be patience, acceptance and change of perspective.  In any case, here’s the shortlist.

The weekend.  In my dream world, every hike would be a 25 min drive from my house, the weather would always be great, no one would ever be sick, errands wouldn’t have to run, and my toddler would be happily participate in activities or nap quietly in her carrier/Chariot.  Oh and all our gear would magically fit in the trunk.  Instead, deciding what to do on the weekend involves balancing what we have the time/energy to accomplish vs if the outing will be worth it based on driving times, weather, amount of packing, “fun” factor for each family member, etc.  This often means that as much as I want to do a certain hike/snowshoe/ski, plans frequently need to be changed.  I always have fun once we get going but the process of planning can be discouraging at times.

Finding friends.  I have amazing friends (both with kids and without), but life is busy, kids get sick, and not everyone (and their children) are in the same place at the same time with regards to outdoor abilities and interests.  In particular, I hadn’t realized how different each stage is, from babies to toddlers to preschoolers.  Finding partners involves not just finding another family who’s free and interested, but one who’s kids (if they have any) are in similar stages to ours.  With a baby, we were able to do longer hikes which were further away.  With a toddler, we need to plan activities with less sitting time in cars/backpacks/Chariots and more moving time (exploring, walking, crawling).

Work/life balance.  This one is a work in progress.  Some days I feel like I really nailed it, and others I’m flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to have down time, but I also I want to fit in me time, husband time and family time.  I want to eat home cooked meals but I also want time to play outside before dinner.  I want a clean house but I also want to go outside on weekends and squeeze in an adult workout.  I’ve discovered that it’s helped to schedule in a few things that are important and go with the flow for the rest.

Time to myself.  As much as I dislike giving up any of the time I have with my daughter, I know that it’s also important for me carve out time to exercise or see friends.  I didn’t anticipate the guilt I’d feel when choosing to spend time away from my daughter, even if it was a perfectly reasonably choice to make.

Everyone knows the saying … this too shall pass.  That sums up how I feel right now.  Overall I’m very happy with my family and my life and I think my husband and I do a darn good job of balancing everything.  I’m also so proud of all outings we’ve been able to get out on, in good times and more sleep-deprived times! That doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments where I get frustrated, or feel discouraged about how things turned out. I often wish there was an easy answer, but I haven’t found it yet! It does mean I need to remind myself more often to put things in perspective; what feels like a mountain today, will probably look more like molehill when I’m further down the road :)

I don’t tend to write much about the things I find difficult as I don’t like to dwell on them.  It seems much more personal to share your struggles than your highlights!  That being said, I think there is value in acknowledging them.  If you feel the same way, you’ll like these posts:

Wapta icefields ski touring

A few weeks ago, my husband got an email asking if we were interested in participating in a research trip out to the Wapta glacier to help a local guide produce teaching materials on glaciers and glaciation.  I immediately responded with a reserved “EMAILTHEMNOWANDSAYWELLGO!!”.  When I heard back that the trip was on, the rush was on to buy a new backpack, sleeping bag and other miscellaneous items as well as rent and pick up gear and get everything packed.

After a 4:30am wakeup on Saturday, we met our group at 8am at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway. The plan was to skin in to Bow Hut (600m of elevation gain over 8km).  Some sections are in avalanche terrain but the risk that day was low-moderate so we felt ok crossing one by one. When we got to the hut  I did some serious tea drinking and leg stretching in my hut booties.  We had a lot of fun chatting with everyone, eating dinner and enjoying the hut views.

Vulture glacier which we passed underneath on the way to the hut - I moved fast! The final uphill after crossing this section is hard. Time slowed and my pack seemed to double in weight. Laws of physics: defied.

Avalanche fracture line we could see from the hut

Sunset from the hut balcony

Sunday morning we left around 8am to ski 6km to Peyto Hut.    The goal was to find and dig out the entrance to an ice cave which ran beneath the glacier.  Oh and we also got to ski some sweet lines :)  After 30 min of digging, we rigged an anchor and slid down the small ice tunnel into the cave.  It so neat knowing that I was underneath a glacier, somewhere that fewer than 20 people have probably ever been.  So many different patterns, formations and textures to the ice.  It really gave you a sense of how old the glacier was and what forces formed it.  After exploring the cave we still had to ski 12km to get back to the cars. In total we were out for 12 hrs on Sunday and skied 20km!  Needless to say I enjoyed my 11pm burger at Wendy’s in Canmore on the way home.

On the way in to Peyto Hut

Entrance to the cave

Neat patterns in the ice

The whole experience was amazing.  There is something that is so peaceful about being high up on a glacier seeing nothing but snow, peaks and blue skies.  No one is around and it’s just you watching one ski move in front of the other as you make your way up a slope.  It’s so hard to describe what it’s like up there, one of those “have to have been there” type of things.  One of the best parts though was getting to do this with friends.

Wapta icefields between Bow Hut and Peyto Hut

Mt St Nicholas which I may get to climb this summer on my mountaineering course

Stopping for a zen moment on the way out

On a separate note, I was especially psyched for this trip because I just signed up for a 6-day women’s mountaineering course this summer.  It’s run by Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and will also be based out of Bow Hut.  The course is geared towards teaching the skills you need to climb some of the local peaks on your own (ie navigation, glacier safety, roped travel, etc).

Bow Hut in the summer - Photo from Meghan Ward

In the spirit of not forgetting what I learnt, I made a list of what I packed (or wish I had packed):

Clothes

  • 2 pairs of socks & underwear
  • synthetic tank top with built in bra
  • light wool long sleeve top
  • medium fleece long sleeve top
  • heavy fleece sweater with hood
  • light wool leggings
  • medium fleece leggings
  • insulated ski pants
  • down sweater
  • hardshell
  • waterproof ski mitts
  • wool hat
  • ski goggles & sunglasses
  • neckwarmer
  • hut booties

Toiletries

  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • sunscreen (have handy to re-apply while skiing on the glacier – I re-applied twice and still burnt!)
  • quickdry facecloth
  • lipbalm with sunscreen
  • for next time: soap &  hand sanitizer – lots and lots of hand sanitizer.  I might bring deodorant for a longer trip.

Sleeping

  • 0°C sleeping bag (I’d bring a 5°C for the summer)
  • packable pillow
  • earplugs – very important in huts!!

Other

  • I wish I had brought a digital watch – next time
  • for longer trips I’d bring some reading material and a journal
  • camera
  • headlamp
  • first aid kit, tylenol, ibuprofen & blister kit  – this is very important especially with rental boots!
  • 50L backpack
Also, if you leave your car out when it’s snowy and windy, you’ll get snow and ice in your tire wells which will throw off your car’s alignment unless it’s been knocked out.

Two women’s perspectives on outdoor adventure

I just finished writing a Q&A style article with Meghan (@yaheweha) about our perspectives on outdoor adventure.  We answered a few questions that I think are particularly relevant topics for women.  It was surprisingly hard to write my answers.  They’re topics that I’ve found myself thinking about on and off lately but putting those thoughts into word was challenging.  I don’t like to make generalizations because there are always exceptions but obviously I do have an opinion on certain topics which has been shaped by my personal experiences.  It was really interesting to read Meghan’s answers because I see us as being outwardly similar yet we both have very different experiences and answered the questions in different ways.  Check out the article & feel free to leave leave a comment.  We’d love to hear other opinions!

 

top photo Paul Zizka, bottom photo courtesy myself!