Staying active outside: 6-9 month olds

If you haven’t already read the last three parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies, 3-6 month old spring babies

While each stage comes with it’s own challenges and perks, I’ve found myself really enjoying this one.  Seems that over time, as some things get so much easier, others get harder. Camping, or more accurately any form of overnight travel, was a major fail.  Turns out my daughter is a big fan of routine … at night.  Her little personality started to shine and she has proven very adjustable to changes in her daytime routine.  Nights? Not so much.  And the more her daytime routine changes, the more her night time routine needs to stay the same.  The story behind that is probably another post in and of itself!  One of our big successes at this stage was coming up with a fantastic hiking procedure for the summer/fall.  Through a bit of trial and error we came up with a system that worked well for us.  Here is a bit more detail on what we did and how it worked out:

Activities

Hiking

I’m going to start with what was our biggest “win”, getting out hiking! After a long winter and spring, I was more than ready to be outside and see some mountains.  It took several trips to work out a system so here’s ours:

  • Choose your trail the night before. We found that E was happy about sitting in her carrier for 2-2.5 hours during a hike so for us, that translated into a hike that was 4-8km long with up to 300 m of elevation gain.
  • Schedule in “wiggle” time.  E started to get very wiggly after sitting for too long and needed time to stand or sit on her own and play with toys.  When picking a hike, we found it helpful to choose hikes near Bragg Creek, Canmore or Banff so we could end our hike with a trip to a kid friendly restaurant for food and play time before the drive home.
  • Pack the night before.  Morning is a rush of breakfast and getting dressed making it easy to forget something essential (been there done that!)  Get everything ready the night before and put as much as possible into the car to make things go smoothly.
  • Pack all the baby items in your baby backpack and items you are less likely to need in a second pack.  One parent carries the baby, the other carries the second pack and is able to grab baby items out of the backpack carrier for baby as needed.
  • If possible, try to time your drives with morning and afternoon naps. It’s not essential but it sure makes the day less stressful when baby snoozes peacefully and you can enjoy chatting and a coffee during the drive :)  On days where we missed the nap window, snacks and fun toys along with mom in the backseat helped keep everyone happy.

In addition to a regular diaper bag (see below), here are some extra items we add in for baby when going hiking:

  • Picnic blanket for baby to play on.  We’d choose a small fleece one that could be used to keep baby warm if necessary.
  • Tylenol.  Teething baby + middle of the woods is enough to make you pack this every time.
  • Baby lunch & accessories: sippy cup, fruit pooch, snacks, bib (keep all in a ziplock bag)
  • Car entertainment: snacks/fruit pooch (in addition to what you brought for lunch), variety of toys

Here are some hikes we enjoyed at this stage:

  • Ptarmigan Cirque (Highwood Pass)
  • Elbow Lake (Highwood Pass)
  • Sundance Canyon (Banff)
  • Sunshine Meadows (Banff)
  • Fullerton Loop (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Riverview Trail (Kananaskis – Paddy’s Flat)
  • Ford Knoll (Kananaskis – Hwy 66)
  • Agnes Tea House (Lake Louise)
Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Going for a walk on the shores of Lake Agnes

Running

Over the summer I continued running sporadically and once September hit, I decided to schedule a weekly run with a friend.  Having a set running date helped me find some motivation and added to the difficulty of our (short) runs as we were not only running and pushing babies, but also chatting!  I found choosing a route with an option to cut things short was helpful in case of a meltdown mid-run.  Also, I noticed that I needed a different layering strategy for E when she was in the Chariot (see below!).  By the time E reached 9 months I saw a big improvement in my fitness level.

Climbing

After a summer hiatus from climbing indoors (because who wants to do that when it’s nice out?!), I returned in the fall to my weekly indoor climbing date.  Despite taking the summer off, I felt like I was climbing much stronger than before and even felt up to leading a few easy 5.7 & 5.8’s.

Walks

The biggest change to my weekday walks were that I was stopped using strollers and started almost exclusively using my Deuter kid carrier backpack.  I found it was less hassle to get in and out of the car, E loved it, and it made me feel like I was getting a workout in the process.

The biggest problem with walks was beating the heat in the summer.  I’d try to do any walks around 9 or 10am (and in treed locations) and if it was too hot by then, we’d usually skip it for the day.

Out of town trips/Camping

We did two trips, one to Penticton and one to visit family.  The first trip to visit family was … challenging.  In retrospect, travel + teething + starting solids was a poor combination for us and led to little sleep all around.  Many baby milestones are hard to predict but in the future, for those I can anticipate, I’ll avoid travelling around them.  Our second trip was much more successful. We drove ~8hrs to Penticton and stayed in a rental house.  A few things that made this trip easier:

  • For the car ride: snacks & toys.  For both of these, there is no such thing as too many! We packed several old toys and bought a few new ones so we could switch toys frequently as E got bored.  Having someone sit in the backseat to feed snacks also helped.
  • Leave early.  We decided to leave around 4am and have baby finish sleeping in the car.
  • If the baby is happy, don’t stop driving.  We tried as best we could to make sure we had enough food & gas so that if E was sleeping or happily playing, the car kept moving.
  • Bring familiar items.  We packed crib sheets, toys, feeding items and blankets from home which (I hope!) helped the trip go smoothly.
  • Stick to your regular routine.  We tried as best we could to do things as we did at home.  There was also a time change and as it wasn’t too big, we found it easiest to let baby wake & sleep when she wanted to instead of going with the new time zone.

Just being outside

As E has gotten older, I’ve become more appreciative of days spent at home where I don’t have to load anyone up in the car.  On days where we stay at home, I try to plan a few activities to do before naps to pass the time and get outside (both of which are necessary!)  The great thing about babies this age is that they don’t need much to be entertained; a patch of dandelions, a pile of leaves, a container of rice with toys hidden inside, walking with mom around the yard or down the street to the park, playing in pea gravel, etc.  Even a quick walk to the park to go on the infant swings can take a good part of the afternoon.

Scoping out the route!

Scoping out the route!

Gear

Carrier

Once baby was over 6 months, I found it difficult to carry her in the Boba for prolonged periods of time as it hurt my back.  I mostly wound up using the Boba for in town trips and short walks.

Backpack

Once E was around 6.5 months, we discovered she could fit in our Deuter Kid Comfort II (she was just below the 50th percentile for height & weight).  Since then, this has been our transportation method of choice for longer (outdoor) walks.  I could go on about how much I love this backpack but suffice to say it’s relatively light, adjusts easily between carriers, and has a lot of storage room.

For keeping baby comfortable in the backpack, here’s what I used:

  • In warm weather, I’d try to dress her in the clothes that would keep her the coolest while also covering her up.  For any uncovered skin I’d use ThinkBaby sunscreen.
  • For cooler weather down to ~6-8C, I’d put her in a warm fleece sweater and her Stonz booties.  We bought the booties in M so they came up to her knees cinched up.  I’d also recommend knitted legwarmers as you can easily put them on and take them off without removing baby from the backpack.
  • For temperatures closer to freezing (~0-5C) I’d put her in a MEC Cocoon Bunting with her Stonz booties, mitt cuffs flipped over and a hat.
Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Little snoozer enjoying the backpack

Chariot

I used the Chariot mostly for running and the occasional walk.  I tried using the BOB for running but found that I preferred the Chariot (we have a CX1).  One of the interesting things with the Chariot is that because you can completely enclose the baby, the interior is it’s own micro-climate which can differ quite a bit from the outside air temperature.  I did a fair bit of overdressing of baby before I got the hang of things.

  • In warm weather, I’d dress her in a onesie and fully lower the sunshade.  I’d also unzip the plastic side panels completely to allow a breeze.  One downside is that there is less sun protection on the sides with the plastic unzipped so I’d bring sunglasses for baby and a thin summer swaddling blanket to drape over the side to shade her face if necessary.
  • Down to 0C, I’d dress baby in a fleece jacket, her Stonz booties and I’d add a warm blanket (thick fleece or down).  I never found it necessary to dress baby up any more than that since the tinted side shades and sun cover create a bit of a greenhouse effect and warm up the inside.  In fact, on several occasions I had to remove the blanket, booties and sweater and/or unzip the side panels to cool things down inside.  It’s much easier to cool baby down this way than to have to take them out of the Chariot and remove a snowsuit.

Gear for baby

During this time period, some gear I found particularly helpful include:

    • Sunday Afternoons Playhat – the brim & neck cover are some of the best I’ve seen!  I ordered mine from Mountain Baby.
    • ThinkBaby sunscreen (available from MEC, Mountain Baby or Westcoast Kids)
    • Julbo baby sunglasses (available from some optometrists)
    • Baby leggings to wear over pants
    • Fleece sweaters – easy to clean and stay warm even when damp
Sunday Afternoons Playhat  being used while exploring the grass. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Sunday Afternoons Playhat. You can see it cinches to make a tight fit.

Gear for you

A summer trick I used was to wear a light infinity scarf when carrying E in the Boba.  It gave me the option of  covering her legs and/or arms to keep off the sun or protect from a breeze while on the go!

Diaper Bag

To make sure I was prepared for any change in weather, I’d add a stuff sack with the following items to the regular contents of my bag.

  • Summer: sunglasses, cheap cotton sunhat, sunscreen, linen swaddling blanket, sweater
  • Fall: wool socks, leggings and a hat

 

If anyone has any other tips for this age (or time of year) I’d love to hear! Especially welcome are tips for being outside with baby when it’s scorching hot.  It doesn’t happen very often in Calgary so I often waved the white flag and retreated to my basement on hot days!

 

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Staying active outside: 3-6 month old spring babies

If you haven’t already read the last two parts of this series on staying active outside, you can read them here Pregnancy, 0-3 month old winter babies (Update – check out the next part of this series, 6-9 month olds)

As 3 months came and went, I started to notice that things were getting easier.  Definitely not easy but easier. It’s like when you’ve gone hiking often enough that it becomes second nature to get your bag packed in a minute or two without much thought. Our days and nights were also starting to fall into a rhythm and physically, I was feeling much better. Here are some of the activities we did along with how I made them work.  Some aren’t “technically” outdoor activities but they involve being active and getting out of the house which can be a win some days, whether you have a baby or not :)

Activities

Walking

Walks still made up the majority of my outings during this time period.  There is nothing better to improve the spirits than being outside and moving.  Spring made things a little tricky as it’s still very snowy/icy/wet/muddy in the mountains and on non-paved pathways in the city.  Thankfully there are many parks with paved paths that I frequented.  Walks in the city are pretty straightforward so the only (small) decision I had to make was whether to use a carrier or stroller.  Generally if the weather looked cool or windy I would use a carrier under my jacket as I found it easiest to regulate baby temperature.  If I had any concerns about the path being slippery or icy, I’d bring the Chariot.  Other than those situations, I’d try my best to play baby psychic and guess which would go over best.  This often meant bringing the Chariot with a carrier stuffed in the storage space “just in case”.

Hiking

As spring rolled into summer, trails in the mountains dried up and we went for our first family hikes! The first few outings were a bit of trial and error but here are a few tips that we found helpful:

  • Decide how long you’ll be hiking for. Before you head out, make sure you’ve used your carrier or Chariot and know how long your baby will happily hike in them.  For us it was about 2 hrs in either.
  • Choose a hike close to home.  This isn’t a must but I found it a lot less stressful when our first hikes weren’t all day events.  Save hikes that are further for when you have your system dialled and want to add another variable into the equation (ie. driving time).
  • Don’t worry about packing the kitchen sink.  Or at least don’t worry about it as long as you have a partner to haul said sink around!  You can always extra items/layers in the car at the trailhead.  It does take some trial and error to figure out what your baby (and you!) will be most comfortable in.  The more I hiked the better I got at packing less and bringing the right items.
  • Have the right mindset.  We called these hikes “exploratory missions”.  The goal was to make it out there, test our packing system/departure time/hike suitability and note any adjustments we’d need to make for next time. I think this is also called “setting the bar low” ;)
  • Bring hiking poles.  I can’t stress enough how awesome hiking poles are when you’re carrying a baby.  Not only do they help with stability, but they’re a godsend when you can’t see your feet.

If you’re in Calgary, one area I highly recommend for hiking is the Elbow Falls region of Kananaskis.  It’s actually quite close to the city and there are a ton of short trails with good viewpoints.  It provides a nice alternative to driving out to Kananaskis Lakes or Canmore/Banff.

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Hiking the Fullerton Loop with the little lady

Climbing

The appearance of some routine in our evenings made it easier for me to schedule a time to leave the house and go climb.  It wasn’t always easy to get out but I always enjoyed it in the end.  It was a nice mental break to socialize, and get in a little exercise at the same time.  I tried to go once a week and just climbed as hard as I felt like going each time.

Running

I had signed up to run the Rocky Mountain Soap Company 5k Stroller jog when baby was 5 months old so I knew I’d have to do some training if I wanted to run it.  I started with doing a run/walk for 20 min by myself every second or third day.  As I felt better with my runs, I added in pushing the Chariot.  Overall I was very relaxed about running and often missed days if my body felt off.  I also switched to walking anytime things started to hurt.

Right after running our first race!

Right after running our first race!

Mom & Baby classes

I took a Mom & Baby fitness class on a whim, not really expecting to like it.  It turned out to be one of my favourite activities and I’d highly recommend taking one.  I liked being able to bring E with me and the instructor was very knowledgeable about different exercises or stretches that were best for a recovering body.  Walking only provides so much exercise so it was nice to have some variety.

Gear

Carriers

This stage presented a few problems with using carriers.  My stretchy carrier that I loved up until now felt a little too stretchy to use with a heavier baby.  Yet E was still too small to sit in the Boba with her legs out the side (she was never a fan of being in it in the infant position).  It was an awkward month or so of not fitting either very well.  Still, we persevered and I used one or the other with varying degrees of success.  Amelia of Tales of a Mountain Mama has an excellent post about these “gap months” and reviewed some carriers that can help solve the problem.  Once E outgrew this phase, the Boba was my preferred carrier.

Strollers

On days when carriers just weren’t working, I made use of our Chariot which turned into a favourite! It handled spring slush and puddles very well and was an instant snooze machine.  We used it with the infant sling.  It was great to have the Chariot around as E disliked being in her carseat (attached to the BOB stroller) when we went on walks but was too small to sit up in the BOB on her own.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you're in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open.  This is past Elbow Falls but you can also do this at Highwood Pass.

Yes, I am strolling down the middle of the road! If you’re in Calgary, a fun spring outing is to cycle/stroll/run down any closed road in Kananaskis before the winter gates open. This is past Elbow Falls but you can also go to Highwood Pass.

Clothes for baby

For Chariot walks, I’d dress baby in a cotton or fleece sleeper and bring along blankets.  I tried using a fleece bunting but Chariots can heat up very quickly in the sun when the shades are closed making it was easier to add/remove blankets than deal with taking off a bunting.

When using a carrier, if it was warm out I’d keep baby in a fleece or cotton sleeper depending on the temperature.  If it was cooler, I’d use my Make My Belly Fit panel. If little feet are long enough to hang out the bottom of the jacket a pair of wool booties do the trick to keep them warm.

A warm hat and sun hat are also key to have around whether you’re using a stroller or carrier.

Clothes for you

I still used my  Make My Belly Fit panel quite a bit during this stage.

Diaper Bag/Extras

The more we got out the more I noticed myself gravitating to using a backpack as a diaper bag.  One less item in my hands when juggling a baby was always welcome.  And of course it was a good excuse to buy another backpack!

In addition to all my regular diaper bag items, I always kept a pair of booties, a warm hat and a fleece blanket in the bag in case it was colder than I expected when on walks.

Logistics

During the 3-6 month age range, E fell into a routine of 3 naps a day. After her first nap, we’d have a little play time and then head out for the day.  Usually she was good about taking a few cat naps wherever we were (car, walking, etc). I’d try to time things so that her third nap of the day happened at home.  For us, this provided a nice balance of having some down time at home as well as an outing.  It also meant I’d have some time in the morning to get ready and in the afternoon to unpack and relax.

This isn’t to say we always followed the above.  Sometimes it was only practical to have one nap at home (or none!).  If we wanted to go to the mountains, which is a full day trip, we’d time the drive out and the drive back with her first and last nap.

Here is a really good post on from Bring the Kids about how naptime isn’t sacred for their family.  The post (and comments!) are worth a read.  I’ve found that dealing with naps is always a challenge as once you find something that works, they enter a new phase and you’re back to square one.

If anyone has any tips on how they handled naps I’d love to hear!

Staying active outside: Pregnancy

Chatting with a friend who is pregnant, I realized that I’m starting to forget all the little details about what it was like being pregnant.  All the miserable parts are getting foggier (thank goodness!) and the fun parts are what is standing out.  I guess this is how women getting around to having a second baby? In any case I thought I would write down what I could recollect about staying active while I still remember.  Before finding out I was pregnant I was very active as you can probably tell by checking out the rest of my blog.  Here is a brief rundown of what I was able to do or didn’t do during those 9 months and how I made it work.   I’m hoping to get a little series going with suggestions for the 0-3, 3-6, and 6-9 month phases of having a baby.

Activities

Hiking

This was my #1 go to activity until the snow started flying.  To better enjoy my hikes I did a few things:

  • Tone down the elevation gain. I tried to stay <500m of elevation gain over 10-12 km.  If the trail was shorter I’d pick something with even less elevation.
  • Bring lots of water.
  • Have someone else (hubby) carry lunch, water and clothes. From early on I wasn’t able to use backpack waist belts comfortably and I hate using a pack without them as it hurts my shoulders.
  • Bring extra warm clothes.  I would get hot easily while hiking so once we stopped it was good to have a sweater or pants to throw on.
  • Wear a hip support belt.  There are specific ones made for pregnancy, I used this one which I bought from Coop Home Health (if you’re in Calgary) and it was covered by my insurance.
  • Bring appropriate food. See below.

A few of the hikes I enjoyed doing were:

  • Chester Lake (Kananaskis)
  • Eiffel Lake (Lake Louise)
  • Ptarmigan Cirque (Highwood Pass)
  • Bear’s Hump & Bertha Lakes (Waterton)
  • Maligne Canyon & Whistler’s Mountain from the gondola (Jasper)
Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O'Hara.

Hiking in to Eiffel Lake

Running

I ran until I was 5 months pregnant at which point the impact of running was more than my poor body could handle.  When I did run, I always wore a waist belt that carried small water bottles as was more thirsty than usual.

Camping

I car camped a few times over the summer and it was ok but the frequency of my trips to the bathroom made it much less enjoyable than usual.

View of Waterton from Bear's Hump. We camped in town and discovered where half of Alberta goes to on long weekends.

View of Waterton from Bear’s Hump. We camped in town and discovered where half of Alberta goes to on long weekends.

Climbing

In my first trimester I climbed indoors on whatever I felt like, but didn’t lead anything.  I did a very easy 5.7 multi-pitch in Chamonix when I was 3 months pregnant which felt really good.  I didn’t climb again after that mostly due to a lack of climbing partners.

Yoga

I took a prenatal yoga class during my last trimester and was impressed with how much it helped me out.  I was initially worried it would be heavy on the “meditation and visualization” side but it turned out to be just perfect and left me feeling stretched out and relaxed.  I highly recommend the prenatal classes at Yoga Mandala in Calgary (Sara is a great teacher!).

Biking

I biked a little during during my 1st and 2nd trimesters (they fell during the summer).  Loading a bike into my trunk was difficult and resulted in not much biking and the purchase of a bike rack.  I did enjoy biking at Glenbow Ranch though I had to walk some of the hills. I’d recommend padded bike shorts.

Watching the CP rail trains go by.

Watching the CP rail trains go by.

Swimming

My last trimester fell during winter and an aquasize class was just what I needed to feel active without having to bundle up for outdoors.  You don’t need to take a prenatal one, I attended a drop in class at the YMCA. Bonus – you get a solid 45 min of feeling semi-weightless!

Skiing

Nope.  Did not do any skiing.  I wasn’t pregnant during downhill season and I’m not a cross country skier – yet!

Snowshoeing

I loved loved loved this during my last trimester.  I was starting to get shoulder season cabin fever and snowshoeing was the cure.  Here are some tips for getting out:

  • Buy good snowshoes! Ever heard the saying a pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back? This is all the more true when you’re already carrying extra weight.
  • Bending over to adjust snowshoes is difficult so give it a try at home before doing it at the trailhead with bare (and cold!) fingers.
  • Wear a hip support belt.
  • Wear good quality, comfortable clothes (see below).

Here are some trails I was loving:

  • Elbow Lake (HIGHLY recommend this.  It’s gorgeous!)
  • Hogarth Lakes
  • Paddy’s Flat (nice because it’s close to the city)
  • Bragg Creek’s Snowshoe Hare trail (this one is a bit long so perhaps so take are not to go further than you’re willing to walk back)
  • Fish Creek. If you stick to what are “dirt” trails in the summer, you can easily snowshoe several kilometres in the park

Enjoying the jacket panel on a cold day while snowshoeing at Bragg Creek

Snowshoeing in Bragg Creek with my jacket panel

Plain ‘ol walking

Most evenings I went for a stroll around the block just to get some fresh air and stretch the legs.

Notes

Food

I took a prenatal class and they recommended eating around 80 g of protein a day as a goal.  On days when I wasn’t active, I found I was happy eating under this but on days I was very active, I ate WAY more than that.  I’m not a dietician but I think it’s good to keep your protein intake in mind when packing lunches and snacks for active days.

Clothes

Activewear really becomes an issue if when you’re hitting your last stages of pregnancy over the winter.  Here is how I handled it:

  • Borrow, borrow, borrow.  A good friend loaned me some fantastic Mountain Mama maternity clothes which I loved.  I also snagged a pair of my dad’s long john’s.
  • Buy select pieces. In particular I’d recommend the Make My Belly Fit panel which allowed me to wear my technical jackets.
  • Improvise.  Cold bum while snowshoeing because your jacket doesn’t go down far enough? Wrap a fleece scarf around yourself to make a faux skirt :)

Hope this helps someone out! If you’d like to read other blogs about staying active during pregnancy I’d recommend the three below.

If anyone has any other tips or good sites I’d loves to hear!

Managing expectations … and expecting a little adventurer!

First things first, I’m sure the title is a dead give-away but I found out a few months ago that I’m gonna have a little adventurer-in-training joining the family in January 2014!

Now that that’s out of the way … it’s been quite a while since I’ve written on my blog.  2013 has been a very different year for me so far and I’ve kept waiting for things to calm down a bit to write but seems that hasn’t happened!  In January I was really excited for the ski season to start. I had just gotten brand new skis and boots as I had outgrown my beginner pair and I was planning on making this the year I worked on my technique and parallel turns.  In February, my husband I and went for our first backcountry ski day since his ACL injury a year ago.  He had been really nervous about going into the backcountry post-injury and turns out he wasn’t the one that needed to worry.  In almost the same way he hurt himself, I had a minor fall and sprained my MCL and my ankle.  Both of us had slipped while going slowly which meant there wasn’t enough force to release the bindings.  I saw my physio the next day and he told me I was extremely lucky to not have torn anything in my knee.  I was pretty shaken up about the whole thing and how much worse it could have been.

Both my sprains were bad and it took a full 8 weeks before they healed.  In that time period I was able to do pretty much … nothing.  Seems every activity I could think of required the use of my ankle and knee.  And of course, because bad things come in threes, soon after I managed to have two gardening accidents (one involving an unfortunate run-in with a rake).

For someone who defines them self as being active, being completely sedentary was a major adjustment as I’ve (thankfully) never really injured myself before.  I knew I needed to take the time off to let my body heal but it was difficult to be ok with the decision when I felt I had so many goals and was missing out on so many days out.  Also, while my ski accident wasn’t major by any means, it has definitely remained in the back of my mind when I think about what risks I’m willing to take and how easily minor accidents can happen.

The plus side of all that is that I seem to have gotten all my bad luck out of the way for the year!  By the spring, I was mostly back to normal and had gotten in a few ski days, climbed Professor Falls and made it to Red Rocks.  I also found out I was pregnant!  Since then I’ve still been pretty active. I ran a 10k in May and am still running (though the runs are getting shorter) and I tried SUPing for the first time in the Okanagan (trendy but as fun as it’s made out to be!). I’m hoping to do a lot more hiking in the fall which is my favourite time of year to hike (larch season!) and one of my awesome friends loaned me a maternity harness so I’ll be hitting the gym in the near future.

As far as being pregnant goes, I’m starting to get excited about meeting the mountain baby.  While in Europe this summer I went climbing with Caroline George (who guides out of Chamonix).  While we had a great time getting out on a fun bolted route, the best part was hearing her enthusiasm for being a mom.  I’d venture to say that I’m probably not the only one who has thought twice about having kids because of the change in lifestyle, so it was very reassuring to hear firsthand from Caroline how the experience really can be what you want it to be and how she made it work for her.

I haven’t decided how much I’ll write about being pregnant/kids as there are many other ladies out there who do a WAY better job of giving advice than I ever could but I’m sure the topic will come up on my hopefully more frequent posts :)

Hiking in the Alps with a +1 this time!

Hiking in the Alps with a +1 this time!

Fall larches on Fairview Mtn

September was not off to a great start.  After picking up some eastern bug while in Ottawa for a wedding, I spent a the first week of fall going to bed early and feeling generally miserable.  Come the weekend, I could not convince my other half to climb anything other than a mountain of kleenex and frankly I wasn’t doing much better.  I opted for a girls afternoon of climbing at Grassi Lakes and cleaned most of my friend’s routes as she sent some of the her hardest routes!

Not sure what these are called but they remind me of troll hair. Remember those little troll dolls that used to be popular?

Come this past weekend, I was just dying to get out and hike. Fall is one of my favourite times for hiking; the air is cool and crisp, the weather is more settled than in the summer and best of all the larches are changing colour.  Fairview has been on my list of “to-do hikes” for a while and I’ve been waiting for just the right time to do it.  I’d already done some of the other popular Lake Louise/Moraine Lake hikes (Plain of Six Glaciers, Sentinel Pass, Mt St Piran, Tower of Babel) so it seemed like a good time to do Fairview.

Larch

For those not familiar with the larches, we don’t have a huge variety of colour changing trees in the mountains.  Other than aspens at lower elevations, most trees at higher up are evergreens.  Enter the alpine larch aka larix lyallii.  Evolutionary advantage? Thrives at high altitudes.  Why do I love them? Their needles are soft as feathers and turn bright yellow before they fall.  When I walk through a grove I just can’t help but touch all the branches to feel the needles.  Sentinel Pass (which is accessed from Moraine Lake) seems to be the most popular hike to see the larches but there are many hikes in Banff and Kananaskis with larches.  On an average year, the larches are best seen in their finest shades of yellow during the third week in September.  They start turning a week before and will be done dropping their needles by the end of September.  We hiked Sentinel Pass to see them last year but it’s a real production as you have to be there by 8am to get a parking spot at Moraine Lake that’s not 1-2km down the road.

A rather scraggly and small larch with Lake Louise ski hill in the background

The hike up to Fairview Mountain starts off from either the Chateau or the west side of the upper parking lot.  The first 3ish km are on a wide dirt trail up to Saddleback (the saddle between Fairview and Saddle Mountains).  The trail is straightforward with only one turnoff on the way to Saddleback which is a steep shortcut.  Once Saddleback is in view, the larches start popping up.  At the top of Saddleback, in the middle of the larches, are the junctions to Saddle Mtn, Fairview Mtn & Sheol Valley.  We weren’t looking forward to the “scree slog” we had heard about to the top but it turned out to be a well cleared trail with very few sections of scree (yay!).  Soon we were at the top with views of Mt. Aberdeen, Mt Victoria and Lake Louise.  We both agreed this was one of the most well-maintained/easiest 1000m trails we’d been on (thanks Parks Canada!).  Being a numbers person, I always mentally file away how far/high each hike is and how long it took so I was impressed that after several weeks off from hiking I did it in 4.5hrs at a reasonable pace.

Heading towards the junction for Fairview Moutain.

Saddle Mountain in the background

From Saddleback you can see the path up to Fairview

Lake Louise from the top of Fairview (Chateau is out of sight to the right). You can see some of the hiking trails and climbing cliffs on the far shore.

Mt Victoria in the background with Mt Aberdeen & Lefroy just peeking out on the left

Mt Haddo (left) and Mt Aberdeen (right)