AO: Amisk Wuche Trail, Elk Island National Park, Alberta
Conditions: -16, slight wind, mostly cloudy
Trail Distance: 2.5km
Time Taken: 1 hour
I’d done this trail before with Steve in November but I decided to tackle it again now that a blanket of the white-stuff had fallen. I picked up a pair of MSR Denali Evo Ascent snowshoes last week on clearance at my favourite toy store and decided I needed to start the year off right with a quick hike through the park. I got to the park just before noon after having spent the morning fretting about what to pack in. As per usual with most of my endeavors the answer was: too much. I really wasn’t sure how quickly I was going to tackle the trail so I brought more than I needed with me, partially in the hopes of testing out my Vargo Ti alcohol stove in the cold, but I didn’t stay out long enough for that to come up.
I re-waterproofed my Montrail GTX boots in preparation for the outing, as well as picked up a pair of inexpensive GoreTEX gaiters from the aforementioned toy store. Feet stayed quite dry with the above combo, and warm enough with a pair of medium weight merino wool hiking socks. Wore my expedition weight long johns under a pairof cargo pants, the expedition weight thermal vest over a long sleeve merino wool shirt and my NorthFace Honcho jacket. MEC mitts (waterproof shells and polarfleece liners with chemical handwarmers), OR NinjaClava, Northface Hoser Hat and a cheap pair of Bolle goggles rounded out the clothing.
Unfortunately the ninjaclava and the goggles were not a good combination, the moisture I exhaled was directed into the lower vent of the goggles and they fogged up quickly. The balaclava and hoser hat work together though, I may look into some other form of face shield to keep the goggles fog-free. Luckily there wasn’t much wind and dropping the goggles didn’t make things significantly more uncomfortable. About halfway through the hike I did have to seriously start opening up my jacket to keep myself from overheating. The merino wool works well to pull moisture away from the body and I was able to regulate my body temperature pretty well. The dummy strings on my mitts were a great feature allowing me to pull off my mitts and grab the camera without having to find a pocket to stuff them in. Having the chemical warmers stuffed in the mitts meant that no matter how long my hands were outside of the mitts they were always ready and waiting to warm up my fingertips. I have rather poor circulation in my hands so this was a great help.
I need to rethink the snacks I bring on winter outings. Either I go with mostly cookable dehydrated stuff or I find foods that I don’t need to worry about trying to eat while semi-frozen. I would like to have tried out the alcohol stove this trip as I do wonder about its real cold-weather performance, I’ll make a point to do so next outing. Goals for the next snow-shoe trip will include finding some undisturbed powder and try my… foot? at breaking trail. I will most likely need the tail extensions for my Denalis for that and should look into a set of hiking poles with snow baskets so I can use them in the non-snowy months as well. At some point in the future I would like to go out snowshoeing at night as well, but that is going to require a better headlamp than I currently have.
All in all I’d say it was a successful first test of my gear and I look forward to upcoming trips. I think I’m going to seriously consider getting a parks pass by the end of the month.