Egypt Lake

My girlfriend Dana and I had been toying with the idea of winter camping for a while. She went with her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, but it never quite materialized for the two of us. When she suggested a trip to the backcountry hut at Egypt Lake for Easter I was in. Dana is an organizing goddess. She sorted backcountry passes, and various logistics for nine people over the March long weekend.

I had met most of the people before (not all), but Dana was the only person  I knew well. When the hike started with the questions “Would you rather not be able to tell babies from muffins or change gender every time you sneeze?” I knew we would be in for a fun weekend. Having six lawyers or almost lawyers also turned the question into a heated debate about whether the question was about changing body parts (sex) or gender while retaining your existing body parts. Further, which of those would you rather.

We started off on a not too difficult trail at the Sunshine parking lot and I cursed myself for packing my heavy snowshoes, when all I needed were my microspikes. As we got closer and closer to the pass, and started sinking in past our knees, I was glad to take my MSR Lightning Ascents off my pack and swap out my Kahtoola Microspikes.

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We were misled by some snowboarding tracks, but realized they were headed in the wrong direction and corrected. Our estimated time of 4 hours for our 12.4km hike took us close to 6, and we had completed close to 14km.

A few of us had sad, dehydrated food. The rest of the group had carried in EVERYTHING. Their food was fresh and delicious. I scavenged for leftovers. That being said, I hadn’t been tired when we got to the hut, and wouldn’t be willing to carry a 40+lb bag in for the benefit of fresh food.

I got to test of my brand new Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (thanks Dad!). It was thicker and more comfortable than everyone else’s sleeping pads, and a massive step up from my old Therm-a-Rest Z-Lite. I can’t attest to the warmth ratio as we were sleeping in a hut with bunks and a wood stove.

We had two unexpected guests – the snowboarders who had started to lead us astray. We suggested they stay the night and dry out their wet clothing by the stove. They were friendly enough, but not the most courteous of guests. They took the front two rows of clotheslines by the fire, and spread out the rest of their gear over one table in the hut… the nine of us made do with the second table. While we certainly weren’t going to turn them out in the dark in the back country… a little awareness of your surroundings goes a long way in a small space.

Day 2 started with a hike to Egpyt Lake for 8 of us, and an attempt to hike to Talc Lake. Two of the boys who hadn’t brought snowshoes turned around fairly early, as they were sinking deeply into the snow. We weren’t able to reach Talc Lake due to the avalanche risk of a slope. 4 of us turned back their. Dana and her roommate decided to go the extra kilometre or so to Red Earth Pass.

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When we got back to the hut we were in for a surprise. Those who had turned back early had built a mock “Helm’s Deep” (an ongoing joke was that the nine of us were the Fellowship of the Ring… I was Sam). This was the most incredible snow fort I had ever seen. One of the couples had brought up easter eggs and arranged a hunt in and around the fort. In a cross over of genres we were told “May the Odds be Ever in Your Favour” and set loose – screaming and running around.

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THIS FORT HAD A MOAT!!!!

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The final night was again filled with scavenged food, communal dish clean up, an intense 90s sing along, and a lot of laughter. None of us wanted to go home in the morning… especially since the first 3km or so were uphill to the pass.

We left through the correct route, early in the morning. The snow hadn’t started to melt yet and was crunchier for those without snowshoes. We hit Healy Pass and there was general wonder at how quickly we had arrived.

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The total time out was around 3 hours and 40 minutes, I believe. I’d be happy to take any of these people into the backcountry with me again.

With the pristine snow everywhere the hike was just so untouched. I couldn’t believe that we had arrived there just by walking. One foot in front of the other, that’s it, for a couple of hours and suddenly you have this incredible beauty surrounding you.

Gear List

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm
Marmot Cloudbreak 20
Primus Litech Trek Kettle Pot
Primus Classic Trail LPG
Sea-To-Summit Long Handled Spork
GSI Mug
Black Diamond Headlamp
Black Diamond Trekking Poles
Source 3L Wide Mouth Hydration Pack
Bear Grylls Scout Knife
Sea-To-Summit Kitchen Sink
Kahtoola Microspikes
MSR Lighting Ascent Snowshoes
North Face Banchee 65
MEC AirHike 22

Clothing
Columbia Omni Heat Leggings
North Face Paramount 2.0 Convertible Pants (Did not wear)
Merino Wool Long Sleeve Shirt (Costco)
Arcteryx Maeven Fleece
North Face Thermoball Vest
Salomon Halo Down Jacket
North Face Venture Rain Jacket (Did not wear)
Darn Tough Socks
Outdoor Research Buff
North Face Gloves
Nike Toque
Merino Wool Long Sleeve Shirt (Costco) – sleep
Paradox Merino Blend Leggings (Costco) – sleep
Merino Wool Blend Socks (Costco) – sleep

There were more items in my pack (i.e. compass, toilet paper, etc.) but the above listed is the brands that you may have questions about.

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Prairie Mountain

November 14, 2015
6km, 685m elevation gain

I’ve spent a lot of time overlooking what Bragg Creek has to offer. It doesn’t scream “Mountains!” at me. The beauty of Bragg Creek is how close it is to Calgary. I had a new roommate moving in on the weekend and couldn’t commit to leaving the city at 7:00am to make it to Banff in time to hike a drive back before it got dark.

Prairie Mountain gave me the opportunity to leave Calgary at 11:30am and still enjoy a hike outside.

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I had a bit of trepidation. Trailpeak puts the trail at 5 hours and a difficult level. Read the comments! It must have been a typo. It took us about two and half hours return (6km round trip).

This was a busy trail, so not the best for solitude, but enjoyable if you don’t mind having little chats with people on the way up. We went when the snow had just started.

I got to try out my Kahtoola Microspikes for the first time and was incredibly pleased. What made them even better was the schaudenfreude I felt watching my hiking partner, Brian, holding on to trees in an attempt to pull himself up on steep portions of the hill. Brian is incredibly fit and ALWAYS significantly faster than me. Most photos I take of him feature his backpack as a small orange dot in the distance. I was beating him up sections! He has reminded me that he still beat me to the summit (barely), but the last half km or so is a very gradual slope where he had a chance to regain lost ground. I wouldn’t have realized how good the microspikes were on the slippery snow without having him floundering beside me as a comparison.

The hike started in the forest. I was a bit underwhelmed. It was a foggy day and I was pretty sure we weren’t going to get much of a view. Once we got above the treeline the fog cleared and we had incredible views of Kananaskis Country.

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The microspikes were useful on the way down too. Brian had to slide down steep sections sitting on his bum.

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I was wearing the following:

Darn Tough Socks
Salomon GTX Boots
Kahtoola Microspikes
Paradox Merino Blend Leggings (from Costco)
Arcteryx Thaleia Hoody
North Face Thermoball Vest
MEC Air Hike LR 22
Outdoor Research Buff type thing
North Face Gloves
MEC Gaiters

On the way down I also added my Salomon Halo II down jacket to keep me warm when I wasn’t exerting myself as much. I also had a North Face Venture Jacket packed to act as a windbreaker if necessary.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a Canadian Flag at the summit. It was a fairly windless day and I took about 50 photos of it in an attempt to get a good shot of the flag fully unfurled. We had another hiker take this photo for us:prairie4

Overall I was happy with this excursion as a quick way to get some exercise in without getting too far out of the city. We are planning to hike it again in January or February as a sunrise hike. Can you recommend any other must-do sunrise hikes in the Canadian Rockies?