Canadian Road and Ice Climbing Trip Part 5
Christmas Eve, Canada, Calgary, Canmore… and here comes Kananaskis Country to ruin the first letter pattern. Never mind, let me take you through it…
Our Christmas Eve started in Lethbridge, a city just over an hour north of the United States border. Arriving late the previous evening from Bozeman in Montana I didn’t see a lot other than traffic lights, the inside of a hotel room and ice hockey on television. I have no doubt the surrounding countryside is fantastic for adventures, though our next destination called.
On the day’s list: buy groceries and arrive in Canmore. I opted for going via Pincher Creek which would take us along Hwy 22 instead of Hwy 2. However, after a weather check and the proposition of getting lost finding a frozen waterfall without a map, we took Hwy 2 to Calgary, instead.
Calgary, the capital of Alberta, is about the same size as Adelaide (over one million people). We stopped at a service station near a shopping mall and from the safety of the petrol bowser it was obvious Santa fever was reaching insanity levels; traffic and people and shopping bags everywhere.
Back in the car I realised our wagon had practically been a bubble for the past five days, the sudden contradiction of city noise and movement and consumption and cement giving me an incentive to avoid the Christmas crazies.
Rather than fight the mall masses we drove toward Canmore and stopped at a quieter supermarket complex. From there the drive was familiar as we’d been there in February with friends. I kept an eye out for the giant Olympic ramp where people like to wear lycra and fly at high speed in skis.
The town of Canmore was but a whisker away, about an hour in fact. It made our six hour drives for weekend sojourns in California appear as silly as they are.
With time on our side Dikko suggested driving via a loop through Kananaskis Country. He wanted to see ice climbs from the road and check out a spot called Kings Creek. Turning off Hwy 1 onto Hwy 40 (Kananaskis Trail) we headed into the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. A winter road closure appeared at the intersection to the Smith Dorrien Trail (a road looping back to Canmore).
This was also the area we’d park for Kings Creek. Leaving the toasty tummy of our Subaru I rugged up for a Christmas card photo for friends and family. A short way along the closed trail we found a perfect pine at decorating height. The little branches were temporarily donned with cordalette, biners, slings and belay devices, ta-dah Christmas tree! In luck, another couple strolled in and we escaped a pine tree selfie.
Walking in further I realised my footwear wasn’t appropriate and I headed back to the car while Dikko explored up the creek (mostly frozen and mostly covered in snow). I read in the car and wrapped my down jacket around my feet while piling on other layers to stay warm. The strolling couple returned and ten minutes later Dikko trotted out with a light sweat. He’d gone to the climbing area, done some ice bouldering and returned as the sun set.
We drove the Smith Dorrien Trail slowly, a good idea as a number of moose crossed the unpaved, snow covered, dark, winding, mountainous road on our way. Just as we thought we were crazy a vehicle would pass the other way and we’d feel sane again.
Around 8pm we checked in and unpacked our gear at the Canadian Alpine Club/Hostels International accommodation booked for the next twelve days. It was a welcome change to sleep in the same spot compared to a new bed each night driving to Canmore from LA, however I was now in a room with Dikko and four strangers, three of whom Santa decided to give the gift of talented snoring.
Who knew what Santa would bring tomorrow?