Saturday, December 29, 2012

Beginning Backwards

I put notice out that I wanted a big objective for today and was happy that three others were gung ho to go!  I didn't want an up and down or an in and out, I wanted a full-fledged loop.  This loop was to be completed in whatever mode was necessary taking into consideration the number of daylight hours and the physical well-being of our bodies!!!! Yes, that sentence needs to end with a quad of exclamations. 

The Chosen Loop Done Backwards
Begin at Cave & Basin
Follow along Bow River
Ascend Cosmic Ray Road
Summit Sulphur Mountain
Descent Sulphur Mountain
Follow Mountain Avenue
Return to Cave & Basin

Just before 9:00am we left the Cave & Basin area and began hiking along the Bow River.  The forecast showed there would be a two hour window of opportunity for sun from 9 to 11 before snow was to start.  I made sure to get photos now just in case there were no views later.  We were admiring the beauty and enjoying the peacefulness when out of the blue we found ourselves caught in between a pack of coyotes that began to howl.  They jockeyed for position all the while howling.  It was loud and frightening.  We gathered closer together and maneuvered in a manner as to remove ourselves from being caught in the middle.  Once out of that predicament, we carried on.  Note to self: I know what to do with a bear encounter and cougar encounter but need to find out how to behave when confronted with a coyote pack.  
Small portions of the Bow River were ice and snow free, just enough to allow for a golden reflection.
We reached the three way junction and now it was time to snowshoe our way to the top of Sulphur Mountain via the Cosmic Ray Road which is the old access road to the historic meteorological station on Sanson Peak.  We had approximately 880 meters of elevation to cover.  It was slow going, it was relentless, it was tiring but it was oh so beautiful and absolutely worth all the tough work.

The long but not winding road.

Thank you to Purple Passion for mentally digging deep during your trail breaking turns.
Thank you to Agent-X for finding strength to break trail when your strength was almost depleted.
Thank you to G-Force for putting your South America training plan to use by breaking lots of trail. 
I fit my turns of breaking trail in between the turns of my friends.  This trail went on and on and on. When we came to a switchback, a feeling of discouragement set in when we saw in front of us how long the trail still was and that it still went on and on and on.  Yet, I was still able to smile and it was not forced.  How could one not smile at the beauty surrounding us!  As it was turning out, the snow due to fall never did happen, our window of opportunity for sun and blue sky lasted for the duration of our adventure. 
There were many, many opportunities to stop and breathe.  
The valley view behind us!
Mother Nature's design!
(click on photo for better view of snow crystals)
A perfect angel!
Today's snow was the most beautiful I have ever seen.  The amount of surface hoar and the size of the crystals were out of this world.  I would love to have had more time and energy to take photos of it.  I was scared if I knelt down for macro shots that I would not be able to get back up.  I would also loved to have had a magnifying glass to closely examine individual crystals.   I began realizing how thankful I was that we were able to safely be here today.  As snow falls and weeks pass, I believe portions of this trail could become unsafe.

Summit in view peeking out of the trees in the middle of the photo.  
It was time to rejoice!
We finally reached the top after four and a half hours, which was much longer then we expected it to take.  It was very busy with tourists but I was able to find a spot to own for a couple of minutes, just long enough to get my summit shot.  The historic meteorological station is at the tip of my shoulder.
We went inside the gondola terminal to have our sit down lunch.  We already knew and agreed due to time and lack of energy, we would have to take the gondola down Sulphur Mountain instead of snowshoe down.  Once at bottom, we geared up again and hit Mountain Avenue for the roughly 5-6 kilometer hike down to town and back to the Cave & Basin.  
As we were driving back to the city, sitting down in the warm vehicle, I had to exclaim how I loved today!  I truly did!  The scenery was so gorgeous, finding the way to dig for extra strength allowing us to complete this loop felt rewarding.  It was tougher then I expect, more beautiful then I expected, all the ingredients needed to make me feel like I was "on top of the world"!


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