Gray Day at Lake O’Hara – Nov 24/21

Gray Day at Lake O’Hara – Nov 24/21

November 24, 2021 Nordic Skiing 0

Fucking bulk food bins, you know those ones where you put your bag around the chute and lift a lever to release the goods? There’s always one goddam peanut or a broken M&M piece wedged in the works so the chute won’t fully open and nothing comes out. So you give ‘er a lil jiggle and are rewarded with like one cashew. Another jiggle, a peanut and a raisin. An almond teeters on the brink, lodged against a dried cranberry and a pumpkin seed. Then, just as you’re about to give it one more teensy tiny little jiggle, a sunflower seed shifts and the whole dam breaks. Caught off guard, you’re forced to shift from offense to defense in a split second. Pure instinct takes over as a churning tide of trail mix cascades into your bag. Slam that MF shut before you overflow!

Thus, when I arrived at the Lake O’Hara trailhead this morning, I was well-equipped food-wise. I must have had over a thousand calories worth of trail mix on board. Could have used more water I guess. None is not very much, but it’s just so heavy to carry.

Car temp said minus 3, 4 at the start so my wax strat was to plaster something purple overtop of whatever glop was left on there from last time. I felt confident in that choice but it proved to be wrong. I knew it wasn’t working right away, but stubbornly kept plodding on thinking the problem would somehow solve itself. I’ve found that this almost never works… yet I keep trying. Might be some sharper knives in the drawer.

This time I at least remembered to bring wax and cork. So I stopped at about km 2.5 and tried a touch up. The next 2.5km would feature 3 or 4 more stops for touch ups with the three different waxes I was carrying, but in the end, nothing really worked great. The V40 blue that I tried as a last resort finally got me up to the lake with minimal cussing and swearing. That was at the 5k picnic table; had it not worked, I would have turned around. Maybe.

The road has obviously been snowmobile packed recently and now AT skiers and shoesnowers have packed a nice skin track on top of that firm base. Between wonkiness of knee an early-season rustiness I was a little concerned about the descent as it would be much like sliding down a luge track. Semi-bottomless crust on either side, not wide enough for truly functional snow plowing. There are also several trees fallen across the trail including a few on the big hill just after kilometre 9 which could catch a speedy downhiller by surprise. But here I am telling you about it so I guess I made it safely.

The up trail starts with about two and a half kilometres of steady climbing before giving way to an undulating section of 2 or 3 clicks. Then, from about km 5 or so, you’re pretty much climbing steadily all the way up to the campground at about 10k. From there it levels out a little bit for the last kilometre or so as you glide into the glorious ampitheatre that is home to Lake O’Hara. The brave blue wax that had gotten me to where I was I had long since worn off but I figured I wouldn’t need any on the way down anyway. So after a suitable period of meditation and reflection at Le Relais shelter, I headed for home.

With maybe 90 minutes of reliable daylight left, I knew I had lots of time to make it out before dark. Feeling like you have to rush in difficulter conditions can be dangerous so I didn’t hang out as long as I might have on a sunnier day. I did have a fully charged headlamp with me just in case. By default, I tend to be a pretty cautious descender particularly when travelling solo, as I was today. The younger me probably would have sent it full speed ahead. The older me? Let’s just say he employs several defensive tactics when navigating the slopes and does not give much of a shit about how it looks. Survival before vanity, always a struggle for us sagittarians.

This bonus day in the woods was made possible by a nasty cold that I picked up last weekend (also got to do my first covid test – negative, thanks). Today, I was supposed to be in a conference room in a hotel in Montreal learning golf stuff. However, on Monday morning when I was scheduled to fly out, I woke up with a dripping nose, stuffy head, a complete lack of energy and basically spent the next 36 hours in very close proximity to my bed. Disappointed, as I’ve never been to Montreal, tabarnak!

Even though I’m still a little under the weather I just had to get out. I suspect I’ve overdone it a little bit today, but oh well – it’s been quite redemptive. The internet scientists say that if the symptoms stay above your neck, you’re good for some light exercise. So off I went, not a hundred percent but thankful for a day out, gray skies and dull photos notwithstanding. Overall I’d rate the conditions as “rustic early season” and I will likely not attempt this route again until January. Then, machine-set tracks typically appear, making travel up there a lot more civilized.