With the Australian rellies visiting for the holiday season, we dropped into Tour Guide mode.
|Visiting the Banff Instagram mecca|
|Walking on a frozen Lake Minnewanka|
|Out for a snowy stroll around Canmore, with Mt. Rundle in the background|
|Jack and Emily at Sunshine Village|
|The oldies show off their snowshoeing prowess|
|Jack and Emily will be snuggled in here for the ride|
|Sled dogs getting ready for a workout|
|Our soon-to-be Nephew. Can you guess what his name is?|
There was snow shoeing, dog sledding, downhill skiing ... but we also allowed ourselves a unique adventure. We decided to see the first sunrise of 2023 from the top of Sulphur Mountain.
Doing a sunrise hike means you are leaving the house at the coldest part of the day. January is the coldest month of the year, too. Pleasantly, sunrise doesn't happen that early on January 1st.
Kate, Wendy and I were at the trailhead at the Sulphur Mountain gondola station at 6:15 am. With an 8:39 am forecast sunrise, we needed to get a move on. The hike up Sulphur Mountain is a steady but noticeable climb. It was still dark, so headlamps were a must, as was hiking poles and bear spray. After all, who knows what might be roaming, pre-dawn, when all the other tasty tourists were still tucked into their beds?
We trudged up the switchbacks, through the dark, headlamps cutting a path, ... when we heard voices ahead.
"Who could be up here ahead of us?" A group of friends had driven out from Calgary (at 4 am!) with the same goal. They weren't as experienced hikers as we were, but they had youth on their side. We made our way past them and continued on for the two hours more of climbing.
We carefully monitored our progress and noted when we passed the 4 kilometre and 800 metre vertical mark. What was more subtle was the onset of dawn. Our headlamps became less and less necessary for footing on the trail. The forested hillside became less like a wall of spruce as more details emerged from the trees. The whir of the gondola cables as they started moving signalled the arrival of staff at the base and heightened our hopes of a warm drink at the top. Up we continued.
When we reached the top gondola station, we found that the trees had been doing a superb job of protecting us from the wind. The peak of Sulphur Mountain was devoid of this protection and the fact that we were no longer climbing and generating huge amounts heat was becoming obvious. We started to get cold. Wisely, we had packed extra clothing, including windbreakers, for just this circumstance.
Wendy congratulated herself at making it all the way up, in spite of the cold ... the snowy, slippery, unfamiliar footing ... the extra 1,500 metres of altitude. She was a bit crestfallen when we rounded the upper gondola station and saw that we still had 600 metres to go to the weather station. Kate and I were able to convince her that the almost-unencumbered view we would be treated to up there would be worth it.
And it was.
|Cold but happy|
|First rays of the year on Cascade Mountain!|
A crisp, clear day was about to break and we watched with awe as the first rays struck Cascade Mountain across the valley, as well as all the other peaks that surrounded us. Hooray!
Hot chocolate awaited us at the upper gondola terminal, as well as a free ride down for locals ... and those pretending to be locals. It was a glorious way to start our new year.