21 February 2016
With Trevor & Priyesh
It’s very rare that you can go deep into Kananaskis in the middle of winter and scramble up a peak without having to worry about too much snow, but this winter was anything but normal. With mild temperatures prevailing for weeks and the avalanche risk forecast to be low, Trevor and Priyesh joined me on a beautiful weekend outing to the south peak of Mount Kidd.
Hiking up the completely iced-over Galatea Creek trail was the first crux of the day… We were all slipping and sliding so much that Priyesh and I soon donned our microspikes, which made a world of difference. Trevor wasn’t so fortunate… he had forgotten his, but being as stubborn as he is adept with his feet, he managed to hike the entire way up without them – and was even faster than us! Our plan was to hike to the end of the trail near Lower Galatea Lake and then traverse over to Guinn’s Pass, thereby avoiding deep snow we had seen in the forest below us. From the pass a route exists that follows the ridge eastward to the summit. As we reached the first lake, Lilian Lake, all was still well and we thoroughly enjoyed taking photos of the stunning landscape in front of us: a beautiful snow-covered lake illuminated by the bright, yellow sun, contrasting with the sharp and jagged cliffs of the surrounding mountains. Priyesh and Trevor were so excited, they started walking out on the lake surface…. and again it was Trevor who was unlucky: he broke through the ice, but fortunately only got one foot wet as it was still close to the shore. You simply couldn’t see how unusually thin the ice was because of all the snow!
Past Lillian Lake the relatively well-trodden trail suddently stopped and our progress slowed significantly with about two feet of snow now covering the steep path. Clearly, nobody had gone up here recently. After some 20 minutes of struggling through this mess, we unanimously decided it wasn’t worth it and we turned around…
But of course the story doesn’t end here. We had only been out for about 2.5 hours and it was simply a brilliant day – warm, sunny and blue skies all around. Far too beautiful to give up and go home. As we walked back downhill on Galatea Creek trail, about half an hour past Lillian Lake, Trevor noticed a possible way up to our left (north) to gain the “normal” south route that leads almost straight to the summit. With all the snow we had seen earlier in the morning in the forest, we had not really contemplated it before, but now we wanted to give it a go. And it worked! Initially it was easy as there wasn’t much snow in the forest and the bushwhacking was minimal. Soon, though, the going got really tough – we had to wade through patches of deep snow and progress was painfully slow – and slowly getting more painful with every step. But Trevor just thrashed ahead and Priyesh and I had the huge advantage of simply following in his footsteps. After what felt like hours of battling up snow-covered scree-slopes and patches of forest, we finally reached the open slopes of the upper half of the mountain and enjoyed our first views of the surroundings. It was simply magnificent to be out here and all the pain suddenly seemed worth it when we sat down to take a break and soak in the views. Priyesh, who had been pretty quiet thus far, now started to liven up and you could tell from the sparkle of his eyes and his huge smile that he was loving it! I was so tired and so happy to be sitting down, I even forgot to take my big camera with me when we continued – I simply left it there on a rock and didn’t notice until we were almost on the summit ridge. The last stretch was still a challenge: it got windy and cold and the terrain was very unpleasant blocky rubble and frozen scree. Priyesh seemed to have boundless energy in him and just took off… no chance for Trevor and me to keep up with this little power machine J.
Once on the summit ridge, it was only perhaps 100-200 metres to the summit but I was exhausted. It simply wasn’t a strong day for me. While Priyesh excitedly charged ahead to reach the summit first, Trevor and I slowly dragged our feet across the snow along the final ridge. I took a few quick photos with my cell phone but my hands felt so cold that I couldn’t even enjoy the views at this point. We decided not to linger and promptly turned around to get out of the wind and start the descent. The return was much, much easier as we simply retraced our footsteps in the snow. I still felt quite tired but managed to keep up with my friends and even remembered to pick up my camera on the way down. After the snow section in the forest, we rejoined Galatea Creek trail and walked back down to the parking lot in the moonlight, relieved and happy to have completed a long and exhausting winter scramble.
DISCLAIMER: Use at your own risk for general guidance only! Do not follow this GPX track blindly but use your own judgement in assessing terrain and choosing the safest route.
IN MEMORIAM: Priyesh Menon
My dear friend and hiking partner Priyesh passed away in a tragic accident on Mount Lawson in Kananaskis on May 23rd, 2016. He was only 30 years old. He touched on countless lives with his most generous and loving spirit that will be remembered by many, many people in Canada, India and around the world. Like many other hikers and scramblers from Calgary, I feel hugely honoured to have met him and to have had the chance to hike with him. To preserve some of the beautiful moments we shared, I have decided to keep the reports of my trips with him on my site (after consultation with his family). We would like people to remember him for who he was: the most joyful, uplifting, kind, and selfless boy who never stopped smiling. As many of his fellow-hikers recounted, he had the unique ability to bring people together and bring positivity into their lives. There was genuine happiness wherever he was. A true ray of sunshine in our world! Thank you, Priyesh, for enriching our lives. You will be dearly missed.