Heading out to the mountains in the winter means you may be out there in all kinds of weather, with variable snow conditions (and road conditions!) complicating your outing. I’ve personally experienced days ranging from calm to extremely windy; temperatures from -20 Celsius to crazy Chinook days where it feels almost like summer; clear skies to cloudy skies with snow, sleet and even rain (yes, I’ve snowshoed in the rain, it was weird). I’ve snowshoed on hard-packed, icy trails, slushy trails, and deep, fluffy, powder areas that made me wonder if there was even a trail somewhere under there.
But once in a while, you get the kind of day that is so perfect for snowshoeing, you can’t believe you’re lucky enough to be out in the mountains to enjoy it. We got such a day in December, on a snowshoe up the Lower Chester trails to the Mount Murray viewpoint.
The sky was a brilliant blue, with the occasional cloud brushing the tops of the nearby peaks, playing with the light on the mountains. It made for brilliant whites where the sun shone on the snow, and intense blues in the shaded areas. There was little wind. It was cold but not freezing. There had been several inches of fresh snow in recent days, so we had to do some trail-breaking, but there was packed trail underneath the fluffy new powder, so it wasn’t too onerous. Snow-laden trees stood like sentinels along the trail.
It’s a steady climb up to the viewpoint, where we had lunch in an open, sunny spot. Along the way we had views of Mount Chester, Mount Murray, Commonwealth Peak, Mount Burstall and others. We also encountered a young man on his own, who asked where the lake was – clearly he was on the wrong trail (Lower Chester doesn’t go up to Chester Lake) – which highlights the importance of good maps, attention to trail signage, and travelling in a group in the backcountry.
After such a wonderful day, it was hard to let it end, to get in our vehicles and go home.