I’ve often said that October is my least favourite month of the year. In October there’s typically not enough snow for skiing. The ski resorts don’t open until November and it’s usually too early for ice climbing. But most days are too chilly for rock climbing. I don’t like searching for holds I can use with numb fingers. I’m also not fond of shivering in a puffy jacket while I’m belaying.
This year, October delivered. A huge dump of snow in early October that melted out pretty quick in the city, but stuck around in the mountains. It was a great opportunity to pull out the backcountry skis and look for a place to make a few turns. We headed out to nearby Kananaskis Country in search of early season snow.
After checking our Avi gear (my transceiver needed new batteries), we put the skins on our skis and headed up the trail, right out of the parking lot. We weren’t the first. There were tracks already set in the snow. We followed the tracks into the woods, up a valley, for 3 or 4 kilometres until the tracks turned back. Looking around, we noticed a beautiful, snow covered slope that started above tree line and ended in a meadow of willow bushes. After determining that there was acceptable avi risk, we zig-zagged up the slope. There was ample snow coverage and the turns, while challenging in the heavy snow, felt like a special treat.
Kananaskis Country provided its typically diverse weather. We were treated to cloudy skies with snow, clearing to bright sunshine and then back to clouds and sleet. There’s something special about skinning through a forest, quiet under a bed of snow, with flakes gently falling through the branches. I stopped for a moment and held my breath, listening to the silence.
The next week, I was indoor climbing with a new friend. She was making plans to do a multi pitch climb on a sunny rock face the following day. She sent me a photo afterwards, taken part way up the climb in beautiful sunshine, climbers in t-shirts. I have to admit, I was jealous it wasn’t me out there on the rock. It looked glorious.
Maybe I got October all wrong. Maybe it’s not a month of indoor activities only, waiting for winter to arrive. Maybe October is teaching me to flexible – take out the skis but don’t put away the climbing shoes yet!