Sask Toe Trip Report
Friday, February 21 to Sunday, February 23
Tour Leaders: Jeff and Debby Kirtzinger
Hostel: Rampart Creek
Trip members: Our fearless, capable and helpful leaders plus Dave A, Dion B, John and Linda D, Steve and Sandy I, Jock and Janet M, Marilyn S.
All arrived safely on Friday night with thanks to very good roads. Special thanks to Jeff who rescued a wayward traveller (plus wife and two teens) who had driven into the ditch near the junction of Highway 11 and 93.
Saturday morning -20°
Our merry band of 11 happy souls made the 7.5 km to the toe of the Saskatchewan Glacier in about 3 hours. We followed the tracks of what turned out to be four skiers who had gone in the night before, skied over the glacier and who spent the night somewhere up in the back and beyond.
The first part of the trek took us across a relatively short avalanche slope but our tour leaders and other experienced club members (e.g. Steve Irwin) gave us a good lesson in how to travel safely. It was a long journey across the open plain below the glacier but was not a windy trip as it had been in past years. As we neared the glacier, we all marvelled at the amazing ice formations beneath our feet – in some cases, very flat, while in others, more raised and even cone-like. In all cases, the ice was clear and bubbly and unlike anything this home body had ever witnessed. Oh, and to ski across this ice was slicker than greased ball bearings.
Lunch at “The Toe” was a sunny respite. Jeff carved a bench from a snow drift and a handful of the crew herringboned up the glacier to effect some S turns. We left at about 1:30 and made our way over to the huge wall of exposed glacial ice. The pictures say it all:
We returned to our vehicles about 4:30 to find the temp at -13°, returned to Rampart Creek, caught our breath, and enjoyed a few beverages. Our Ukrainian Pot Luck began with Dion’s delicious caramel/Skor bar cream cheese dip and fresh fruit, then the Kirtzinger’s hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, Dave’s potato soup, and then the main course of sour cabbage rolls, perogies (minus the sour cream), kubasa and saurkraut, carrots, beet pickles, and warm beet salad. Surprisingly, we all managed to make room for the dessert: warm apple crisp topped with yogurt. Chatting and comraderie followed amongst ourselves and a variety of guests – Australian, French and South African, rock climbers and downhillers, old and young and Ken, our hostel host and little dog, Dana. Seasoned skiers shared stories of past adventures and gave much appreciated tips to the newbies. Interesting statistics were shared about kitchen applicances, bay windows, women astronauts and remembering people’s names. Dave was the only one to avail himself of the sauna and says it was great.
For those who made short jaunts during the night, the stars were amazing!
We arose to -25° but pulled on our warmest togs and our best smiles and met at the trail head of Howse Pass, the Glacier Lake parking lot, at 9:20. It was cold but not windy, a truly blue sky Alberta day. Within minutes we encountered a fairly steep hill down to the North Saskatchewan River and an even steeper one up the other side. A beautiful trail through the trees led us to the Howse River View Point – the same place that David Thompson camped with a group of fur traders in 1807. From there we made our way down to the Howse River, skied along its edge and stopped for lunch out on the ice where we could look back at the view point, soak up the sun, and laugh about a few of our falls. We voted as to whether to continue or return – and headed back. The ups and downs were challenging; some walked, some skied, and one did a bit of each: one ski on, one ski off. We returned to the parking lot at about 12:20 having enjoyed a shorter jaunt that followed our 6 hours on Saturday.
Skinny and fat skis were stowed (kudos to the fat ski crew who broke trail), hugs or handshakes were given all round, and special thanks were made to Jeff and Debby for a memorable weekend. The temperature had risen to a balmy -18°, the roads were great, and it was clear sailing back home.