Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thursday 3 February 2011 – The Icing Sugar Run, aka The Burma Road, aka Trail Number 3

The view from Champlain Lookout - 3/2/11

Ok, so this isn’t trail 3.  It’s the view from Champlain Lookout, reached via….the Fortune Parkway, in lovely condition today – with beautiful sunshine and around –14C.

Sue asvends the freshly groomed slopes of Fortune Parkway

Sue was enjoying being on her skis again, but as she headed on up the Parkway, taking the easy route to Huron Cabin, I took the trail up to the right, the Burma Road.  It had been groomed, sort of, in a rather bizarre manner that left humps and dips and grooves to trap the unwary.  Here’s a section where the grooming was fine.  The snow was the consistency of icing sugar – lovely to ski on, and easy to overcome the imperfections of the grooming that in days to come could evolve into dangerous icy bumps.

Trail 3 - just like icing sugar

It was stonkingly sunny, and just warm enough to be comfortable without overheating, so long as a modest speed was maintained.

Sue spotted this Pileated Woodpecker – quite a large bird, about 18” long, manufacturing one of its trademark oblong holes.

Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus)

It took me an hour and a quarter to reach Huron Cabin, where Sue was waiting and all the other visitors were taking it in turn to apply their own individual technique on resuscitating the failing fire.  My method of closing the doors of the wood burning stove once it was full of well lit wood was rejected out of hand, despite my plea that I was sure that the stove was designed to operate with its doors shut!

But who was I, a mere foreign tourist, to argue with these ardent French Canadians?  Anyway, the stove did eventually get going sufficient to toast our ham and cheese sandwiches; delicious they were too.

Outside Huron Cabin

The feeder at Huron was busy as usual – Common Redpolls were out in force.

Common Redpolls (Carduelis flammea) on the feeder at Huron

A Hairy Woodpecker (about 9” long) was tucking in to the seeds.

Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) on the feeder at Huron

As was a White-breasted Nuthatch.

White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) at Huron Cabin

After lunch I headed along Ridge Road to Trail 2, at the junction with the turn to Western Cabin.  A short way down trail 2, there’s a junction with trail 33 that links with trail 40.  That had to be left for another day, I didn’t want to keep Sue waiting.  She was going around Ridge Road to the Champlain Lookout, then back to P10 via the Parkways.

So I turned around at the trail 33 junction and headed back to P10 car park via trail 1B, in lovely condition, and the Lookouts and Parkways.

On the way, I passed Lac Fortune, glittering in the sunshine.

Lac Fortune on 3/2/11
Waxwings beside Fortune Parkway

In the trees by the lake, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings was gorging itself on the berries.  I was too far away to get a better close up image than Monday’s, but there are plenty of birds in the above picture!

A sting in the tail came on the final descent, where the inside track of the freshly groomed trail had collapsed in several places, perhaps due to the antics of novice skiers, perhaps due to the passage of a large animal, or perhaps both.  Anyway, on return to base a call to Paul, who would be leading a group along that trail in the dark later, was considered wise.

18km for the day, with 420 metres ascent, in three and a quarter hours, brought me back to the P10 car park rendezvous with Sue, who turned up a few minutes later, having paused for some arty photos (you’ll have to wait for the trip slide-show for them!).

I’m now up to 200km on the skis this year; my heels are suffering less having reverted back to my old worn out shoes, and a glance at the skis indicates they may be nearing the end of their days…

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wednesday 2 February 2011 - Snow

We stayed in for most of today.  It snowed.

The view from our house…
 Winter in Ottawa

…drew Sue out for a walk….

Sue sets off for a walk

By the Ottawa River

On the Ottawa River

Riverside trees

…whilst I cleared a ton or so of snow from the deck (the photos are simply too boring to include here!).

But mostly we ate and drank and did all those things one enjoys on a beach holiday when not actually on the beach.

PS Ken went to work, of course!

Tuesday 1 February 2011 – O’Brien to Herridge Cabin and back

Trail 36 near Lac Meech

Unfortunately, a grey day.  I dropped Sue and Helen off at the Spa in Chelsea and headed to P11, O’Brien, car park for the first time this trip.

The trail started as it meant to continue for the next 6km, by way of a steepish section.  The Gatineau Groomers had obviously heard that the Brits were coming, so they prepared this trail for a British athlete.

Unfortunately Amy Williams is not in our party, so the groomers’ efforts to create a luge course, aka trail number 36, for her were in vain.

It wasn’t actually too bad – I removed my skis to avoid some rocks on the second part of the second hill down to the reed beds by Lac Meech that are shown above.  Apart from that, the 10km journey to Herridge Cabin, the last few km being on a slightly wider and smoother trail (Pine Road – trail 50), was achieved without incident.  Just satisfyingly challenging in these slightly icy conditions for my very average standard of skiing.

Small red squirrels, ubiquitous in this area, were chomping at the seeds below the feeder outside the cabin, with Nuthatches, Hairy Woodpeckers and Chickadees also in attendance.

Red squirrel outside Herridge cabin

Larger black squirrels are also in evidence, especially in Ottawa, where they are the equivalent of the grey squirrels in the UK.

I’d planned to stop for lunch at nearby Healey Cabin, but the only two people I met on Pine Road told me they had lit the fire at Herridge, so I went there.  Lunch was in the company of two ladies on a through ski from Wakefield (P17) to Vallée Meech (P16), one of whom kindly took this picture.

Outside Herridge Cabin

Returning by the same route (an hour and a half each way) I tried to capture its ambience ‘on film’, but the dull conditions weren’t very amenable to that.  The undulations were hard enough to spot in the flat light, let alone possible to record by someone as amateur with their camera as me.

Here’s a typical section of the trail.

Trail 36 - undulating and fairly narrow

And here’s one of the several ‘luges’.  This is actually facing down a fairly steep hill, with the skiing surface a shallow ‘u’ shape.  Speed control is helpful in order to stay upright and get round the corners.  Great fun, and satisfying when successful – if you fall you generally just get covered in snow and tangled with your skis, which are just attached by the toe and don’t release like downhill skis.

Trail 36 - a luge section

After meeting and chatting to the only other person doing this route today – he’d sidestepped over the rocks where I’d taken off my skis – I found myself back at Lac Meech, and on a short cut across a bay.  This summer residence and boathouse view would be from a canoe in the summer months.

A summer residence and boathouse at Lac Meech

There was flowing water, though, and it’s bridges like the one from which this shot was taken that require careful negotiation, as an error could result in a cold dunking rather than just a snowman impersonation….

Lac Meech - outflow

I finished in a flurry of skis and snow, just missing a telegraph pole at the end of the final luge back to the car park, and crashing into a snow bank instead.  Luckily there was nobody around to mock my failure to stay upright.

The 20km ski with 460 metres ascent took just over three and a half hours including my lunch break.  That’s quite long enough to be out on a day like this, and whilst it was an immensely enjoyable little outing, I was glad to be picking up Sue and Helen and returning to Woodroffe Towers by mid-afternoon.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Monday 31 January 2011 – A Bimble from Gamelin, and a Bohemian Surprise

Whilst Ken and Helen went to work….

….Sue absconded from the “whilst” category of activities to join an “actual” activity!

It was cold again – almost down to minus 20C, plus some wind chill, so a fairly brief excursion was in order.  The sun was shining though.  For a change.  It hasn’t shone as much as usual on this trip, but at least it’s not as drab here as in Timperley.  That’s due to Ottawa being much further south, on the same latitude as Madrid I believe, and the snow obviously brightens things up, even on dull days.

Today was anything but dull, and Sue’s neck problem was kind enough to allow her an hour or so on her sadly under-used planks.

Sue heads up Gatineau Parkway on 31/1/11

We chose the eastern edge of the Park, P3, Gamelin, as our starting point, and headed over the motorway, up Gatineau Parkway, steadily rising above the nearby city tower blocks.  After a couple of kilometres, sliding gently up the hill, trying to keep the fingers warm, Sue spotted some little birds.  They were feasting on small black berries.  A flock of about a hundred.  Her G9 camera is better than my G10 for telephoto shots, but we didn’t have it with us, so you’ll have to make do with the best my frozen fingers could manage:

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)

They are Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus), about 8” in stature, distinguished from their smaller cousins, Cedar Waxwings, by their rusty undertail coverts.  These birds are apparently rare winter visitors to the Park, so it was a treat to see a significant flock so close to the city centre.

We left the Parkway to try trail 26, which neither of us had been along before.  Quite brave of Sue.  It was easy enough, as expected, but herring-boning up a short hill was something of a test for her neck.  Joining trail 5 to head back to the Parkway introduced a gentle hill, which Sue managed fine, if extremely sedately in comparison with her former style on such gradients.  It used always to be me at the back.

Sue enjoys a gentle descent on trail 5, Gatineau Park

Then it was across the motorway, with views towards the city centre, from where an icy wind drew us quickly back to P3 and the warmth of the car after this 7km outing that took little more than an hour.

Returning to P3 car park on 31/1/11

It’s a neat little circuit, actually.  Certainly more than suitable for an office worker with a decent lunch break…

We were in plenty of time to enjoy our own lunch at a local bakery, before returning home, with plenty of time to ‘chill’ before picking Helen up from work.  (We use her car – it seems a fair deal – her car parking arrangement at the hospital is less than convenient at this time of year.)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Sunday 30 January 2011 – P10, Fortune Parkway, to the Fire Tower and back

Ken and Michael on Ridge Road 
Yesterday, whilst Sue and I were strolling around, and Helen was chilling out at home, Ken skied from P3 (Gamelin) to the Fire Tower and back.  This is a 64km day on the Parkways and Ridge Road – quite energetic…

So today, Ken (fitness guru) was happy to ski the shorter 37km distance to the Fire Tower and back from P10.  Last night we entertained Michael and Sayuri for dinner (in exchange for chocolate cake and a Galapagos ‘slide show’) and Michael was seconded to join us for today’s ski.  The CSM (Canadian Ski Marathon) is in two weeks’ time and both Ken and Michael are training for that.  One of them is taking it more seriously than the other!  Sue and I aren’t doing it this year.

Ken chose skate skis as today’s handicap.  It’s a new activity for him.  Skate skiing is to Classic skiing as Jogging is to Rambling.  It’s a lot more energetic.  Anyway, we set off together at 9.15 on a cool (-17C) morning, but as you can see from the above photo, Ken and Michael were much faster than me.  They waited patiently from time to time.  I slithered along rather sedately, in heel preservation mode, having spent ages applying a system of bandages that should protect the delicate tissue.  Both heels were sore, but got no(t much) worse.

We left the Parkway at Gossip’s Corner, only 20 minutes or so into the ski, and headed along trail 1, Ridge Road, past Shilly Shally, up the Khyber Pass, past Huron, Western and McKinstry cabins, all the way to the Fire Tower, from where further progress is disapproved of by the authorities, who want to preserve the wilderness area for redevelopment of a more lucrative nature than the secretive passage of transient backwoodsmen.

This self-timed image taken at the Fire Tower, at the western end of Gatineau Park, presented a challenge to my very limited skiing skills…

Ridge Road ends here at the Fire Tower (for mortals, anyway)

Shortly afterwards crossed skis on a simple descent caused my reversion to a simulated pile of snow blown rubble.  Luckily, McKinstry Cabin is less than 3km from the Fire Tower. Only ‘Hard Men’ like Ken’s mate Lester, a loonie who ate his butties at the Fire Tower (-15C) then complained about being cold, ski past this cabin, which seems to be fitted with an excessively powerful wood burning stove.

Ken rested whilst Michael cooked his skis and I nursed a bruised buttock and enjoyed a toasted sandwich.

McKinstry Cabin on a hot Sunday lunchtime

McKinstry Cabin - minus 15C outside

Reinvigorated from our forty minute break (nap, in Ken’s case) we set off back down Ridge Road, serenaded by cawing crows and covering the 15km to P10 in an hour and three quarters, with Ken setting the pace on his skate skis and breaking his previous record for his distance covered in one day with those skis, which require a much different technique compared to the classic cross-country variety deployed my Michael and me.

Here’s Ken, skating merrily along…

Ken demonstrates his skate-skiing technique

…with Michael, still wearing Father Christmas’s hat, keeping up the rear in his inimitable classic style.

Michael demonstrates his classic skiing technique

37km with 800 metres ascent in 5¼ hours – a jolly little outing in mainly sunny weather – from which we were back at the car by 2.30pm, and enjoying a pot of tea at home by soon after 3pm, ready to resume our ‘Beach Holiday’ comprising eating, drinking, socialising, etc – all of which cause a regular delay in these postings, which cannot be described as my ‘day job’.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Saturday 29 January 2011 – The Lauriault Trail, and some New Gear

Sue setting off on the Lauriault Trail

Apart from the ski trails in Gatineau Park, there are several winter walking and snowshoeing trails.

Today we chose to explore the Lauriault Trail, 4.5km of compacted snow in a walking circuit from P6 car park at McKenzie-King.

The footpath sets off next to ski trail 7, with which I’ve become familiar, and soon reaches some dovecotes and some ruins.  The McKenzie-King clan, or whoever lived here (not all that long ago) must have enjoyed the view from their huge bay window.

Ruins at Moorside

More photos of the ruins will appear in a slide show in due course.  [Time, as always, is the enemy – it’s now a sunny, if –20C, Monday morning and we want to go and play in the snow!]

Light snow was falling, creating pleasing patterns on the fir trees.

A snow laden tree

We strolled down a dogleg to some waterfalls (icefalls today), where snowshoes vied with small children in a sledge for space on the trail.

Then it was on to a viewpoint where some kindly French Canadians obliged with the camera.

At the viewpoint on the Lauriault Trail

Later, the sun came out.  Today the Ottawa River marked the division between a clear blue sky – above us here, north of the river – and a huge bank of cloud that lay all day above the city.

2928sue

The building below, Moorside, seems to have replaced the ruined mansion we passed earlier.  Coming full circle in the summer would bring you out at some lovely gardens with cooing doves, overlooked by Moorside’s elegant tea rooms.  Sadly, the building is currently boarded up for winter, so today’s tea was taken on return to Woodroffe Towers.

Moorside

‘Woodroffe Towers’ are situated near the gear shops of Westboro, of which Mountain Equipment Co-op is one of the best.  An afternoon stroll down to Richmond Road, yielded a surprise.  Some shoes that actually seemed to fit Sue’s feet.  This is very rare, and she hates the hassle of replacing old shoes, but her existing trail shoes are falling apart, so hopefully these Garmont Momentums will be a worthy replacement.  She just has to wear them around the house for the next week to see whether they ‘work’.

Garmont Momentum trail shoes

I took the chance to replace my old emergency torch, left under a pillow in the Maritime Alps 18 months ago.  The Black Diamond Ion is very light (26gm) and will join me for summer backpacking when all that is needed is a bit of light to cook by, to search for things in a dark tent, or to carry out minor cave explorations.  It’s not much cop for night navigation, though – I generally use a Petzl Tikka Plus for that purpose.

Black Diamond Ion

Footnote:  This new torch was shoved into a drawer holding my Petzl Tikka Plus (used here for night skiing).  A few hours later a bright light was seen shining from the drawer.  The Petzl had revolted.  It had decided to blind the new Ion in oblivion.  The only way of dimming the Petzl was by removing its power source.  The switch had broken.  You can’t get at it, so I’ll maybe be using the Ion for the next night ski, and the Petzl will have to be replaced!