Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Friday 6 February 2015 - A Trip to Lake Placid

It was minus 20 with flurries this morning in Ottawa. Skiing would be cold.

Snow Crystals glinting in the sunshine brightened our day as Sue, Helen and I drove towards the St Lawrence River at Cornwall. Two big bridges to convey us to the USA, plus a magnificent old structure that is being dismantled. 

Three month visas were granted with a rare gesture of pleasantness from the staff on the border.

New York State - deserted farm buildings amongst farmland and forestry. Snow flurries with spindrift.
Through Malone we went, and into the Adirondack area with its lakes, forests and mountains.  The forests are laden with snow and a haze of blizzardy spindrift, with little sign of the lakes and none of the mountains. 

Past washboard houses in pale shades of grey and green and blue. 

Past an ice castle at Saranac Lake, then at last a pause - at Dunkin Donuts for lunch.

On then to our home for the night in the small town of Lake Placid, over which tower a couple of massive ski jumps that were used in the 1980 Winter Olympics. 

After a brief and slightly alarming interlude involving a local bank, we drove up to the Cascades ski centre. A compact area where a series of narrow trails led us to a clearing.

Susan and Roy were there,  having driven up from Glastonbury (Connecticut) this morning. Well, Susan only really passed briefly through her home, having commenced her journey in Tasmania yesterday.

We managed to clock up a fun filled 10 km of skiing in a couple of hours on the excellent trails, before adjourning for beers/coffees etc, then back to the hotel, and a happy evening in a Rustic Restaurant before a walk home in the snow.

Meanwhile, Ken was busy installing himself in a massive dormitory in preparation for the weekend's CSM (Canadian Ski Marathon).

Sent from Placid Bay Inn

Friday, 6 February 2015

Thursday 5 February 2015 – The River Rideau and Mooney’s Bay

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Another cold day. Pictured above: ‘Waiting for Waxwings’.

Exhausted after plumbing problems (beware anyone who invites us in – your convenience will be inconvenienced), and satiated from last night’s barbecued bison burgers (it’s traditional that once he’s sorted the plunging plumbing, Ken is sent in minus 20C to dig out the barbecue and provide the first of the year in that genre), and in the absence of Tim to give Sue a lift to Gatineau Park, Helen stayed at home and Sue and I enjoyed a 10 km ski by way of three laps of the Mooney’s Bay nicely groomed classic ski piste.

Before that, I’d wandered down to the river for a while and had discovered a lifeguard sitting out the winter in a plastic chair. Spotting me from a distance, he left his post for a while and hid behind a tree whilst I passed; perhaps he was embarrassed at having such a cushy job at this time of year due to the limited bathing opportunities.

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It’s a five minute drive to Mooney’s Bay, where the piste had been freshly groomed, but the wind off the river was perishing cold. It took me a good lap (3+ km) to warm up.

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Here, another lifeguard had done a bunk. We later found him shivering in the cafe, from where he was soon kicked out to resume his duties.

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Then I followed another tradition, having been misled by some incorrectly labelled ‘pitted’ olives that weren’t pitted the other day. Dentist Adam shook his head and admitted there wasn’t a lot he could do, the remains of my broken tooth being likened to a tree stump.

And so the holiday continued apace…

It’ll be going so fast over the next few days that any postings are likely to be delayed or very brief. I’m sure readers won’t object.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wednesday 4 February 2015 – A Snowy Ski to Western Cabin

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We woke to a balmy minus 8C and snow that persisted all day.

A trip to McKinstry Cabin had been planned, but after reaching P12 (Meech) at 10.30 after nearly running over an errant wild turkey, and wending our way slowly up to ridge road, we decided on a shorter option as the going in the fresh snow was very slow, albeit enjoyable.

So we turned left instead of right, along Ridge Road to the junction with trail 2. The bench situated half way along Ridge Road sometimes triggers a pause, but not today as it was loaded high with snow and afforded a view into the swirling snow storm. There’s usually a good view to the west from this prominent point on the Gatineau escarpment.

Trail 2 plunges quickly down to Western Cabin, which was empty when we arrived. However, there was already a roaring fire and the cabin soon filled up. Perhaps a better choice than the more distant McKinstry today.

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Despite being perched on the edge of the escarpment, views were as limited as they had been earlier from the bench.

Today’s conditions were ideal for the backcountry ski trails, so Sue and I returned to Ridge Road along one of these, trail 9, whilst Helen wimped out by heading up trail 2. Back at the big junction where trail 2 intersects Ridge Road, we headed back down to Meech along trail 2, the climax of which is a tough descent that Sue and I had never done. In today’s conditions it was easy peasy, so we just bombed down, hardly needing our ‘snowplough’ brakes.

Trail 2 joins trail 40 for the final plunge down to Meech, where Helen is shown arriving on this still snowy day.

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Our route is shown below – 11 km, with 260 metres ascent, taking a little over two hours skiing time.

Excellent.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tuesday 3 February 2015 – The Burma Road

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Temperature outside at 8 am: –22C.

We wouldn’t be going anywhere fast, especially as Sue was well exercised after last night’s yoga class with Tatiana (and Ken).

Around 10.30, the blue skies became clouded with occasional snow flurries and the temperature outside warmed up to minus 14C. That saw Sue and Helen and me (Ken works) dash off to P10 for a gentle ascent to Huron Cabin via Fortune Parkway and Ridge Road over the Khyber Pass.

Being so much later today, we found the cabin empty but warm, with the cast iron surface of the stove toasting our sandwiches (buttered on the outside and wrapped in foil) in seconds.

Outside, the birds were enjoying their feeder. That’s a Hairy Woodpecker in situ, with a Common Redpoll flying in.

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We returned to P10 via trail 3, also more memorably named the Burma Road. This is one of our favourite (if not The Favourite) trails in Gatineau Park, especially after fresh snow, when the sweeping undulations make for most pleasurable skiing.

Here are Sue and I on the narrow trail before the sharp descent back to Fortune Parkway. Sue’s new jacket performed brilliantly; it’s definitely fit for purpose.

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And here’s Helen at the bottom of the sometimes treacherous hill that today was benign and easy, a bit like a very easy downhill green run, perhaps?

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A most pleasurable little excursion – 12.5 km, with 210 metres ascent, taking us about two and a quarter hours skiing time.

Here’s the route, etc, should anyone be interested.

Monday 2 February 2015 – A Short Walk by the River Rideau

On a day on which we heard the news of the recent death of a friend from the TGO Challenge, Jane Eggleston, our own activities seem of little consequence.
RIP Jane; we enjoyed our encounters with you on the Challenge, at the reunions, and most memorably on a TGO readers’ trip to the Taurus Mountains and Cappadoccia.

Today’s cold weather and wind driven snow deterred us from donning our skis. Instead, we enjoyed an hour’s walk from our front door when the snow eventually stopped falling, enjoying the woods next to the Rideau River. Today’s pictures are from that 3.5 km walk.

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Before that, we popped into town to get a refund from Mountain Equipment CoOp for some cyclists’ shoe protectors that I thought had worn out but which MEC considered faulty. The money (and the rest!) was well spent on a new pair of trail shoes that I’ll write about separately. Sue refused to miss out on the retail therapy and having forgotten to bring the RAB Vapour Rise jacket that she always uses for skiing, purchased a RAB Strata Hoodie from Trailhead for that purpose. We’ll soon find out whether it’s any good. It’s the first time we’ve seen RAB products being sold over here – they usually serve as a good ‘GB’ label.

Our ‘lost luggage’ saga re-ignited today with calls from Air Canada, who now seem quite anxious (after three days) to reunite us with the luggage that we collected from them on Saturday evening. They obviously haven’t noticed it went missing on Saturday, when my offer to sign for it was declined. Sue is busy adding another paragraph to the letter of complaint.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Sunday 1 February 2015 – A Trip to Huron Cabin

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We tried to get a leisurely start. Ken left to enjoy a 30 km skate along the Rideau Canal, and Sue and Helen and I went to ‘Parking Lot’ P7 from where Trail 30 rises to join Trail 1 (Ridge Road), along which you can ski as far as the Fire Tower, some 20 km away. Ken did that yesterday.

Fresh from their journey in a warm car, my hands were warm enough to take the following picture.

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It was a beautifully sunny day, but perishing cold, so the camera didn’t come out again until we reached Huron Cabin after 6.5 km, as my heavy gloves are too bulky for operating it.

There weren’t many people about, and the wood burning stove had only just been lit, so the cabin was disappointingly cool, and our carefully prepared sandwiches struggled to toast on the cast iron surface.

Here’s the view from a cabin window, and Sue and Helen are pictured above before after we had left its improving warmth.

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It was a pleasure to see a variety of birds – finches, woodpeckers, tits, etc, as well as red squirrels, enjoying the reinstated bird feeders in Gatineau Park. We mentioned last year that the feeders had been taken away as they were regarded as inappropriate to the natural environment in which it was felt the wildlife should fight to survive without human assistance. The backlash resulted in the feeders being surreptitiously returned to their previous positions outside the cabins.

Having arrived via Ridge Road’s Khyber Pass, we left via Champlain and Fortune Parkways, at the junction of which I’m pictured below. It really was very cold. Or am I going soft in my old age?

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Then it was down to re-join Ridge Road at Gossip’s Corner, where nobody was pausing to gossip today. There were a few more folk about as we returned to the car park along the narrower Ridge Road track.

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Here’s the sign at the car park. No wonder my hands and feet felt cold.

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My Garmin gadget indicated 13 km with about 200 metres ascent, taking us about two hours plus the time spent in the cabin. Here’s the downloaded data, from which you can get a perspective on where we are, etc.

It was lovely to get warm again.

I forgot to mention – the man from Air Canada who told us our bags were with their delivery agent lied to us. We eventually picked them up from the airport ourselves late last night.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Saturday 31 January 2015 – The National Gallery of Canada

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Here’s Sue’s take on Saturday’s journey:

“Waking to a white world at 5.15am we thought we were in for a tough day travelling to Ottawa, particularly after yesterday's chaos at Manchester airport. The taxi, booked for 5.45, arrived at 6.15, due to slow road conditions. Our seats, booked on the 8.50 shuttle to Heathrow, were changed to the 7.55 shuttle, which was already there. All good we thought. Boarding saw us on the plane at 7.45 and ready to go. The pilot had other information (thick snow on the wings was a bit of a give away!) and soon explained that we needed de-icing before leaving, and that we were in the queue for the one de-icing vehicle. We eventually took off at 9.45 for the 35-minute flight, fairly confident that we'd make our 12.05 connection to Ottawa.

Others weren't so lucky, and the 8.50 flight was cancelled.

A lengthy journey between terminals 5 and 2 on a bus, lifts, escalators and travelators got us to the gate at 11.30, just as an announcement was made that the plane had a water leak and there would be at least a 1.5 hour delay! We finally took off in a replacement plane at 2.05pm and were transported 'over the pond' (and the beautiful, snowy southern tip of Greenland) in 8 hours, arriving in Ottawa just as the sun was setting, at 5pm. Unfortunately, our wait at the luggage carousel was unproductive - our luggage was still at Heathrow (despite over 3 hours having been available during which to transfer it). Clutching our consolation Air Canada toilet bags, we jumped into the waiting car, disappointed that skiing would be postponed until at least Sunday. Helen did make us feel better by telling us that, with wind chill, the temperature on Saturday was forecast to be minus 34C, perhaps a little too cold for skiing anyway!

So, we're now at Ken and Helen’s home in Ottawa, refreshed from a good night's sleep, considering what to do today....”


Amazingly, we had slept until 7.45, despite the five hour time difference that makes that 12.45 in Timperley. It was a lovely sunny day, but cold outside. Ken left for a 40 km training ski (he’s doing the Canadian Ski Marathon next weekend) from P7 to the Fire Tower beyond McKinstry cabin, leaving me, Sue and Helen to enjoy a lazy morning before tripping into town to the art gallery, where Sue and Helen are pictured above underneath the Maman near the gallery’s entrance.

The gallery is housed in a magnificent building, with views up to the Parliament buildings.

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From level two you look down on this quadrangle which looks as if it might have been designed by Escher.

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The gallery’s current special attraction is an M C Escher exhibition. Brilliant.

Here’s one of Escher’s most famous works, Relativity (1953), a poster of which I remember being displayed in our house for many years. It was good to see the original on display,albeit it seemed smaller than our poster.

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There’s much else to see in the gallery, and a good cafe for lunch, so we managed to spend our day with no luggage satisfactorily productively, before driving home past thousands of skaters on the Rideau Canal.

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However, whilst our luggage arrived in Ottawa at around 3pm, and we are only ten minutes from the airport, Air Canada say they have given it to delivery agents and have no idea when that delivery will be made. Until the luggage arrives, we have no means of transferring photos to this computer, so this and the previous posting will be sent after it eventually arrives.

Meanwhile, I suppose I should start composing my letters of complaint to both British Airways and Air Canada.

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Here’s a picture taken by Sue on Friday afternoon from our temporary living room window. It was a lovely sunny day, if a bit chilly outside.

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But we didn’t venture out!