Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 18 February 2012

The Gatineau Loppet Warm-up Loop

Laying the Loppet trail at the 2km point

Today’s continuing ‘heatwave’ failed to deter Helen and me from a little adventure onto the sloppy snow.

We chose the Loppet warm-up loop, from P2 car park, where tomorrow (Saturday) some of the world’s finest athletes, and Ken, will hare off down the 51km course, hoping to finish in a little over two hours.

Today it took Helen and me nearly an hour and a half to ski the 9km warm up loop.  We were passed several times by two friendly chaps, pictured above, who were setting signs for the various Loppets taking place over the weekend.  The 51km version is the longest; there’s also a 31km route.

The sun shone, as usual on this trip, and the scenery was delightful.  Here’s Helen swooping down trail 5.  To her right is the corner at the junction with trail 26 that I failed to negotiate a few days ago.

Helen swoops down trail number 5

Back near P2, an international medley of finely honed athletes was involved in a recce in advance of tomorrow’s exertions.  They all looked very fit.  I hope Ken doesn’t get mown down in the melee.  Nor Susan and Roy, who are starting with Ken in ‘Wave C’, for that matter.

Intrenational recce at trail27/29 junction

The Loppets start in five ‘Waves’ – A to E, in the latter of which the duffers are set loose, 8 minutes after the elite group.  That means the duffers have 8 minutes less in which to reach the aggressively timed cut off point after 24km.

Oh dear!

Friday 17 February 2012

Susan and Roy - Loppeteers

Susan and Roy, on Fortune Parkway

If someone who enters a ‘Loppet’ is a ‘Loppeteer’, Susan and Roy fit that description.  Today they had me up at the crack of dawn for a 20 km ‘whizz’ around the Parkways of Gatineau, to record (see pictures above) their final training session for Saturday’s 51 km Classic Ski Loppet.  I have opted out of their final training session tomorrow at the Spa, principally because Roy has borrowed some essential equipment for that pursuit.

A Loppet is a ski race.  They are held all over the world.  Where there is snow, obviously.  Ottawa’s weather system is preparing for the weekend’s events by way of … a rainstorm.  It’s lashing down outside.  So conditions could be interesting.

Today’s Parkway circuit followed a route that I took last year.  Then, with my blistered heels, I timed it at about two hours.  Today I was fitter, but the route took an extra 30 minutes.  Not because Susan and Roy held me up – the opposite was true – but because the conditions were… a little sticky.  For example, on moving out of the groomed trail to take the above photos at the top of Fortune Parkway, I found that about three inches of ice had glued itself to the underside of my skis.  Even Susan and Roy’s waxless wonders were behaving as if threading their way through an ocean of white glue.

It was slow going.  I broke another basket (the thing at the end of the ski pole that helps with traction) – it must have become glued to the tacky surface.  Another repair for Ken to help with.  He won’t be happy!

We certainly earned our Hot Chocolate at the cafe in Chelsea.

Thursday 16 February 2012

A Hot Ski to Lusk Cabin

Roy and Martin outside Lusk Cabin on a Hot Wednesday Afternoon

After the previous night’s indulgencies at Woodroffe Towers, it was 10.30 by the time Helen and I had rendezvoused with Susan and Roy at P19, the most westerly of the ski trail car parks.

The trip to Lusk Cabin is one that we’ve enjoyed many times over the years.  The header picture shows Roy and me outside the cabin on Wednesday lunch time, admiring the view across the lake, and pondering the whereabouts of the Ghost of the Lost Skier of Lusk Lake.

It was warm – around +3C, with snow flurries.  With a couple of centimetres of fresh snow, which was rather wet, this made the skiing conditions…. ‘interesting’.  After setting off along trail 51, Helen flew off ahead (unusual) with her waxless skis.  Susan and Roy soon returned to their car to change into their ‘waxlesses’.  I don’t have any such skis, so I floundered on, slithering slowly backwards on the slightest of uphill gradients, and bizarrely failing to get any glide on the downhill sections.  It was like skiing on slippy wet putty, though I’d never want to try that!

Violet wax was supplanted by purple wax, but it didn’t make much difference.  After a while, Helen left us to take the direct route to Lusk, whilst the three of us soldiered on around the picturesque ‘Taylor Lake Loop’.

Light snow and the difficult trail didn’t do much to spoil our enjoyment of this beautiful woodland trail, though.  After a steepish hill, the trail passes a canvas ‘yurt’ before emerging at the eastern end of Taylor Lake.  Here Roy posed for me (see below) with the lake in the background and a new yurt to the left in the shot.  These yurts can be hired for overnight stays by private parties, as can Lusk Cabin and one or two others in this section of the Park.  Most of the cabins in Gatineau Park are, however, for use by day visitors only, and they don’t cater for overnight stops, though many are used as destinations for evening ski trips and are often found full of folk enjoying mid-week cheese and wine parties.

Taylor Lake, with the new yurt

A little further along our slither, we skirted Lac Renaud, where despite the unseasonable warmth, nobody was found sunbathing on this judiciously positioned bench.

A bleak view across Lac Renaud

They were all enjoying their lunches in Renaud Cabin, in front of a roaring fire…

After establishing that Helen hadn’t decided to stop at Renaud, we scooted on to Lusk to join her for lunch.  Part of the 3 km cul de sac trail to Lusk was recently washed away, but a good attempt at a diversion has been made, and we were pleased to make it to that characterful cabin.  It was hot inside.  Very hot.  A backwoodsman turned up and opened a window.  Nobody complained.  It was hot. Rather above freezing. That’s very unusual at Lusk at this time of year.

On the way back to Philippe and P19 car park, I discovered that ‘special red’ was the wax of the day, and after applying that I was suddenly and surprisingly able to more or less keep pace with Susan and Roy!

Tuesday 14 February 2012

A Day out with Susan and Roy

Susan and Roy on Trail 36 near Meech Lake

Readers may recall that we met Susan and Roy on the TGO Challenge in 2008.  We’ve subsequently become good friends and occasionally meet up, albeit they live in Connecticut, some distance from Timperley.

Anyway, they happen to be in Ottawa for Saturday’s Loppet, and are staying in Chelsea.  So with Ken and Helen both at work, and Sue safely tucked up at home in Timperley, they were the obvious choice of companions for me today.

We duly went to P11 – a car park by Meech Lake - and enjoyed a slither along trail 36 to Herridge Cabin, which was deserted apart from a roaring fire.  Two French snowshoers eventually arrived.  It’s unusual to have this popular cabin, only 5 km from P16, to oneself.  The icy trails must be putting people off – it hasn’t snowed properly for about a month, and the trails are showing it.

Old snow, and ice crystals, tend to remove any wax applied to your skis fairly rapidly, and today Susan and Roy had to re-wax three times (see picture below) during our 20 km pootle.  At least there were sunny intervals, and we had the trail to ourselves.

Re-waxing skis on the icy tracks

That’s it for today; Ken is having a little celebration, and guests are expected, so the big silver button on this contraption will soon be pressed…

An Icy Afternoon in Gatineau Park

Trail 15 - late afternoon on 13/2/12

The good news is that Ken returned home last night with a gold bar, having completed the 160 km Canadian Ski Marathon.  Sadly, Michael just failed to make it to the final checkpoint before the cut-off time, so he ‘only’ did 147 km.  Very impressive, nonetheless.  When Sue and I have tried this event we have felt chuffed to manage much more than 100 km over the course of the weekend, and that’s without carrying packs.

Conditions were tough.  There are many tales to be told.  But not here, for the time being.

We enjoyed dinner at ‘The Pub’ in Chelsea with Susan and Roy last night, but today was Sue’s appointed rendezvous with United/Continental  Airlines for the purpose of returning to Timperley to win some of the bread that’ll be needed to support our travel plans for the year ahead.  She managed to ski nearly 150 km during her stay, though, which isn’t bad for a ‘Beach Holiday’.

So having dropped Sue at the airport I got a late start for a 23 km ski from P2, covering the eastern section of the Gatineau Loppet route.  It was fairly warm at just minus 2C, but the tracks were icy and my blue wax soon dissipated, leaving me with a rather slithery experience along tracks like trail 15 in the late afternoon, pictured above on the way to Pink Lake.  Which is white at this time of year.

En route to the undulations of trail 15’s twisty course, the trail passes under a series of huge pylons.  Not even Gatineau Park is protected from such monstrosities.

Pylons across trail 5

Later, the low sun lit the trail beautifully.  I was passed by these two ladies on a short incline.  I wasn’t the only one finding the ice a little slithery – normally we’d all be scooting quickly up this short hill with our skis in the prepared trail, but today even a small rise proved hard work.

An icy hill on trail 26

After wiping out at an innocuous junction (my first proper ‘crash’ of the trip) I found my way back to P2, via trails 26/29/27.  On Saturday and Sunday mornings this coming weekend, several hundred athletic skiers will be racing down the track pictured below, just yards from the start of the Classic and Freestyle (skate skis) Loppets – 51 km races around some of the Park’s excellent trails.  There will be much competition for the leading positions, whilst at the other end of the field people will be straining every muscle to avoid being ‘timed out’ at the cut off points around the course.

The 'run in' to Parking Lot P2

Sunday 12 February 2012

Another Ski Weekend

Martin makes it to the Fire Tower

This is the weekend of the Canadian Ski Marathon, which Sue and I have taken part in on several occasions, as has Helen.  But this year we have left the heroics to Ken, Lester and Michael, who are aiming to complete the full 160km in two days, including an overnight camp at around minus 20C, for which they must carry all the gear for the full distance.

No sooner had Ken left the house on Friday afternoon …. when the cat’s away ….

A Lobster Supper

Saturday saw Helen staying at home to digest her lobster, whilst Sue and I embarked on our traditional trip to the Fire Tower, from P12 by Meech Lake, up trails 40 and 24 to Ridge Road, and on to the Fire Tower.

It was cold – around minus 16C all day, but as you can see from the header photo, we made it to the Fire Tower.  This is the western limit of Gatineau Park’s groomed trails.  Those who wish to continue have to bushwhack from here.  The Fire Tower served as an observation post for fire rangers for around 30 years, from the 1940s, until it was succeeded by more sophisticated methods of fire prevention, such as air patrols and lightning detection.

McKinstry Cabin lies 2.5 to the east of the Fire Tower, so it provided shelter for a tea break, then on our return journey, for lunch.

McKinstry Cabin

There’s no bird feeder at McKinstry – perhaps it’s just a bit too far away for the re-supply vehicles.  But there is a good fuel store for the wood burning stove.

The wood shed at McKinstry

There’s also the regulation outhouse.  We couldn’t manage without these essential buildings!

The outhouse at McKinstry

The trails were fast today.  This is what can happen if you take a corner at excessive speed.  Luckily, no lasting damage was done.


As has been the norm on this trip, the sun shone virtually all day from a crystal clear sky.  Below is a skier on his way along Ridge Road, at the point where our route heads down to the left along trails 24 and 40, back to Meech Lake.  In today’s icy conditions, care was needed on the final shaded sections.  Despite the grooming it can be icy in places after a prolonged period of not so cold, sunny weather with no precipitation.

Trail Number 1 - Ridge Road

Sunday, saw us (me, Sue and Helen) back at P3 for a short ski in cool minus 10C conditions.  Here’s one of the few images I took, this one whilst rattling down Gatineau Parkway over a motorway bridge, on the way back towards P3 and Ottawa.  The image, like most taken on this trip, doesn’t adequately convey the impression of steepness.

Gatineau Parkway on a Sunday morning

Sue sadly has to leave for home tomorrow, but Susan and Roy should have turned up in Chelsea, and hopefully by the time we get back from Sunday Dinner with them tonight, Ken will have returned victorious from the Ski Marathon, sporting a ‘Gold Bar’ in recognition of his achievement.