A Day Of White Water Rafting!

[Moa]

Hi folks, how are you!?
I can’t believe that May has now almost passed and that we’re about to go into the second half of 2018 in just a few days. Time has flown by and it’s hard to grasp that we’ve been in Canada for 6 months already. Anyways – moving on!

This weekend we got to experience one of the most fun things so far on this trip; We went white water rafting on the Kicking Horse river and it was AMAZING!
As you might remember if you’ve read our blog, we recently did a Workaway just outside Golden with a family who were building an earthship. There we got to know Jair, the dad of the family who besides building on their future home also works as a river rafting guide. The season for river rafting has just started which meant there were some new rafting guides in training. Late Saturday night I got a call from Jair asking if we would be interested in going rafting the next day as they needed people to fill the boats for one of the new instructors and we would be able to get a full day of rafting for a fraction of the price – Hell yeah was our answer!
At 10am we showed up at the Glacier Raft Company just outside of Golden where we signed some waivers (Glacier Raft Company may or may not now own our souls – we didn’t really read the fine print), got fitted with wetsuits and got information of what the day would have in store. Approximately an hour later we got onto a bus who took us down to the Kicking Horse river and the start for our rafting experience. Once there, we were given a standard safety talk on what to do if you fell out of the boat and were then assigned our rafting guides for the day. We were also told that this was an ideal time of the year to go rafting as the river was very high from all the melted snow coming down from the mountains. Hell yeah!

Our guide’s name was Dave and he was new to the Glacier Rafting Company but had plenty of experience already as a rafting guide. We were also joined by another new rafting guide, Josh, tagging along in the boat for the day, as well as two English guys who also had been sent there by Jair. Once on the raft you’re not actually strapped into anything, but you sit on the edge of the boat and wedge your feet on the inside as to not fall out. There are also ropes to hold onto on both the outside and the inside of the raft, but other than that it’s left up to yourself to make sure you stay on.

The rafting day was divided in two halves with a lunch break in the middle. The first stretch of the river was fairly mellow and was spent focusing on learning the different commands we needed to know. White water rafting isn’t just floating along on the boat but you actually have to take action and participate in making sure the boat goes where you want it to go! Our little crew quickly nailed the different commands (“forward paddle, back paddle, hold on”) and I’d like to state that I think we were all naturals. Just my personal opinion.

20180527-JLA_0277_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0272_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0273_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0275_WebSize

It was a great way to start the day and get used to being on the river before we hit the bigger rapids in the afternoon. We also stopped by a waterfall along the river that we quickly hiked up to and got under! After an hour or so we stopped for lunch at a little picnic spot next to the river where staff had set up a big BBQ. I had a vegetarian burger and Matilda had grilled chicken and it was super tasty.
It soon got around to getting back onto the river and hit the real waves! We had it explained to us that rafting is usually graded on a scale between 1 and 5, where 1 is moving water and 5 is some real serious stuff that could also be very dangerous if done wrong. The first half of our day had been mostly class 2 with a few class 3’s, and for the afternoon we were about to enter a section of the river with mainly class 4 all the way. Bring it on!

And holy crap. It was so awesome. Matilda and I were both sitting on either side of the front of the boat, which meant we would automatically take the biggest hits of water once we hit the waves. Once we entered that part of the river it was hard to keep track of how long we actually spent there, as you were just focusing on one wave at a time. When you’re on the water as well, the waves look massive! Instead of trying to explain it to you take a look at the video and pictures below showing us getting completely drenched.

20180527-JLA_0330_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0332_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0336_WebSize

20180527-JLA_0338_WebSize

After a while we stopped at another small waterfall mainly to stretch our legs, before hitting the last section of the river. At the last stretch we all jumped out of the raft and just floated along beside it on the river which was also very awesome. I accidentally floated in front of the raft and it took me a while to get back to it, as the current was so strong.
A little bit after 3pm we had reached the end and hauled the rafts up onto the shore and all got back on the bus, hyped up after an incredible day on the water. The bus took us back to the base where beer was being passed around, to celebrate that everyone who went out that morning had made their way back. At least that was the excuse for the beer drinking and I’m just going to go with it.
So that was the story of both mine and Matilda’s first ever rafting experience! I can honestly say that it’s one of the funnest things I’ve ever done and I can’t wait for another opportunity to do it again. I’ve had it on my bucket list for quite some time so – tick! I would also like to add a MASSIVE thank you to Jair for setting us up and to the Glacier Raft Company for an incredible day on the river. If you are ever in the area and want this experience, they are an ideal company to go with and you won’t regret it.

20180527-_DSC0014_WebSize

Advertisements

Moa goes skiing in Lake Louise!

Alright, first of all – you will have to excuse our lack of updates here and specifically MY lack of updates. We are currently living off-grid with no internet and have been doing so for the last few weeks, so charging computers and getting access to good wifi is not the easiest. I am also a forgetful and lazy person. Oh well. Moving on! 

It’s time to tell you all about my little ski adventure that I went on back in the middle of March – better late than never right!?

I’ve been skiing since I was 12 years old and I LOVE it. I’ve been lucky enough to have gone on several ski holidays with my family over the years, mainly to the Alps in Austria but also to places around Sweden and Norway. However, skiing is expensive – so when I moved my butt to London almost 6 years ago I couldn’t really afford to go anymore and my ski adventures temporarily stopped. Until now!

When I first set my mind on going to Canada, I just knew that I couldn’t go here without skiing. I’m pretty sure it would be a crime, since Canada is famous for having some of the best and most famous ski resorts in the entire world. The area we are living in is actually not far from the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, famous for its champagne power and especially off piste and backcountry skiing.

I considered going to Kicking Horse but when I saw a map of the resort and the mostly black and double black diamond trails, I kinda chickened out… what if I’d forgotten everything that is skiing!? I didn’t remember what level I was actually at and how different it would be to ski in North America instead of Europe. After some research and googling I instead decided that I was going to go to Lake Louise – A slightly kinder ski resort and with much more variety. Plus, this meant I could make a mini ski holiday out of it!

Since Matilda isn’t a skier or even remotely interested in winter sports, I booked myself a single bus ticket and a bed at a hostel in Lake Louise for 5 days for a mini ski vacation by my lonesome. I was pretty damn excited! I was leaving on a Monday and arriving back at the ranch on the Friday, which gave me 3 full days of skiing plus a half day on the Friday to check out the famous lake.

I set off around lunch time on Monday towards Golden to catch my afternoon Greyhound bus to Lake Louise. Since public transport is non-existent in these parts of Canada and I don’t have a car, my plan was to hitchhike into Golden (a 20 minute drive). This is fairly easy and a common thing to do here and after about 10 minutes wait a kind neighbour on her way to town stopped to give me a lift. I got to the Greyhound station, checked in my bag, grabbed a veggie burger from A&W and got on my buys.

The bus was delayed with an hour due to avalanche control on the highway (where the highway is closed so that controlled avalanches can be set off, also very common here in spring time) and I arrived in Lake Louise around 6pm. Lake Louise is a tiny village so I quickly found my hostel 5 minutes down the road. I was staying at HI Hostel, the only hostel there, and had booked a bed in a 4-person dorm. The hostel was quite big and VERY cosy, and was decorated in your average mountain lodge style with wooden panels,  big comfy sofas and trail maps on the walls. I had dinner at the hostel café with two guys who were in the area ice-climbing, who so kindly offered me a seat at their table when they heard I was alone. Much appreciated! To make sure I was going to be well-rested for my first day of skiing, I called it an early night and went to bed shortly after dinner. 

Day 2 – Ski day!
I woke up bright and early, had some breakfast in the hostel kitchen and then headed to a ski rental shop in the village center where I was meeting my Danish friend Marcus at 8am sharp. I had met Marcus a few weeks prior at the climbing gym in Golden and we quickly became friends. Marcus lived in Lake Louise and worked at a dogsledding company for the season, so when I told him I was going there to ski he decided to join me on the slopes for a day which was awesome. 

After renting our ski gear and picking up our lift passes we hopped on the free shuttle bus to the Lake Louise Ski Resort and headed up the gondola to the top of the mountain. It was time to ski – and what a perfect day for it. Lake Louise has three different areas to ski on; the Front Side, the Back Bowls and The Larch. All three are easily accessible from anywhere on the resort and it’s easy to go from one to another. For reference, below is the trail map of the area.

Map 1Map 2

We had been told that the Back Bowls had better skiing in the morning since the Front side usually was quite icy at this time of the day, so that’s where we headed. I quickly realised that I’d had no reason to be nervous about my ski abilities – as soon as I clipped my boots into my skis it was like I had never stopped! Down the slopes we went. We started off easy on a green trail but quickly moved on to blue trails after a few runs. In the afternoon we found our favorite run of the day (#133, Boomerang) which started at the summit of Mount Whitehorn and ended at the bottom of the resort. You could only get there by taking a very steep button lift all the way to the top – it’s the only lift I’ve ever seen graded with a Double Black Diamond! 

I’m going to let the pictures and video below speak for itself, but we had an incredible day skiing under blue skies and having lunch and beer in the sunshine in between our runs.  

171918121314

We skied until the lifts closed at 4pm and then headed back to the village, where Marcus had someone picking him up to go back to where he was staying just outside Lake Louise. I went back to my hostel, had a shower, went for dinner with a few other hostel-stayers and basically passed out in bed at 10pm. 

Day 2 – Another ski day!
This day I was flying solo. I arrived at the ski resort just after 9am when the lifts opened and headed to the Back Bowl. Once again, the skies were bright blue and the conditions amazing. I decided to push my limits a bit this day and spent the first half of the day making my way down several of the Black Diamond runs. In the afternoon I joined a free guided ski tour around the area where a seasoned staff member shows you their favourite runs based on your skill level. 

Again, I will let pictures speak for themselves. What an incredible day I had!

272326302824

The evening was mellow, I was too tired to really do anything else. The most eventful thing was probably that I finished reading my book, ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. I picked out a new one from the “Leave one, take one” bookshelf in the lounge area and started reading ‘I Am Pilgrim’ by Terry Hayes – I’m still working on this by the way so no spoilers! 

Day 3 – Last Ski Day + Powder Day
I woke up at 7am to snow falling outside my window. It had been snowing all through the night which meant one thing – powder day! I got dressed, had breakfast and got on the first shuttle to the ski hill. With all the new powdery snow that had come in over night this brought on some exciting skiing for the day. At 10am I decided to join another free guided ski tour, as it was a lot of fun the day before. It didn’t disappoint and by the end of the almost 2 hours long tour I had met a lovely retired couple from California who asked if I wanted to ski with them the next few hours – I gladly accepted the offer. 

The snow kept falling all day and while the visibility wasn’t the greatest, the incredible skiing made up for it. My new Californian friends called it a day around 2.30pm but I decided to push through and ignore the throbbing in my legs and kept on skiing until they closed the lifts – it was my last day after all. At 3.59 (no kidding) I got on the last lift to the top of the mountain and made my run back down as long as possible.

3340363839

I then headed back to the village and reluctantly returned my ski gear to the rental shop. Back at the hostel it was Bonfire Thursday so I spent the evening eating marshmallows around the fire and hanging out with some other hostel folks. I call that a perfect way to end a ski day!

Friday – A visit to Lake Louise (the actual lake)
I awarded myself with a well-deserved snooze and slept for a good 10 hours. After having breakfast, checking out of the hostel and placing my bag in storage for the day it was time for my last adventure for the trip – I was going to check out the actual Lake Louise! 

Lake Louise is probably one of Canada’s most famous lakes and if you hang out on Pinterest and Instagram, you’ve probably seen its crystal blue waters surrounded by mountains and the beautiful Chataeu on one end. In winter it’s completely frozen over which means you can walk across it to the other side.

From the village it’s probably about an hour’s walk up a winding mountain road to get to the lake. I started walking but my plan was to hitchhike as soon as a car came by, and sure enough I was picked up 5 minutes later by a nice English guy who worked up by the lake. 

And holy crap – It’s freaking beautiful. It takes you a while to just take in the greatness of it all. The lake is massive and the mountains surrounding it seems even larger in comparison. Right behind the lake there’s also the Victoria glacier which is an incredible thing to see. I started walking across the lake and once I got to the other side I got to see the most incredible ice falls. On one of the larger ones there were ice climbers making their way up, so I spent a good 20 minutes just watching them do their thing. And that’s the moment I added “ice climbing” to my bucketlist. 

Once again, I am going to let these pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy. 

20180316_111047.jpg20180316_105043.jpg20180316_104046.jpg20180316_112537.jpg20180316_114500.jpg

I spent about 2.5 hours in total roaming around the lake. Around 1pm I had to get back to the village and managed to get a lift by a nice delivery guy who was just coming from the hotel. I still had a few hours left until my bus departed back to Golden, so I spent them walking around the tiny centre of Lake Louise and looked around in the various souvenir shops and just thinking about what an incredible week I had just had. 

So that’s how I ticked off “Skiing in Canada” from my bucket list!