Bear Spray and Bad Habits

This isn’t a new trend by any means, but lately I’ve noticed a lot people in the backcountry carrying bear spray in the side pouches of their packs. This is really, really foolish and is basically the same as not bringing it at all.

If you’re unfortunate enough to get into a situation where you need to use your bear spray, you’ve got to have it out at a moment’s notice. Bears can run unbelievably fast, and there will not be time to go rooting through your pack.

I’ve seen a few people attach it to the shoulder straps of their packs, and while this is an improvement over the side pouch method, its still not ideal because you could potentially become separated from your pack, and thus from your bear spray. Myself, I like to use a carabiner to clip my bear spray onto one of my belt loops so its always handy, and also easily adjustable if for whatever reason I need to rearrange things.

Bottom line is if you’re going out into the bush, not only should you be carrying non-expired bear spray that you know how to use, it should be within reach at all times. Better safe than mauled folks.

Mount Lady MacDonald

I had the excellent fortune of hiking Mount Lady MacDonald in Canmore yesterday, and really can’t believe I hadn’t done this one sooner!

Mount Lady MacDonald is located just NW of Canmore with the trailhead being right at Cougar Creek, so you’ll be looking at a much shorter drive than you would for pretty much anything on the other side of Canmore. Near the top of the mountain there is a (hopefully given its state) disused helipad that can serve as a nice spot to eat your lunch with a great view of Canmore below. Apparently there’s also an abandoned tea house somewhere around this same spot but I didn’t spend any time looking for it. If you go beyond the helipad, you’ll have to ascend a pretty steep scree slope to reach the summit, but the reward is well worth the struggle up. At the top you’ll have an amazing view of the valley and mountain ranges behind Mount Lady MacDonald, as well as even better view of Canmore to your SE.

We started the hike at about half 9, which was early enough to beat the majority of the traffic but not so early as to have the mountain to ourselves. This being said, yesterday was a national holiday so the mountain was almost certainly busier than usual. We reached the summit at about half 12, and spent a bit of time slowly working our way across the ridge itself, but didn’t end up going further than 100m. The ridge isn’t all that wide to begin with and becomes narrower and narrower as you move along it, so needless to say it gets pretty spicy pretty quickly. I wouldn’t attempt it unless you really know what you’re doing.

I would highly recommend this hike, but I have a few suggestions for anyone who is going to make the attempt. Firstly, there’s a lot of altitude gain and not very much shelter from the sun, so you’re gonna want to pick a day that isn’t going to get devilishly hot and make sure you start nice and early. Hiking poles will be very useful, I didn’t bring mine and my knees were really not enjoying the trip back down. Gaiters will also serve you very well on the scree slope before the summit. I found coming down the scree slope much easier than getting up it, it’s deep enough that you can step and slide down without too much bother.

All in all an absolutely fantastic hike!

On Twitter and Snark

One of the things I’ve discovered about myself is that Twitter and I really don’t mix, or more accurately I seem unable to use Twitter in a way that doesn’t make me miserable.

A few years ago when I first started using Twitter, I loved it pretty much from the onset. Beginning from topics that I was interested in (i.e. politics), I soon discovered a number of very clever, interesting and funny people to follow, and it should go without saying that I could stay up to date with all sorts of developments all over the world. Now the accounts that I followed introduced me to other accounts that I had an interest in following, so of course I did. Things snowballed after that, but I wasn’t really aware of it because I was having a good time.

Now somewhere along the way I had accumulated such a mountain of people to follow that being away from my phone for any length of time resulted in a staggeringly huge number of unread tweets. Without really being aware of it happening, reading through my timeline began to feel like a chore.

When the realization dawned on me that I was constantly dreading opening the Twitter app, I did some thinking as to why that was the case. I’m something of a voracious reader, so the sheer volume of tweets to read couldn’t be the sole reason. Instead it was the content that was bothering me, and that content was an endless stream of bite sized snark.

Now I’m certainly not saying that we should vigorously oppose our political opponents, nor that we can’t have a bit of fun at their expense, that would make me a hypocrite of massive proportions. There should however be an understanding that attacks limited to 140 characters, amusing as they may be (i.e. snark), aren’t productive in any meaningful sense of the word, and that it shouldn’t compose the majority of your political dialogue. It doesn’t contribute to developing policy within your particular grouping, and it certainly doesn’t help express that policy in a coherent fashion to the rest of the world.

Despite all this, Twitter, or at least those sections dedicated to politics, is almost entirely snark. It’s exhausting seeing people from all over the world gathering in one place to digitally shit all over one another without cessation for no other purpose than a fleeting chuckle. Needless to say my overall happiness wasn’t doing better for being a part of this.

Around the time I came to understand these things, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about not doing things that make you unhappy. It seems like a fairly self-evident concept, but the idea of just stopping hadn’t really occurred to me. I did end up deleting my account, and I can honestly say the lack of that pointless nonsense made me feel noticeably less stressed and I dare say, happier.

More out of boredom than anything else I recently gave it another go. Twitter hasn’t changed, and in this regard I haven’t changed either. My advice is if you’ve got the self control (I don’t, had to delete the damn thing again), avoid the Twitter’s political morass and instead fill your feed with cute pictures of baby goats and the like. There’s enough shit out there to make you miserable, no need to add to it without good cause.

A Farewell to Lactose?

My admittedly minimal knowledge of lactose tolerance testing was thrown into sharp relief this afternoon. A number of years ago I had been told that the process consisted of drinking a glass of lactose and then waiting to see if, to put it delicately, you then shat yourself. Now whether this previously was the standard practice or whether whoever told me this was having a laugh, it turns out the current procedure isn’t quite as barbaric.

While you do have to drink a glass of something (presumably a sort of lactose mixture? In hindsight I really should have asked before quaffing it), the actual test involves drawing blood on 4 separate occasions over a 2 hour period. Which is to say if you’re lined up for one, remember to bring a book for the wait, and be prepared to look like a junkie coming off the lash when you leave.

Anyways, fingers crossed I’m not actually lactose intolerant.

Old Goat Glacier

Old Goat Glacier – Early Spring

Well I made it out to the mountains for my first hike of the season today. We ended up doing Old Goat Glacier, and holy shit was there quite a bit of snow still left up there. No one had attempted the hike since the last snowfall, so we got to break the trail ourselves. Unfortunately, the combination of 4-5 feet of snow and our own lack of snowshoes made the normally quite gentle first half an absolute slog. And as you may or may not be able to tell from the photo, the approach up to the glacier itself looked pretty sketchy avalanche wise, so we didn’t end up making the attempt.

Despite all that, it was a lovely day out! The weather was more or less perfect for it, and of course there’s nothing quite like the incredible stillness and quiet of the mountains in winter and early spring. Having gone out the once, I’m even more excited about hiking through the rest of the season. Some hikes in the same general area I’d love to tackle this year are the Three Sisters Pass Route, Boulder Pass up to The Orphan, and then past Red Ridge to the Sparrowhawk Tarns.

Old Goat Glacier is a really nice hike though, I’d just recommend going a bit later in the season. When it’s not blanketed by snow, the first half or so is this very mellow walk along a creek that eventually leads to great view of a waterfall coming from the glacier. Then, if you so choose, you can climb up a scree slope and work your way up to the glacier itself, which is very cool indeed. It’s a really quiet hike as well, I’ve done it a few times now and very rarely have I had to share.