Yet another early start! (And this is a holiday?!) up at six and a glimmer of dawn over the lakes and mountains. We started the day with tea and hot granola, before breaking camp at 7.30 to meet the Skyline shuttle at the Signal mountain trailhead at 9am.
We arrived, our bags packed and scrambled on to the shuttle - ready to go!
I will admit at this point to some feelings of trepidation, being several leagues outside my comfort zone... The Skyline trail is the highest trail in Canada, and is said to be one of the most spectacular and challenging hikes in the Rockies. Most people allow 2-4 days and were were planning to do it in 2. We were also planning to do it in subzero temperatures.
Chris was a bit of a hero when it came to packing. I took my clothes and the food. Bill took his clothes and our cooking equipment and sleeping bags. Chris took everything else including our sleeping mats and two man tent!!! ( for three!)
We set off.
The first few kilometres were beautiful. Pine forest with warm sunshine filtering down through the trees. At first the path was a dry smooth gravel surface. Aha! we thought / so much easier that the Juan de Fuca trail, with all that mud. Ha! The path rapidly became very muddy and slippery and we skipped, hopped and slid our way along the first 13km to Snowbowl campsite.
This was our intended stop for the first night, but we arrived there at 2pm.
Despite having booked our campsite there for tonight we decided to push in and take our chance at there being space at the Curator campsite.
The Canadians are very fond of rules.
Trails like this require advance booking. Most people book three months ahead. Chris had managed to book the back country permit and a space at Snowbowl (13km along the 44km route) but Curator (21 km) was fully booked. We anticipated cancellations in view of the weather forecast....
Over lunch at Snowbowl we met three Czechs, also hiking to Curator, who told tales of winter camping and ski touring in this area, and staying at
the Shangri-La hut nearby.
Chris and I visited the 'washroom' at he camp site. This was a simple bench or 'throne' perched atop a collection barrel. Spectacular views indeed, but somewhat exposed !!!
We hiked onward, up and over the meadows above Snowbowl and Little Shovel Pass, then Big Shovel Pass - a long hard slog up hill. As we climbed, the mountain views became more and more spectacular as we entered an area of 'moonscape' alpine scenery above the tree line. The rocks were an amazing array of colours - greys, ochres, reds and browns. The afternoon sun made the rocks glow.
We passed the turn to Watchtower and reached the Curator junction. In front of us were several groups of hikers - all of whom, presumably had reservations at the Curator campsite. Unlike us.
We pressed on and descended into the pine forest to the campground. There was a lot of activity with groups of people putting up tents and tarps and cooking supper.
There were two free camping 'pads' and we knew there were two groups of hikers behind us. Further exploration revealed a wonderful unofficial little pitch tucked away between the trees next to the stream. The floor was smooth and littered with pine needles. Ideal!
We made camp and then, whilst supper was cooking, we wandered down through the camp site to the river to watch the sunset and use the facilities at the 'closed for the season' Shovel Pass Lodge.
As darkness fell, so did the temperatures. We quickly ate our supper (cous cous with tomato sauce - least said the better!) and scrambled into our tiny two man tent, in mortal fear of freezing to death!
A photo session followed as Chris illuminated the tent with torches and then leapt in to join us as the camera took timed exposures, and we tried to keep completely still for 30 seconds at a time!!
Finally it was done, the perfect photograph was achieved, and we snuggled down to (try to) sleep!!