GDT Day 50 – to Notch or not to Notch

We chose to Notch, which in retrospect was a bad decision.

Mileage: 18 km (1.1 km from Lodge, 16.9 km from junction to Signal Campsite)

This day in 2018 we left the cabin at Kakwa Lake PP and started our walk out of the park. This year we were sitting in a cabin at Shovel Pass Lodge, looking at the fresh snow, and trying to decide on whether or not we should hike the Notch today.

We decided to go for it. In retrospect that was not the right decision for us today.

We evaluated the forecast and the snow was supposed to let up in the early afternoon. Although the ridge is exposed for a long time we expected to reach it when the weather improved.

We also have already done some hiking in snow this year and our gear, including Toothless’ clothes and diapers were dry from spending the night in the cabin.

The alternate, low route would also bring us into town today with uncertainty over where we would stay.

So we decided to go for it and get started. After eating breakfast, packing up and packing a lunch we headed on the trail at around 9:30 am.

The climb to the base of the Notch was quick and easy. After that it got a little more challenging finding the route up but we managed to find the trail in most places and a safe approach overall. The risk here is twisting an ankle on boulders; everything on the ground is just filtered out by the snow.

Once at the top it started to get more challenging navigating. The snow got worse and visibility was poor. The temperature was fine but the wind made the exposed ridges cold. My glasses froze over.

Natasha kept Toothless warm and used the umbrella to block the wind. I’m very happy with how effective this was.

The wind caused some deep drifts – several feet deep. It’s hard to know where to step. At one point my trekking pole sunk in halfway on one side of the ridge and I really recognized how careful we needed to be.

At one point we were a little higher than the route; it looked like we were at a summit or view since we were up at a cairn. Another group passed by and we found the trail together. They kept ahead, but would slow down and check on us periodically. I’m super thankful for their quiet and understated actions. My phone turned off due to the cold and I was starting to stress out (my fear of exposure/heights, the lack of visibility, my phone turning off, etc) so although my phone turned on fine once I had it warmed up and we were finding the route fine on our own it really helped anchor me to have them also up ahead, checking the route and involving us.

Eventually we descended and visibility and wind improved. Almost drastically. The sun here was trying to peek through the snow clouds and it looked like how it looks through the wildfire smoke but a much cooler colour.

After that the trail was all slush. This is basically the first time my feet got soaked or really wet and cold all day, and I kept slipping.

We ate lunch finally at 3:30pm at the next campground and pushed to our campsite at Signal. Bagged we crashed without cooking, just eating bars and cheese (cheese strings for Toothless) and did our best to stay warm in bed, thankful for finding a tent pad without snow.

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