Backcountry with Baby

A four hour ski with a four month old baby – no problem, right? Erin started to cry the minute we loaded her into the Chariot.

Chariot on Skis

Enroute to Elk Lakes – March 2005

Elks Lakes Cabin in BC, one of the Alpine Club of Canada’s backcountry huts, seemed like a good place for our first family backcountry adventure. It was an easy ski into a cozy log cabin nestled in the forest. The air was fresh and crisp on the sunny morning we arrived at Elk Pass trailhead in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park in AB to meet our friends with their baby and their own ski-equipped Chariot in tow.

We tucked Erin in with a Nalgene bottle to keep her warm. I’m certain Erin’s baby essentials: diapers, clothes, blankets and formula, weighed more than she did. Once we set off up the track set trail laiden with our backpacks and Richard towing the Chariot, Erin dozed off. As we shuffled our skis slowly up the trail, I felt the weight of my backpack and I hoped the three-day trip was going to be worth the effort.

I panted like a thirsty dog up to Elk Pass, my throat dry and back stiff. Was I really that out of shape? We enjoyed the view as Erin sucked back a bottle of baby formula at the top of the Pass, it was far too cold and windy for breast feeding. I shouldered my backpack again, and thought the hard work was almost over – and then I saw the other side of the Pass.

Snug in Chariot

Snug in Chariot

The route changed to an off-piste bumpy slope that looked barely manageable for a competent skier but for a skier pulling a Chariot, I was worried. Tipping over with my baby on board was not an option. We plotted a criss-cross route down the slope. Recent snowfall, obliterated any sign of a trail. The snow was heavy and crusty, Richard had good control of the first turn and then he took the second corner just a little too tight. The Chariot skidded sideways behind him. I froze in my tracks, as one ski rode up in the air. The Chariot tipped back down onto two skis. I let out a breath I was holding. Richard glanced back to check on Erin before giving me a thumbs up. She was still asleep.

Safely down the slope I was relieved to spy the cabin in the woods. We settled into hut life quickly – a crackling fire in the wood stove, the hiss of snow melting in a huge metal pot on top, a cup of hot apple cider, and laughter. Lots of laughter.

Daily life with our kid in the backcountry was the same, feed our baby, change diapers, but with fewer distractions. There was nothing else to do but enjoy being together.

We kept the wood stove at a simmer that chilly night, taking turns to reluctantly peel off our cozy down sleeping bags to throw in another log. The babies were restless. I finally tucked Erin into my sleeping bag with me, a snug fit but shared body heat was the key. She slept the rest of the night.Richard and our friends went for a ski to explore the area the next morning. I happily stayed back with the babies.

After a leisurely breakfast on the second morning, it was time to go back. The snow had turned icy. A frozen crust broke under our feet until we clicked into our skis. We heaved on our backpacks, a little lighter now from all the food consumed, and headed back up to Elk Pass. At the top, I took a moment to look around at the snow-capped peaks. This is why I enjoy backcountry adventures so much.

Audrey, Richard and the Chariot at Elks Lake cabin.

Audrey, Richard and the Chariot at Elks Lake cabin.

Off the Pass, the track set trail was smooth and glazed, like a bobsled run. I could only hope our skis stayed bottom-side-down. The Chariot had a good harness system with stiff poles attached to the hefty waist belt. We started off slowly but it’s hard not to pick-up speed on slick trails with a 50-plus pound caboose powering behind. The Chariot swung to the side and almost overtook Richard. He managed the corners by holding back the Chariot’s poles, he alternated his hands and anticipated the corners. We made it to the trailhead, with tired legs and a smile.

A getaway from the everyday routine of raising a baby and into the backcountry was wonderful. We plan the repeat the trip into Elk Lakes Cabin this spring with both of our girls. This time we will all be self-propelled.

Feeding Time Enroute

Feeding Time Enroute

How To Make It Happen:

Make a reservation for the Elk Lakes Cabin with the Alpine Club of Canada, or call 403-678-3200.

Go to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, AB: From Elk Pass trailhead near Upper Kananaskis Lakes, 4.8km uphill hike/ski (200m elevation gain) to Elk Pass, 4.2km downhill hike/ski (200m elevation loss) to the hut. After the first 2km, cross Fox creek and follow the hydro cut line. The hydro line comes out several hundred metres east of the hut. In winter this route is track set as far as Elk Pass (half way).



2 Responses to “Backcountry with Baby”

  1. Megan says:

    Fun article! Looking forward to reading more of your mountain, family and travel adventures.

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