Lessons learned while snowshoeing in Vancouver:
1. Snowshoeing is not for the faint of heart.
2. Invest in a waterproof coat. And pants. And gloves.
3. A thermos of hot tea or cocoa in the snowy wilderness is an incredible thing.
4. If you slip while going downhill in the snow, you can slide a very very long way.
We went out on a Saturday with our friend Catherine and Ash's cousin Soroosh, both very outdoorsy winter-sport types. Ash and I, on the other hand, were utterly unprepared for what was to come. First, we had no appropriate gear. We rented snowshoes at Mount Seymour's ski rental area. Not big tennis rackets, as I had anticipated, but sleek metal platforms with some nasty looking claws on the bottom that you strap onto your boots.
So shoes were taken care of. Still, we had no waterproof jackets, no waterproof pants, and had left our gloves in New York (though I did manage to score this snazzy pair at Old Navy for 99 cents the day before, just for the occasion). We decided we could make do. I borrowed a coat from Ash's aunt, donned my snazzy Old Navy gloves, and off we went.
Turns out the other thing we were lacking was a proper understanding of what we were getting ourselves into. Snowshoeing is hard! We started off at an easy pace enjoying the beautiful scenery, passing other people from time to time. Soon we began to see fewer and fewer people on the trail. Then we passed the last trail posts and struck off into the back country, where the trees were so caked with ice they looked more like sculptures than living things, to try to climb the first peak of Mount Seymour.
That's where things began to get a little more intense than we had anticipated. As we got near the summit we had had to scale a virtually vertical icy slope of about 50 feet, kicking our claws in to find a toehold, moving up one slow step at a time, and sliding backwards a fair number of times too. Truly I felt like it was an experience right out of Into Thin Air.
We were rewarded on the summit with sandwiches and tea and cocoa that Soroosh had brought along in his backpack, and thankfully the way down was much easier going. Though perhaps the reason for the faster downhill trip was the fact that I kept losing my footing and tobogganing down the mountain on my backside. The first time I slipped I must have slid about 40 feet, and all I could hear the whole way down was Ash on the hill up above me laughing uproariously. Fortunately I foiled his plans to get video of my slips and falls by only falling when he did not have camera in hand.
In spite of all our goofing around, however, there was an overwhelming sense of peace and solitude up in those snowy hills--a deep silence broken only by our huffing and puffing as we ascended and descended. By the afternoon as we were finally making our way, jelly-legged, back towards the lodge, the sun peeked through the clouds and we were treated to a beautiful view of row upon row of snow-tipped fir trees as far as the eye could see.