Moss Lake Trail, "Half as far, half as fast."

11:04 p.m. on November 18, 2012 (EST)
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Had a stringer from the Weather Network turn up on Saturday morning to see what we do on weekends.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/storm_watch_stories3&stormfile=Snowshoes_in_Edmonton_18_11_2012?ref=ccbox_homepage_topstories

I hate the closeup (shows my wrinkles) but that's me running away at the end.

Then the rest of us we went for a walk.

The Moss Lake trail is a 13 km loop through the forest that meanders around frozen ponds and far back into the woods near Elk Island.

I managed to screen out a few of the weaker people who'd signed up by making it an absolute requirement that everyone have snowshoes. Last year, we did the first 8 km on packed trails, only to encounter deep snow for the last few. Very, very difficult.

It's a good thing I did; within the first kilometre, everybody had put theirs on, as we plowed through soft powder and skittered up and down the frozen hills.

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Reporter in background and people tending to the more important matter of getting their bindings adjusted properly.
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Lots of adjustments, but eventually we were flying right along.
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Animal tracks and snow drifts.
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Lots of areas where elk and bison had been digging under the snow to forage.
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Quite a mixture of terrain, from aspen forest to spruce to meadow to frozen marsh.
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By the end of the first 3 or 4 kilometres, the conversation had begun to lag - never a good sign - and I realized people were already getting tired. We stopped at about 7.5 km for a snack and a short rest...
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..then got going again.


 Lots of nice scenery but we kept up a steady pace.

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The sun goes down around 4:30, so while there wasn't a real rush, we couldn't stop very often.

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Trail marker for the last kilometre - nice to see.
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With the TV interview, we didn't start until 11:00am, and it was about 3:30 by the time we finished. Allowing half an hour for breaks, that puts our speed at around 3 kph, not very fast, but for the snow and trail conditions, quite respectable.

Review from a newby:

"It was a great hike. My first real winter hike and first attempt at snowshoeing, which was fun. Lessons learned included not to try to step/walk backward in snowshoes and that the small bit of water that lingers in the hose of a hydration bladder freezes very quickly!"

Review from a military lady (you think she'd be used to this stuff!) was:

"Holy guacamole! Snowshoeing 13km DOES feel like more..a LOT more."

It did - anything much farther than that in deep, soft snow, and it would have been nasty. I figure the last half was more 'Will it never end!" than 'Oh, what fun!". A nice day, but certainly challenging.

11:48 a.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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Peter,

You deserve some credit for helping get people out there.  I used to belong to an informal  x-c ski club in Wyoming.  We had only one motto- "we will not cancel a trip due to weather."

You are showing great humility with the "half as far and half as fast" quote.  As we age, it is sometimes tough to get people to be honest with their ability.  Some of my friends still in the 50s age group are tackling all the hard stuff while they still can.  I pass on those trips and now go for more realistic goals.  The trick is to never stop going.

I don't really want to climb Mt Whitney as a day trip anyway.

 

4:17 p.m. on November 19, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks, ppine.

I never thought of myself as humble, but I do like to introduce people to what I do for fun, and I enjoy sharing what I know.  

The 'half as far, half as fast' rule refers to trip planning for people on snowshoes vs. people hiking on dry trails.

It's even more important for a group, since the dynamics mean that the pace tends to be faster. When you're on your own, you can take your time if you're tired. In a group, everybody pushes to keep up with the leaders, who then feel pressured to stay out front so they go even faster.

And it sucks when you're the leader; you have to keep running from front to back to front to keep everybody together, so you wind up doing even more work.

12:24 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Peter,

When I used to ride horses and mules  a lot, sometimes with a group.  The most experienced person would be in the lead in case we ran into something like a bear, or worse yet backpackers standing uphill on the trail which scared the crap out of the horses.  The second most experienced person went last to help the stragglers.  The leader would wait periodically to make sure everyone was still with the group.

9:50 a.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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That's how I do it with second qualified organizer. One in the lead and one as 'sweep'. If I'm on my own, though, the responsibility for keeping the group together is mine, so I have to be careful not to let the group get too strung out. The faster people will often take off without noticing how far ahead they're getting, so I can holler for them to stop and wait, and/or jog ahead to ask them to slow down a bit.

Another consideration is that I have to stay where I'm most likely to be needed, which is usually with the newer people and often at the back. That can be annoying - with two leaders, the most experienced one gets to stop before the summit to take care of the people who are afraid of doing the scramble, or to turn back with the person who is injured or just too worn out to continue. It also means I get to carry an extra pack if someone blows their back out.

On the other side of it, I don't have a lot of patience for the 'common adventure' groups. Their philosophy is that 'We're all just a bunch of friends going for a walk.' and they are fine with leaving someone behind or sending them back alone. To me, that borders on negligence.

3:01 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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You have experience and awareness of what it takes to handle a group.  I believe in going at the pace of the weakest members.  It frustrates some people with more ability.  I like the 'team-sport" concept.  We use it for things like river canoe trips, and make an effort to look out for people.

9:40 a.m. on November 22, 2012 (EST)
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For sure! If it's not a team, do it alone. The pace of the slowest members can be frustrating for faster people, but I include a ratings system to let them know what they're signing up for. If it says 'Easy/Moderate, A1' don't expect it to be fast.

I preface my group hikes with 'We start as a group, we finish as a group', and add instructions like waiting at every junction and stopping if you can't see anybody behind you. And if people are running out too far ahead, I'll call for them to stop.

Last weekend, a group that I'm a member of, of West Scotland Hikers, didn't follow those guidelines,. Two of their members spent the night outside on a mountain. Fortunately, they survived. I guess November in Scotland isn't as cold as Northern Alberta.

July 30, 2014
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