King Creek is located at Kananaskis Trail Winter Gate in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
The weather forecast is favorable with mixed skies, mild temperatures and wind building throughout the afternoon.
Today's objective will start early ahead of the wind, with the drive west from Calgary then south on Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) to the winter closure gate.
Two KM (1¼ miles) west on Kananaskis Lakes Road, and finally 35 KM (22 miles) north on the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742) past Black Prince Cirque, Hogarth Lakes and Chester Lake to the Rummel Lake trail-head on a 2 hour drive this day.
The objective is a snowshoe into Rummel Lake.
There is more wind heading west in the Bow Valley Corridor than expected. On the drop south on Kananaskis Trail the weather deteriorates exponentially into increasing snow, heavy competing cross winds and funnels that noticeably lift the car.
The Smith-Dorrien Trail is only partially cleared and snow removal crews are fighting to compensate for the rate of drifting. At the trail-head to Rummel Lake, there is no safe place to park that will keep the car from being buried. The trail has been obliterated completely and route finding is always a winter issue in the forest. The planned Rummel Lake snowshoe is a no-go. Common sense becomes the better part of valor.
The turnaround occurs at Shark Lake Road, which is also the entrance to Mount Engadine Lodge, to make the return drive south on the Smith Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742).
When rotating wind creates squalls limiting visibility to zero, a stop and wait situation occurs until there is sufficient visibility to begin driving again. Everyone here knows the rules and will do exactly the same if they are interested in staying alive.
At the bottom of the hill at the south end of Smith-Dorrien Trail is Pocaterra Hut which offers comfort at an excellent cross-country ski location.
Pocaterra Hut is a large, warm building designed as a focal point for a labyrinth of cross-country ski trails rated from novice to advanced. The large, clearly signed parking area for Pocaterra Hut is located at the intersection of the south end of Smith-Dorrien Trail and Kananaskis Lakes Road, 2 KM (1¼ miles) west of Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40).
Pocaterra Ridge and Pocaterra Dam are nearby. Their namesake is George Pocaterra who made a huge contribution to the early development of Kananaskis Country in the Province of Alberta, Canada.
Back at Kananaskis Trail, it occurs a snowshoe foray into King Creek Canyon might provide relief from gale force winds so parking at the winter gate occurs where drifting snow may not bury the car and it will be safe from traffic and snow plows.
A large chunk of hard snow is placed behind the car to prevent snow from blowing into and clogging the exhaust system. If it is possible to snowshoe into the ice falls at the end of the canyon the trip may extend for several hours.
Views south on Kananaskis Trail, past the winter gate, provide evidence of variable visibility as the sun periodically struggles to penetrate fast-moving cloud cover.
The view from Kananaskis Trail into King Creek Canyon gives the illusion of shelter from the wind.
At the beginning, the descent is calm but the further the venture into this beautiful canyon, the greater the effect of the wind becomes. It is a narrow canyon and route-finding is not an issue.
What began as clear snowshoe trail gradually deteriorates to intermittent trail, then to no trail as drifting snow eliminates evidence of prior traffic.
High winds from above are creeping into the canyon. Tall pillars of rock are separated by narrow patches of steep slope which extend upwards from King Creek on the valley floor to the flanks of surrounding mountains.
King Creek, at the bottom of the canyon, is being inundated with mini avalanches as high winds above me drive snow slides down the narrow chutes and into the canyon.
Less than 2 KM (1¼ miles) in, the risk factor becomes too high to continue. With no-one else around and in the unlikely event of getting buried under a slide, the potential for recovery is poor. On the return, trail laid down less than an hour previous, is gone completely.
Photographs are largely monochromatic as the camera struggles with low light, high contrast and the subtle variances in white. High wind chills are a factor as well. It has been an interesting day; not at all what was planned but a great day in the mountains nonetheless.
Powerful weather creates its own set of rules and although nothing particularly special is required this day, it is always comforting to know the backpack contains substantial gear alternatives to handle much worse.
Rummel Lake must be done another day.