Ice Walk

I find myself searching for photos of frozen things.  These are from a guided hike we did in the Maligne Canyon our first day out in Jasper on a winter trip a few years ago.

When the temperature is dropping to -25 fahrenheit, what better way to spend the day than touring ice formations?

We were nervous about our first hike in those temperatures–we weren’t sure we’d be able to stay warm in a group hike where we were constrained to the pace of the slowest hiker.  I decided to layer up.

I take layering very seriously.  For anything less than -10, if I’m not going to be moving quickly, this is my tried and true approach:

Layer 1:  quick-dry undergarments, including a long-line bra top that adds warmth all the way to my waist.

Layer 2:  panty hose

Layer 3:  silk long underwear, top and bottom

Layer 4:  Sock liners

Layer 5:  Under Armor for very cold weather top and bottom

Layer 6:  Wool long underwear top and bottom

Layer 7:  Fleece top and bottom

Layer 8:  Waterproof pants and heavy wool socks

Layer 9:  Down sweater up top

Layer 10:  Waterproof shell

To Top it All Off:  A very sexy balaclava with a super thick wool beanie over it.

Add waterproof snow boots with HotHands toe warmers, windblocker glove liners and a pair of waterproof down mittens and I’m ready to roll.

The most difficult part of all these layers is getting into them without breaking into a sweat.  Usually, I’ve soaked through layers 1-6 by the time I get to layer 8 and I have to carry layers 9 and 10 outside with me to cool off before putting them on.

The second most difficult part is walking.  If you have ever seen the moving “A Christmas Story” with the classic scene of the kid so bundled up that when he falls over, he is stuck on his back waving his arms and legs like an over-turned turtle, that’s what I feel like when I dress for really cold weather.  In truth, technology is pretty amazing these days so each layer is impressively thin for the insulating factor and I can walk pretty well.

I eschew cotton because of the sweat factor.  Cotton loses its insulating properties when it gets wet.  With fabrics that keep me warm even when they’re wet, I worry less about wearing too many layers.

Right at the moment, I’m looking out the window at heat lightning flashing in the sky and wondering how on earth I got from thinking about ice to thinking about wearing 10 layers of warm clothes.  The last thing I’d want right now is an extra layer.

But in Maligne Canyon, among the giant ice formations, I was perfectly warm with the cold air against the only exposed skin on my face, content to stand with my mouth wide open in amazement, blowing out clouds of frost with each breath.