"A word on the spot is worth a cartload of recollections"
James Maggs, Southwold diarist 1797-1890

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Mishaps and incompetence

The plan for today was to go to Grotto Canyon, not far west of Canmore, and do a WI3 and a couple of shorter 4s. We wanted to stay fairly close to Canmore and avoid doing anything too ambitious in view of the snow and the low temperatures. Good thinking so far. So how did it all go so badly wrong..?

First of all we couldn't find the roadside parking lot as described in the guide. So we turned in to a road leading to a Beymag industrial plant. We stopped the car on the approach to the plant, and a snowplough driver who'd been clearing the access to the plant stopped his work to advise us to park up a side road. He then cleared the access to the road for us:

His parting words were to "keep warm, if not you know where we are!'

So, cheered yet again by Canadian friendliness, we set off up what we thought was the trail to Grotto Canyon. Everything was Narnia-like, pine trees heavily laden with snow between the rock walls of the canyon. Complete silence apart from our breathing and the squeaking of our boots in the dry snow.

We were surprised to find a steep 6m ice step barring our way - not like described in the guide - but Nick soloed it and we carried on up the canyon. And on. And on. Three hours later, we accepted we were in the wrong place and turned back.

Finally, back at the car, we set off up a small road past the plant towards where we now believed Grotto Canyon lay. We soon got stuck in the snow, and after getting out to consider how best to free the car, we found we were locked out! The key was in the ignition and the engine was running, but the doors were locked!

To cut a long story short, we walked to the plant, where again we were met with Canadian friendliness in the form of the office secretary who gave us a telephone number for a Canmore locksmith. 15 minutes later, he arrived and jimmied the lock...then helped us push the car out of the snow.

After that we decided to head back home, tails firmly between our legs.

On the way back I lost control of the car on the compacted snow, skidding across the road three times from side to side before slipping off the side of the road. After gathering ourselves, we pushed the car back onto the road with the help of the same locksmith (who'd been following behind us in his truck - how embarrassing), and drove home. VERY slowly.

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