It was -17C in the shade in this part of Banff NP, where we would be for much of the day. But a full-on bluebird sky! We were using our metal-edged cross-country skis for the 14km uphill journey - mainly for control on the way down. Waxing is easy: blue.
The first couple of kms are a bit arduous as you climb up a relatively steep crusty tracked old road - away from the noisy highway. The road had not been trackset for quite a long time. Once into the Red Earth Creek hanging valley, the new snow was deeper, and it gets quite magical. Especially when you start catching a few views of the south-facing alpine slopes of Mt Pilot, and the lit-up southeast avalanche slopes of Copper Mtn.
Before too long, we passed by the Red Earth (RE6?) campground, and started climbing above the creek again. Finally we were getting some rays of sunshine! At that point, it was -18C, but we were keeping pretty warm. Upon reaching the intersection for Shadow Lake, the new show we were breaking through was about 5-6cm deep. From experience we knew it was easier to carry skis, and kickstep up the steep trail to where it flattens out again. The trail had been used sometime ago, and was pretty supportive beneath the new snow. Before too long, we started breaking out into beautiful sunlit meadows, and finally at the Shadow Lake lodges, which were still closed for the season.
The lodges were put where they are for a reason. They are nicely backed into trees on the edge of a huge meadow that flanks the lake, with southwest facing decks, and tremendous views of the glacier-capped Mt Ball (10,807 ft).
After finishing the tea, and some tawny port*, we reluctantly tore ourselves away from the warm sunshine at 3PM, and descended back to the car. It took about half as long to get back, for a total round trip of 6 hours. On the way back, the last bits of sun were highlighting the peak of Mt Cory across the Bow Valley, that we climbed last summer.
*This was a celebration of our getting engaged at Shadow Lake 4 years ago.