After six attempts at packing and repacking my gear “just right,” I ventured out with my buddy and fellow cross country ski enthusiast, Paul Finney, owner of Escape Outdoors in North Sydney, and cross-country snow shoe aficionado, Lori Mackenzie for a weekend of good ole’ fashioned, testosterone heavy, high-endurance, extreme-climate induced stress release.
The route? Chetticamp (North Mountain) to Ingonish via White Hill, the tallest summit in Nova Scotia. During the barrens – headed face into 50 kph winds for nearly 8k – I admit, I couldn’t shake the question, “This will be fun soon, right?” But, when the majesty of the Cape Breton Islands came to pristine life with her snow capped evergreens and icicles dancing over the clear, blue passing in the full strength of the Sunday morning sunshine, I couldn’t shake the desire to do it all again from the beginning and to preserve each idyllic moment down the tight-treed passes.
Route finding was a bit challenging given the recent storms and conditions. We originally intended to ski 45k, but due to navigational challenges and extreme winds on Saturday, we improvised, taking refuge in an 8 foot cabin (buried in 7.5 feet of snow). It was dumb, pure luck that we even saw the chimney. We managed to find an entry point into the cabin, but only an hour later, we were digging ourselves out like amateurs who underestimated the power of smoke inhalation after our attempt to thaw out was muddled by the laws of thermodynamics. Riotous, we were! It was pure, unadulterated, outdoor fun.
Fortunately for our frozen fingers and toes, the cold, smokey night brought forth a gorgeous, sunny, final day of superb conditions for the remaining length of our trek. The last 8 hours of our excursion were pure bliss filled with hoar frost covered branches lining the pristine, tight treed runs to Ingonish and a sense of utter elation amongst friends and fellow adventurists following the long, cold, but super fun journey to transect Cape Breton Island during harsh, winter conditions. I’m already planning and plotting the next outing, and the ice has barely melted from my snow boots.