Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My First Trip to Killarney: Hiking Silver Peak in the rain

A few weekends ago I made a trip out to Bell lake in Kilarney Provincial Park with my girlfriend and her family on a 3 day trip.  Our goal was to hike up to the summit of Silver Peak, the third highest peak in Ontario.  This would be my first time in Killarney, and attempting Silver Peak, though most members of our group have made this climb numerous times before.

Killarney is known for it's picturesque scenary (members of the Group of Seven were known to paint here) and on the eastern side of the park, Silver Peak is a big part of that.  The exposed white quartzite on it's peak is known to glow brightly in the sunlight, giving the mountain it's name and at 1782ft up, it represents the highest point of the La Cloche mountain range.  The view from the top must be spectacular on a clear day; I wouldn't know, but more on that later...

We started our trip early Friday morning and by the time we reached Kilarney it had already been raining for a full night, and it wasn't letting up.  We packed our canoes and began paddling towards the site which would make the next day's hike the easiest.  

After paddling through the rain for 20 mins we made our approached and were disappointed to find that it was occupied by another group.

We turned around and paddled to the other side of Bell lake where we could search for other available sites.  On our trip to the other side, we passed by an island connected to the mainland by a walking bridge.  As we paddled by we were spotted by a curious dog who saw us from the shore, and to our surprised he made the trip out from the mainland across to bridge to come say hi to us.

As we came to free sites we began scouting them out to compare which fit our needs the best, finally settling on #88.  We unloaded the canoes and began to set up camp, with the rain letting up enough for us to set up our tents and base area without much wetness.  It always surprises me how quickly camp chores can be completed when there are enough people who are experienced and know what tasks need to be completed.

With plenty of free time left in the day took the opportunity to collect and dry firewood while exploring the area.  As it turned out there was a small waterfall not too far from our site, and the kids with us wasted no time in exploring the local fauna.

This time of year the sun sets by 6pm, and it's a strange feeling to be tired because of the darkness only to find out it's 7:30pm (stranger still is to hear kids who planned on staying up until midnight ask to go to bed at 8pm).

I find that being in the bush and disconnected from technology is like hitting a reset switch for my body.  It knows when to sleep, what time to wake up, how much to eat and how much to drink.  As a result I actually tend to get more restful sleep, wake earlier, eat less, drink more water...all while performing more work than usual. So taking cues from my body, I headed to bed (turns out it was around 9pm).

The next morning we woke up to more rain, and this time it didn't let up.  We ate a quick meal of breakfast sandwiches and coffee and began paddling off to the trailhead.  We paddled exposed on the water for about 40 mins with the wind and rain blowing on us the entire time; even with rain gear it was clear this was going to be a wet and cold climb.

When we got to the trail, we pulled the canoes on shore.  In the time it took to get everyone out of the water and secure the gear, we had all chilled because of the blowing wind and wet conditions- the only option to stay warm was to keep moving and so we headed off.

2 1/2 hours of non-stop hiking.  That's how long it took to reach the summit.  The entire trail isn't long, only about 5.7 km, but the trail is rocky and last 1km-1.5km is straight up steep exposed quartzite, which tends to get slick when wet.  

With the constant rainfall and the nature of water taking the path of least resistance, the trails we were on literally turned into small streams, and the the steep sections into miniature waterfalls.

More than once we found ourselves jumping from wet rock to wet rock in order to cross areas that had become flooded out.

We took minimal breaks to hydrate and snack, because the moment we stopped moving our core temperatures began to drop.

Once we reached the summit we spent 5 minutes "enjoying the view" while we were hit with 50km/hr winds and sprays of mist.  The peak of Silver Peak is about 60ft shorter than the CN Tower so I have no doubt the view would have been spectacular on a clear day, but we just didn't have the kind of luck.

The climb down turned out to be more treacherous than the climb up.  Not only were we more tired this time, but I suspect that we may even have been a bit dehydrated due to the lack of hydration breaks.  Ironic that we were so wet and yet were lacking water.  I took two falls on the slick rocks, the first time injuring my leg and the second time barely catching myself on a standing tree as I slide off the slick quartzite and almost down a steep muddy drop.

The paddle back was an adventure of it's own.  With the winds having picked up while we were on our hike up the mountain, we were treated to high waves out in the middle of Bell Lake.  Already exhausted after the hike, our saving grace was that the wind was blowing in our favour, coming at our backs.  I kept my canoe tighter to the shoreline when the waves got rough, but we were still treated to swells strong enough that we could continue forward without even needing to paddle for certain stretches.

Back at camp we built a fire to dry out our rain soaked clothing.  Once we changed into dry clothes we were treated to hot bowls of chili and mugs of warm mulled wine.  There's nothing quite like a hot drink by the camp fire to breath life back into you after a cold, wet day.

I think it's safe to say everyone slept very well that night.

The next day we packed up out camp and made the short paddle back to the outfitters.  The wind was still in force so a 20 minute paddle ended up being  almost half an hour

After going through what we did to make it to the top of Silver Peak the day before, it only makes sense that the day we were leaving we'd be graced with the "mildest" weather of the trip.  Fairly clear skies, with no rain...and what that in the distance?  I believe that's Silver Peak, with a clear view of the park.

Hopefully the next time I come we'll have better weather.  I'd like to come a few weeks earlier, before all the leaves fall so that we can see the colours.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great adventure. Loving the hat Indiana!