Winter Camping in Killarney, December 2004

The weekend before Christmas, Ludovic, Adi, and me drove up to Killarney park for some snow hiking and winter camping experience. We started from Waterloo at around 7pm with horrible road conditions (because it was just below 0°C and snowing), but surprisingly arrived at the Killarney park office around 2am.

After a very short (and cold) night in the car, we started hiking around 8:30 in the morning. Our plans were to go to campsite 49 on the first day, then do some local hiking around 49, and return to the park office on the third day. We had taken the crappy Outers Club snowshoes that you can see on some of the pictures because we did not know how much snow there would be on the trail. It turned out that the snow was low enough to go without the snowshoes (less than knee-deep in most places). In addition, we could not have used the OC snowshoes in most places anyway, because the trail was too steep. We weren't as fast as we had expected, so we had to stop about 1.5 hours before our designated campsite and do the remaining distance the next morning.

Apart from us, there was only one more group in the whole park, a couple that was planning to do the whole loop (100km) in 5 days – something that is not really possible in winter. It turned out that they quickly realized that as well and returned after their first day in the park.

On this trip, I learned about the difficulties of winter camping. The tent freezes, the poles freeze, and it becomes difficult to compact the tent in the morning when you want to start. In our second night in the park interior, we had -28°C in the morning. Not only was it difficult to compact the tent, but even keeping our bodies warm while breaking down the camp turned out to be quite a challenge. Fortunately, we had dried our boots over the fire the night before, so at least we did not have to wear ice blocks on our feet (At least not in the morning, that is. During the day, one of my feet broke through the ice when we had to cross a river. So, I had to wear an ice block for the rest of the day.)

On our way back to the park entrance on the third day, we noticed a helicopter cycling over the woods. Since it was cycling there for a long time, we suspected they were trying to communicate with us. However, there was nothing we could do between the woods. When we left the forest, the helicopter landed and one guy (who turned out to be the park supervisor) asked us whether we were alright. He told us about last night's temperatures and that the forecasts were -32°C for the following night. Apparently, the park management wanted to make sure that nobody dies in their park. Friendly Canadians!


Starting from the park office: Since we had forgotten to take spoons with us, we had to use the plastic spoons the friendly people at the office had given us.
Inside the park: Our first views of beautiful Killarney, covered by snow.

There is already a small layer of ice on the lakes. However, it will not be safe to cross them before mid-January.

Lunch in the snow. This is just before the main ridge in the south of Killarney park.

Walking our way up to the main ridge. In winter, this is a bit more difficult than in summer.

Almost there. Behind me, you can see Killarney's forests and Georgian Bay at the horizon.

Breakfast in the snow.

Camp fire at campsite 49.