The agony, the ecstasy: two memories of the winter of 2014

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, April 10, 2014

Beauty redeemed the ugliness of a winter that refused to end in these images taken this past March during a week of back-country alpine skiing in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park, west of Jasper. Photos by Mike Simpson

Wow! What a winter we’ve just come through. For the more adventurous it evoked emotions of rave and wonderment. But for others of us, the relentless winter came close to driving us to rage.

Ah yes, rage – snow rage! And we here in the Cochrane area aren’t the only ones feeling it.

Rage was certainly on the mind of a talented reporter with the Winnipeg Free Press recently. Bartley Kives – rhymes with Beavis – gave expression to the feelings around “Winterpeg” in “The Grounds for Violence.” (To view, click here.)

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel, Bartley did a take on “The Sound of Silence.” His lament opens, “Hello winter, my old friend / I don’t believe you’ll ever end.” Doesn’t his second stanza echo the sentiment around our own region of the True North strong and free?

On slippery streets I try to walk
I cannot make it round my block
Because a water main has snapped again
My gate can’t open; it has frozen in
I cannot stand the mere idea
Of April snow
It has to go
These are grounds for violence

Thankfully, winter-weary-land isn’t the whole story; there’s another side – a side that inspires more awe than falls.

The other day, Cochrane-area mountaineer Mike Simpson shared with me a few photos he’d taken in March during a week of back-country alpine skiing in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park, west of Jasper. This is an annual tradition his Grizzly Group of outdoors enthusiasts have had since 1988.

While breaking trail through a metre of fresh snow over a base of old snow in temperatures ranging from –25°C to +3°C, Mike and his four companions encountered a winter-wonderland of pristine shapes. There were giant caps of “mushrooms” atop some of the evergreens. Elsewhere, it was as if white-hooded monks were kneeling in prayer and meditation in the sacred silence of Nature’s cathedral.

Yes, for some like Bartley, this was the winter of our discontent; for others like Mike, it was a winter of delight. Ah, the agony and the ecstasy of snow.

So, let this column be a good riddance to the one, but a fond farewell to the other. In either case, let the crocuses come forth!


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

Return to Coffee With Warren home page