Monday, 20 October 2008

I Heard The Call Of The Mountains...

I was back playing in the mountains this weekend and it was brilliant!! I met up with my friends Trudy and Spring for a wee bite then a short walk. Spring's back was hurting so she opted out of the hiking we had planned. At least we got a good walk and talk in around town and I got to learn a bit more about Canmore.

Funny thing, as I was walking I heard someone yell 'Susi??' Sure enough there was Katie going for a run! She was sneaking in a run while her students were running in the Alberta XCountry races up at the Nordic Centre. Hopefully they all had a great time and achieved the goals they set.

Aftering saying goodbye to Spring, Trudy and I headed out for a hike. I had no preference as it's a veritble playground out there so Trudy suggested we drive out to the Shark Mountain area.

In town it was rather cloudy and continued to be so as we slowly gained elevation. Just as we came out of the valley though we were met with looming mountains topped with snow and bright blue sky! I couldn't help but wonder how many people stayed inside cause it was so grey out and yet with a short drive you could find sunshine?! Likely not many in Canmore - EVERYONE goes outside and does something. It's fabulous!

Rather spontaneously, Trudy asked if I'd ever climbed to the top of a mountain before. Hmmm.... Well, I hiked up to Bow Hut before! For me that was the top, but Trudy corrected me on that one. Oh ya, there was the glacier above. Whooops!

It was decided then. We were going to climb up Chinaman's Peak. Now I know that's not the new politically correct name for the mountain, but I can't remember the new name right now so you'll have to forgive me.

Up we started to go. About 10 minutes in I realized it might have helped if I'd taken a puff of my inhaler...which I forgot to bring. Oh well. I would just take it slow. Below is just one of the stunning views I had during our climb.

You know what I learned about climbing a mountain? It's all up. Up and up and up and more up. The other thing I learned is that it smells divine in amongst the glorious trees. Between wheezes I was taking deep sniffs of the air. Oh the wonderful, delightful smell of pine, dirt and fresh air. There is no better smell I swear!

What a great workout too. I was sweating up a storm! I have no idea what my heart rate was but I'm sure it was as high as when I do MAPS on the bike! Who knew that 'walking' could kick such butt! Trudy was cool as a cucumber. I am not actually sure she broke a sweat even. This is her town and her mountains though so she is one fit woman. She mentioned that there are runners in town that go from town centre all the way up this mountain to the peak, which is where we were headed. Running??? Yes, running. HOLY HANNAH! I was in maximum heart rate zone just walking up the darned thing.
The higher we climbed the more snow we encountered. At one point I started to get a bit concerned because my shoes weren't quite grippy enough. Trudy thought the same thing too. It wasn't bad climbing up, but it was pretty steep in sections and coming down would be an issue. About halfway up the mountain we both agreed the smart thing to do would be to turn around. It was a bit dicey getting back to the area that had no snow - so I was glad we turned around when we did. The trees helped us though as they let us hang on as we stepped/slide along certain sections. Just another reason why I love trees!

It took us almost two hours to do what we did, but we were craving more. So Trudy suggested another hike we could do that was close by. This is one of her happy places and I was honoured she shared it with me.
As we drove by Chinaman's Peak Trudy pointed out that that's where we'd been hiking to. It was the top of the peak in the picture below.

I somehow hadn't pictured that was where we were going as we hiked through the trees. My first word was 'SERIOUSLY??? We were heading to that peak?? Up there?? Waaay up there??' I started to get whooozie. A little secret about me...I am terrifed of heights and get vertigo. Just looking up I was wobbly.
I promise, I've been trying to rid myself of my fear of heights. I've even gone indoor climbing. The climbing part I love! It's the letting go at the top and get lowered part that is a bit tricky. It usually takes me about 5 minutes to actually let go. This is while whoever is holding the rope is saying 'Susi, I promise it's ok, just let go of the rocks and push out from the wall'. That's when I say 'OK'....and continue to cling to it like poop to a cow's butt. This goes on for several minutes until I take a deep breath, close my eyes and let go. Yup, I'm a wuss.

Trudy figured maybe it was best that we didn't climb to the top after hearing that. She did promise to take me up some other mountains though so I could slowly prepare myself to make the trip up there one day. I will rid myself of this fear!
The next hike was much more gentle. We headed towards Grassi Lakes. It was getting later so the sun was starting to make it's descent. As it was, it filtered through the trees. It was a beautiful sight, for which my photography does not do it justice. I kept expecting to see fairies and gnomes playing!

We walked up the stairs that Mr. Grassi himself had built out of the rocks in the area. It was great! When we got up to the lakes, the magic continued. I could spend all day up there. Trudy mentioned that when the sun hits the lakes they turn a bright turquoise. There was a tiny bit that we could see, which I tried to take a photo of.

It took us about an hour to climb up and down to Grassi Lakes. So all in all we got some good hiking in. Later on in the evening we enjoyed a presentation put on by Brian Keating of the Calgary Zoo. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak I highly recommend going.

He shared tales of his and his wifes adventures in the Arctic, South America and the Himilayas. He is wonderfully funny and so entertaining that I hardly knew that 2.5 hours had gone by!

The next day we headed out for a run along the river. We had a blast in the trails, hopping over roots and dodging trees. Oh, and the odd yellow lab that came ambling by looking for his tennis ball. The run felt great. Most likely because I was running through the trees and when I looked up I could see the snow kissed mountains that surrounded us. All together now, 'Sigh'.

One word describes my weekend - Nirvana.

Peace out my brilliant friends!


  1. Beautiful pics!! Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Susi!! I'm so happy that you have met such a good friend.

    And for the hiking -- now you know my sense of awe at Charmaine when she wanted me to build up to carrying 20lbs. of rocks in a pack while running up Turtle mountain.

    I wussed out and only built up to carrying 4 liters of water plus food, and extra clothing. With the water I drank, my load got a little lighter as I went on. Hahahahaha!!

  2. Terrific photos and your adventure sounded awesome. Thanks for sharing.