Sunday, 2 November 2008

Climb Every Mountain...

Guess what I did today?! I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN!!!

This time I got really, really close to the top too! If you'll have some patience and read through, I'll tell you why I haven't made it to the top of a mountain yet.

Today's challenge was one 'Lady MacDonald'. We were going to climb up to the 'teahouse', which was supposed to built but never was, and then possibly summit the ridge.

It was a very short walk along a neighborhood path and then onto a rocky path which followed the creek in Canmore. It wasn't long before we were at the Lady MacDonald trailhead. Trudy was in the lead (always a good thing as I got us lost the one time I attempted to lead) and as we started the trek mentioned 'That's about the last of the flat part as we now have 2 hours of steady climb.' My response to this was 'Cool! We can just take our time and set a good pace. No worries.'

I probably walked about 100 paces when what Trudy said actually penetrated my rather thick cranium. Wait a second. Did she just say TWO HOURS of steady climb?! And did I just say 'Cool'?! Whoa! What the heck am I thinking?! Then again...I did see where we were going to be hiking from the parking lot....and it was pretty far up. Some days I swear the cheese is sliding off the cracker and my brain just does not register reality! What adventure have you gotten yourself into this time Missy?!

So that's what we did. We walked up. Up through the trees.

Up more through open spaces...

And up even more through the rocks...

You'll note just how steep this wee trail was. At times my heart was pounding through my chest. However, the heart pounding wasn't only from the exertion of climbing up a mountain, but also some of the areas we had to climb through...
I love being in the mountains, and I love hiking through the mountains. I love just being outside. I most especially love hiking through trees. I even touch the trees as I walk by and thank them for their presence. Trees are wonderful things because not only do they smell good, but they also stop me from plummeting to my untimely demise down the side of the mountain!
I have a bit of a weakness...I'm terrified of heights. I'm one of those people that get to the second rung on a ladder and my body starts to waver due to the vertigo that sets in. That written, one may wonder what the heck I was doing climbing a mountain?! Well. I hate the fact that I'm afraid of heights so I constantly am trying to overcome that fear. It is this insanity that also leads me to think that competing in an Ironman is 'fun'.
Trudy is well aware of the fact of my height issue so, unbeknownst to me, was keeping a watchful eye on how I was doing in some of the sections. Most especially the sections that were very open with the narrow rocky path.
I must say when I set out on our hike I set the intention that this would be a bit of a meditation walk for me. Trudy and I both agree that being outdoors like this can be meditative so for the most part there was very little chit chat on the way up. (In my case, this was also due in part to the fact that I was a bit winded at the onset of the climb.) Instead, I was focussed on each footfall, my breathing, the glorious smell of pine, and the trickle of sweat that was a constant stream down the side of my face.
In the open sections it was most easy to be meditative. For one, I knew if I looked down that my head would spin, my heart would race and I would likely have such a hard body shake that I would end up tumbling down the steep slope. The very thing that I didn't want to do. Instead, in my head I sang 'climb every mountain' from the movie 'The Sound of Music', I watched every single footfall, and I tried desperately not to panic.
Trudy had stopped to check up on me and I wondered if she could sense my fear. Or see my body shaking for that fact. Not that I wanted to tell her this, but in some of the steeper, more slippery sections I was truly wondering how the heck I was going to get down from this mountain. How would it look if I just slide down on my butt? Perhaps I could convince her to send for a helicopter to pick me up at the top?! I was sure I could handle the embarassment if it meant I would get to a lower altitude safely.
I quickly realized that I really shouldn't be thinking of the down. I still had a lot of up to go. Gulp. How easy it is to forget about staying in the present moment when things get hairy scary!
During one particular slick section I had a good rhythm going. Stab the hill with my hiking pole, one foot, two foot. Stab the hill with my hiking pole, one foot, two foot. I did this at a snails pace, but it was working for me so I really didn't care if it was slow. It was then that I noticed out of the corner of my eye a woman coming up behind me. I swear she was walking as if she was taking a midday stroll down Robson Street. Oh how I envied her confidence! Back to the task at hand for me though. Stab the hill, one foot, two foot.
Oh, I did have a wee distraction from all the climbing and heights at one point. If you recall, I mentioned I was sweating rather perfusely during the climb. Not only from my head, but apparantly my low back and arse were rather sweaty too. I must say, I don't recall ever sweating THAT much around the buttocks area, but I must have been today because my pants were quite wet. Perhaps this was a hiking sweat?? At about the point that I could feel a trickle of sweat slip down between my bodacious butt cheeks I thought to myself, 'I can't be sweating THAT much, can I?!'. I reached around and felt the backside of my pants and they were soaked through. So much so, that there were droplets of water on my fingers. What the.... MY WATER BOTTLE!!!
Nuts! My water bottle had tipped in my bag and I had about 500 mL of water slowly drip down my backside. At the time I stopped to actually notice what was going on the water had now begun to slide down the back of my legs! If I didn't have my fleece cap, shirt, jacket and hat in the bag I'm sure this process wouldn't have happened in such a slow manner. I still would have ended up with a wet backside though so it was a bit of a moot point when I caught it.
Good thing I'm a triathlete who's used to racing for long periods in wet clothing. I put my bottle right side up and continued on. All the while chuckling to myself because it never ceases to amaze me that something funny generally happens to me on all my adventures! I'm actually quite thankful for that. Better than, oh I don't know, having the adventure of sliding down a mountainside!
The sun was shining on my backside so lucky for me, my pants dried within the next 1/2 hour of climbing.
I'm not sure how long we'd been climbing for. Likely almost the two hour mark when finally I spotted it. The teahouse. Or rather, the platform the teahouse was going to be on, as shown in the picture below.

It only took us a few minutes from this point to reach it. I was in desperate need for a snack at this point so once we got up there we sat and enjoyed the breathtaking view. According to some information I looked up afterwards, we were approximately 940 meters up.

I'd made it. It wasn't the top of Lady MacDonald, but it was damn near close. Trudy, in her ever kind way, suggested that because there was a weather system coming in we likely shouldn't attempt to get to the top. The top being about 274 meters higher. Below is a picture of some of the clouds coming in. From the west it looked rather dark too.

I took one look at where we had to go and admitted to Trudy that I just couldn't do it today anyways. It was loose rock and completely open. (It's hard to see in the picture below, but along the left side of the ridge is the trail.) It had taken all of my courage to get me through the few open sections we had already passed and I knew I just wasn't ready for the last of the climb.

Trudy admitted that she didn't think it would be a good day to attempt this either as she'd noticed my fear in a few sections coming up. However, she also added that she was quite impressed with my dedication to get past those 'scary' spots and she thought that with a few more climbs like this that I'd be ready to tackle this climb to the top or even 'Chinaman's Peak'. I felt pretty good about that!

We sat up there for a while until it got too cold. There were no trees to shelter us and the wind was pretty cold. It was time to head back down, but not before we got our picture taken, by another couple who came up behind us, at the top. That's the town of Canmore down below.

Oh, you know how I was wondering how the heck I was going to get down off this mountain?! You know, cause now I'd actually have to look DOWN at where I could fall?? (No wonder 'up' is so may be slippery but you don't actually see how steep it is where you are!) Well, as it turned out, I got down just fine thank you very much. Even the sections where I was shaking on the way up! I felt really comfortable going down and just took my time down the more slippery sections. I definitely felt more confident and in control. My plan of sliding down on me arse did not have to be put into action. Good thing too as the rocks were sharp and would have torn my pants...

I think Trudy is right...with a few more climbs like that I'll get more comfortable with the open sections and actually be able to climb to the top! Very cool.

I think it took us about 1.5 hours to climb down. I was really feeling it in my knees and quads by the time we got to the bottom. This was a great workout. I was on a rush when I got to the bottom - I couldn't believe that we climbed that far! I'm really thankful that I've met such an amazing friend as Trudy. She's a really great guide - very thoughtful about the person she's hiking with and how they are doing. Not only that, but she has provided me with a couple fantastic adventures now. I can't wait till we get out cross country skiing - which if the clouds today were any indication - might be sooner rather than later.

I shall leave you with this last picture. This was the view from the parking lot pathway. In approximately 3.5 hours we climbed above that treeline and back down again. How cool is that - I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN TODAY!!

Now it's time to kick back and sip on a yummy glass of red wine.

Peace out my adventure loving friends!


  1. I am seriously going to have to tag along with you guys on some of your adventures. One of the things I've always wanted to do (and never took the time) was to do some of the hikes around Canmore/Banff area and x-country ski. Then I can show Mel when she arrives.

  2. Can I come too?? Take me take me!!! Susi your hiking step step poke sounds like my dancing slow, slow fast fast, slow, slow fast fast...

  3. I am so proud of you, Susi! Great job at pushing through your fears -- you ARE a mountain goat!! :)

  4. I like the title, and I echo all that was said. Somthing about climbing, being outside, exercise, being high up(I enjoy heights), ummmmm I forgot where I was going with this. I just love it too!!