Day 16! WE CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN!!!
Seriously, that is the highlight of our day (and all of the photos you're getting today).
I didn't have my camera kit with me on this trek, so Caitlyn took the lead on all the photos as well as writing the post today. Enjoy the guest post!
Some of the research we have been doing at the Banff and Jasper libraries was to scope out possible scrambles and ridge walks, and to learn the necessary safety considerations before we undertook one. We had narrowed it down to about three that we thought were suitable for our first attempt and were located on our path. We ultimately decided on Mount Cinquefoil, the first peak in a long chain.
The book rated this an "easy" scramble (meaning very little use of hands), and indicated that it would take 4-7 hours round trip, climbing 1240 m to reach a total elevation of 2260 m. It took us 5.5 hours total, about 4 of which was uphill. I am certainly glad we didn't take on anything more difficult for our first try, and am deeply grateful to Rick for his enthusiasm and encouragement, without which I might not have attempted this uphill slog.
Our climb was made more challenging by the wind conditions. For the past two days, there had been strong winds, with gusts up to 40 km/hr. Yesterday evening, we checked the forecast for today, which suggested the wind would peak around noon, then abate. So we figured starting around 11:30 should mean the winds were dying down by the time we were exposed on the upper reaches of the mountain. In fact, the wind continued to pick up all day, reaching a steady 36 km/hr with gusts around 64 km/hr, and most of our hike was on the windward face. We developed some strategies for staying low to the ground so as not to get swept sideways, and enjoyed a brief reprieve about halfway up, when the trail veered into the leeward side of the mountain, winding among a lush mossy forest, which was quite the change of scenery from the sparser, shale-strewn face that we spent most of the day on.
The book advertised that this trail was likely to provide views of big horned sheep and tiny mountain pikas, but all we saw was piles of pika poop and one spooked partridge. Perhaps all the other animals had better sense than we, and stayed cozy in their homes on this blustery day.
Throughout the climb, each time we reached a clearing and could see only a small rise above us, we kept thinking we were almost there, but once we had topped that crest, there was always another one waiting for us. In the end, we were elated to reach our final destination, from which we had a 360° view! There was another higher point beckoning, and we remain unclear on whether we actually reached the highest elevation for this climb according to the book, but with the wind conditions and the knowledge that there were many more higher peaks in this chain, we were delighted with the peak we reached. It felt like a very satisfying physical endeavor, and the views were spectacular. With the wind buffeting us, Rick held on to me while I tried to snap some photos. The height was a little nerve-wracking if we thought about it too much, but we were very careful in picking out each footstep all the way up, and even more so on the way back down as the wind continued to worsen and gravity accelerated our progress.
Throughout the hike and in the hours since we completed this challenge together, we have both felt physically taxed but emotionally energized, and awestruck, unable to comprehend that the two of us could do something that seems so exotic. It is so unlike anything we do on a regular basis. Sharing this challenging and rewarding endeavor was a great bonding experience for us - an acute high point in this adventure we've undertaken together on this cross country tour and through life.
Riding high on this feeling, we said goodbye to Jasper National Park and hit the road again. We're on route to our next camp site, just south of Grande Prairie, and so far have seen a bull elk, three deer, two moose (a mama and baby pair), and a beautiful sunset, which seems to last forever this far north.
Sleep tight friends! Wishing you the kind of emotional high that we've been experiencing. 💖