Sometimes when Bartek and I are talking about life, I’ll exclaim, “I want to climb mountains!” Seeing the plans immediately forming in his eyes, I always make sure to clarify: “Metaphorical mountains, that is!”
I’m never afraid of challenges or grand schemes; when it comes to life, I’m always willing to work hard and take a risk (for better or for worse… I write this 3000 km away from my home). But what I am afraid of is mice. Following that, heights.
As one of B’s favorite pass times is climbing the peaks of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve had many invitations to face my fears. Thankfully, I’ve declined every one of them. That is, until Bartek suggested we climb Ha Ling Peak while in Canmore. I don’t know why, but I accepted.
Ha Ling Peak (2,407 m: 7,897 ft) is named for the first man to summit the mountain. I think the story goes that a bet was placed that no man (especially not Ha Ling) could climb it. Ha Ling quickly proved them wrong, though there was no evidence to support his claim. Eventually, to win the bet he had to return to the summit with the participants so they themselves could see what Ha Ling had done.
We started out nice and early, not because Ha Ling is a particularly long climb, but because it is one of the most popular mountains to climb, and we hoped to bypass some of the crowds. The reason for its popularity is that it’s actually an easy scramble. For minimal effort (compared to most other mountains) and minimal time, you can reach the summit and enjoy views that are normally only accessible through considerably more strife. Sounds like a good deal, right?
We hiked and enjoyed the forest for some time. I loved the peace and quiet of the morning, as well as the cool temperatures. We met a man who told us that it was his birthday; Bartek and I both agreed that to start your birthday off with a mountain hike is sublime.
Continuing on, we finally reached the treeline. The forest cleared and what remained were a few shrubs and many rocks. In the distance I could see the imposing peak. Taking a small lunch break, I was eager to continue as the wind was picking up and becoming quite gusty. However, we had to stop and admire the views. We could see the mountains surrounding us and they looked amazing! When we continued out ascension, the trail became more and more steep.
At the final push, merely metres to the summit, I was terrified. Not only had the trail become scree (loose little rocks), but the height was making me very uncomfortable. In other words, I was convinced I would slip on the rocks and fall all the way down into oblivion. Bartek told me I was being silly.
Silly or not, I told him to finish the last 10 minutes on his own. I parked my bum down between the only tree and shrub on the top. I wedged my foot in so I wouldn’t slide and then I got out the chocolate. Desperate times….
I really don’t regret not going all the way to the summit. For me, I was really already on the top. Plus, I got to enjoy the amazing views. Sights that overwhelming take a few minutes to settle in. Or maybe I had to overcome the vertigo.
Here’s a video Bartek filmed from the top:
I really enjoyed the hiking and would do it again in a heart beat. I even told Bartek that I’d be willing to accompany him on another mountain trip. But, I added as his eyes lit up, only to the tree line.
Enjoy the weekend!