Yesterday Rick and I spent the afternoon hiking the East End of Rundle. Located close to Canmore, the 2,530m mountain offers a fantastic view of the surrounding area.
This was my first trek since returning from Nepal in January. Given my extreme laziness these past few months, I was a bit worried that my mountain legs would fail me. Fortunately, after a few minutes things started feeling great. My breath wasn’t terribly laboured, and my legs weren’t screaming. All systems were go.
The weather was cool, but not cold – and once we started the breeze was a nice relief. The sky was cloudy, and every now and then we felt a raindrop, but not enough that we were concerned.
The trek up was uneventful. We chatted most of the way up, stopping for snacks and water as necessary. We stopped for photos, and to take some time to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area. At one point we realized that the clouds were both above and below us. Eventually the clouds above decided to turn up the waterworks, and we were required to pull out our rain gear. Those below us were low enough that we actually stood above them. This is one of my favourite things when I’m in the mountains – watching the clouds wisp through the mountains below me. I’m not going to say that I feel like I’m flying – because I don’t. I just find the entire experience rather humbling and awesome.
Based on my discussions with Rick, there exist several routes to the summit. We of course chose to take a more exposed route. Instead of scrambling to the top, we opted to climb up an exposed section. You might imagine the exposed section as a rather terribly designed staircase, consisting primarily of a bunch of tall, somewhat jagged, slightly slippery (thanks to the off-and-on rain), and potentially loose rocks/boulders that act like stairs. Each step varies in its depth and height. Most of the steps are not level. And some stick out farther than the steps below. In most cases the climbing is rather straight forward, but in others it requires a bit of thought regarding hand and foot placement. I love these types of routes, because they take me close to the edge of my comfort zone. Is that foothold going to support me? Will I be able to grab something if I slip? Once I lift my weight onto that rock, which other rock am I going to grab? And is that one stable?
We eventually reached the summit and were greeted by some spectacular views. We were going to take a few minutes to stop and have a snack, but then the wind got a little colder and the rain came down a little harder. We opted to get off the peak and head for lower ground.
It was on the descent that things got a bit iffy. The trouble actually began several weeks ago when I lost my prescription sunglasses. I had ordered another pair, and had asked that they be processed quickly so that I would have them for my trip. On Wednesday morning when I called the store, I was told – Your lenses have arrived, but our guy won’t be in until this afternoon to cut them. You should be able to pick them up later today. Since my flight was taking off at 2pm, this clearly wasn’t good news.
Flash forward to that moment on the mountain when we began to descend. This was the moment when I realized that having my prescription sunglasses would have been a huge help. It’s not to say that the descent was particularly dangerous or anything, but it became clear very quickly that I was having some difficulties judging distances. Add in slippery rocks, and you’ve got a fantastic recipe for all sorts of unfortunate shenanigans. I may or may not have ended up flat on my ass – in most glorious style, if I do say so myself – several times. Fortunately I had a seeing-eye-Rick with me. While he insists that I didn’t slow down the process, I’m pretty sure he slowed the pace for me; all the while walking directly in front of me so that I could watch where he stepped – giving me a better sense of how far away things were – and identifying any obstacle in my way.
By the time we made it back to the car, I was exhausted, and a mix of emotions. At once I was stoked and relieved to finish another epic adventure with Rick, while also extremely thankful and fortunate to have a seeing-eye-Rick in my life, but also rather frustrated with myself.
The good news, however, is that Rick knows me well enough to know when I’m frustrated and how to help out. Without hesitation, he knew exactly what to say and do.
Suck it up, Gillis. Now let’s get you some food and beer.