On Top Of Middle Sister

Let me begin by saying that it’s the morning after my adventure with Rick and Paul to the top of Middle Sister, and I’m still exhausted. My body is completely knackered, I slept like the dead, and there are several muscles in my body that I am only now aware of. In short, yesterday was epic.

We picked Paul up around 8:30am to make our way towards Canmore. After stopping for breakfast and lunch supplies (read Starbucks and Subway) we were off. The conversation towards Canmore was centred on the fact that it had snowed in the mountains, and snowed a lot (30cm). As the mountains came into view, we could see just how much snow there was. This could be problematic.

After much discussion, we opted to trek to the top of Middle Sister. We figured even with some snow, it should be relatively accessible, and not terribly dangerous.

Part of a triple known as The Three Sisters, Middle Sister stands directly between Little Sister, and Big Sister. The mountain peak reaches over 2700 metres high, and is accessible by Stewart Creek. The round trip trek is long – over 18km – and includes a lot of boulder hopping, scrambling, and very careful maneuvering as a result of the original trail being washed away in the floods a few years back. The creek bed was extremely uneven, littered with logs, rocks, and massive boulders. Much of our time was spent navigating the debris, while at the same time trying to identify the actual trail (which, as mentioned, had been washed away in the floods).

When we finally reached the end of the creek bed (about 3.5 hours after the start of the trek), I realized that I was already tired – and there were still several hours to go before we reached the summit. Oh, and I guess we also had to trek back down. This was going to be an intense challenge, and I was going to have to dig deep. At this point I began doubting that I actually had it in me. I also wondered why I was so tired, and so early in the trek? This wasn’t normal – at least not for me. It wasn’t until both Paul and Rick mentioned their exhaustion that I realized it wasn’t just me. We were all knackered. It probably had something to do with the terrain we had to hike over while we were making our way up Stewart Creek.

Having heard that both Rick and Paul were also exhausted, it became a team effort to keep moving. At times I just put my head down, putting one foot in front of the other, ignoring the voice in my head to call it quits. Rick’s voice echoed in my mind – Suck it up, Gillis.

As we got higher and higher, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Toques, scarves, mitts, and wind breakers were all required. Short pants were replaced with long pants as we plodded on to our ultimate goal.

And then it was within sight – the summit of Middle Sister.

Looking out from the summit of Middle Sister
Looking out from the summit of Middle Sister

The views from the top were incredible, and we spent several minutes looking down on the world below, and out at the mountain ranges in the distance. Breathtaking really doesn’t do it justice. Nor do the photos. All I can say is that the view was extra sweet given how much the trek took out of me.

Of course, by this point, we were all a little delirious. We snapped photos and bent over laughing at the ridiculousness of our poses. We giggled over the stupidest of things. It was perfect.

The descent was faster than the 5+ hour climb to the summit; taking just over 4 hours to complete. We trekked through melting snow and mud, rocks, boulders, and the like. And then we hiked down Stewart Creek; the creek that apparently never ever wanted to end. Ever. But of course, eventually it did.

Yesterday was exhausting. My body hurts a little more than I’d like today. And I slept 6.5 hours as a result of our epic climb. I feel completely spent, and at the same time completely rejuvenated. It’s a weird feeling, and it’s one that keeps me coming back to the mountains every year.

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