Face your fears this year with mountaineering
I am afraid of heights. Yes, I like to go hiking and climb mountains, but I think part of that interest is to face my fear of heights in beautiful places that make it worth it. Last year I got suckered in a willing way into my first true mountaineering experience. We decided to hike up Mt. Victoria in beautiful Banff National Park with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. Now, if you have not been to this area, I suggest booking the trip well in advance for summer.
Mt. Victoria is the tallest peak you see in all the pictures of Lake Louise. The elevation is 11,365'. That doesn’t sound like a lot to people who go hiking in the Rockies, however it is not about the elevation here, it is about the technicality. We were short roped in, had mountaineering boots, crampons and ice picks. At times we even got to use the ropes and belay and rock climb.
The trip started out by hiking up the backside of Mt. Victoria near Lake O'Hara which is technically in British Columbia province. The first day consisted of reaching our overnight accommodations at Abbott Pass Hut which was at 9,596' elevation. The last bit of the hike to the hut was straight up scree. That was when I had my first mental breakdown as a storm was rolling in and I took two steps and slid down 4 steps. It was mentally and physically challenging here. Luckily, I had an encouraging guide and a friend with me. We made it to the hut before the storm got worse. Once in the hut and warmed up by the wood fire, we had some dehydrated food. Overnight trips call for light weight packing, so you aren’t lugging around more weight than needed. It is about necessities only.
When talking with the other campers that evening, we found out most are local to the Calgary area and just hiked up to the hut and plan to hike out tomorrow. This made me feel slightly uneasy that a lot of the locals have not even attempted to summit Mt. Victoria. But also made me feel like a badass that I was attempting the summit climb the next day.
Early the next morning, we started the climb up to the summit. The first part was climbing up slick rock formations. About halfway through we got close to the summit ridge and were hugging the mountain. This was where we could see Lake Louise. It was spectacular but also another mental breakdown moment for me as I was literally hugging the side of the mountain because one missed step could lead you to death. A top the summit, it was fulfilling knowing we did it and the weather allowed us to climb this beast. We had lunch atop the summit quickly and then had to start our trek down to the hut for another night in the sleeping bag.
Finally, the last morning, we filled our bellies and headed out. This time I liked the scree, we were gliding down it much faster than climbing up it. The hike down we took a slightly different trail back to Lake O’hara to see new scenery and new lakes. Lake O’hara was so calming that I had to take off the mountaineering boots and let my feet get healed by the pure ice-cold water. It was one of the most thrilling and scary experiences I have ever had, but completely worth it!