For the first time I looked at the mountains from a whole different perspective.
I explored two canyons before I ever summited my first mountain.
My first trip to Jasper National Park in Alberta was last January. Canada can get really cold in the winter, and that day the temperature was about 24 below.
Before this trip the closest I had ever been to the mountains was on the highway driving through. Next thing I know, I’m in my truck with Kirsten driving on this snowy road through the forest going up the mountain to check out Maligne Canyon. A few minutes later we arrived at the parking lot. It was freezing outside so we bundled up. Accessing the canyon was easy. The trails have steps and railings down to the bottom. There’s a few cool look out points where you can poke your head over the railing and see all the way down to the bottom. But the real fun started at the very bottom.
We jumped over the railing and climbed down snow-covered boulders and rocky ledges to the frozen icy canyon bottom. This place was incredible. Like no where I’ve ever been before. Walking on the frozen river in between the dark rocky cracks going deeper and deeper. Surrounded by frozen waterfalls 200 feet high. If this had been summer time, right where I was walking would be a fast flowing river with rapids and glacial waterfalls smashing down from above. But everything was completely frozen over. So really it seemed calm and quiet. Almost peaceful in a way. In some spots you could even see the water falls plashing down behind frozen layers of ice from the falls. Icicles hang down from above by the thousands. Some of them 60 feet tall and thick. What a unique place to explore!
We took as many photos as we could but it was so cold out that out cameras kept freezing and shutting off. As the day got later it started to get dark quickly down at the canyon bottom and we had about a half hour hike out of there back to the truck.
I want to return next year and come more prepared. If we are allowed, possibly even bring a tent and sleeping bags and spend the night at the bottom of the canyon camping out right beside the frozen river. It would be pitch black at night time but I think if we brought a couple different lights and cameras we could get some pretty spectacular night pictures.
About two months later we visited Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park, Alberta. This was a cool experience, too. The weather was a little warmer and the snow was starting to melt, but it was still really icy. Crampons definitely would have helped. I noticed this trail had more tourists on it than the more secluded Maligne Canyon. We even had to wait in line for about 15 minutes at the bottom of the canyon just to get close enough to the frozen waterfalls. It was worth the wait I’d say.
The next day we drove from Canmore all the way back into Jasper National Park through the Icefields Parkway to visit Athabasca Glacier. This was a huge change of scenery. We walked about a mile way out across the Columbian ice fields until we physically couldn’t go any further; the snow just kept getting deeper and deeper and we didn’t have all of our gear. We found this really cool spot where the snow is built up around a massive boulder of ice. It was covered in icicles. It was actually the spot where a famous ice cave had collapsed. The scenery and the views were stunning. We were at the very bottom of this spectacular mountain range trying to walk through waist deep snow just to get all the best pictures. Awesome experience.
Over the next few months Kirsten and I would explore a few more snowy mountain spots such as Peyto Lake and Lake Louise. Just a few small hikes.
But my first mountain summit wasn’t until that summer out in Jasper. We went to Edmonton to go skydiving for a few days. Jasper is only a few hours drive from Edmonton so we decided to cruise out for a few nights and check out a few paddle boarding and hiking spots. Out of nowhere Kirsten just asked me if I wanted to summit a mountain. I didn’t even have to think about it. I just said “Ya let’s go!” Sulphur Skyline looked like a pretty good pick. Not a very difficult hike which was nice. But when we made it to the top the views were amazing. A full 360 degree view of Jasper National park. This was a great experience for me. One, because it was my first summit, but also because Kirsten was with me. Kirsten is big into hiking and all my trips to the mountains and exploring these places have been with her. So it’s a lot of fun doing these things for the first time with someone who lives for this stuff.
Two week ago I just summited my second mountain in Lake Tahoe, California. Kirsten and I spent a day hiking to the top of Maggie’s Peaks. This was really fun. The weather was perfect. Hot and sunny. With a cool, slight breeze which certainly helped when we get closer to the top. With an elevation of around 9,000 feet, the scenery got more rewarding the higher you hike. Not too difficult of a trail; we made it up in a few hours. When we made it to the top I had lots of energy still. I was pumped up! We could see Lake Tahoe from 9,000 feet up all the way across to the far mountains on the other side. Plus several more lakes in the area. I filmed most of this experience so that way I could edit a video out of it. This was an amazing experience. The day before we were paddle boarding on that lake. Then we’re looking at from the top of a mountain. I would love to someday go back to this same spot.
All these experiences, whether they’re in the snow or heat, top of a mountain or bottom of a canyon, make me want to explore more places and experience for myself the mysteries and true beauty of nature and unique places hidden in the world.