Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crowsnest Mountain Adventure

I've been working hard at my job as well as on the photos for Three Seconds On, Three Seconds Off, but last Saturday, I took a break for some fun. Now to everyone reading this, my "fun" may not seem like fun at all, but I found it awesome!
Two on my children and I arose early and drove to the Crowsnest Pass in southwestern Alberta. Once at the trail head, we, a group of ten of us, proceeded to climb the highest mountain in the region.
The trail was familiar to me, as was the burning muscles in my legs. Mysteriously, I always felt much more powerful when I wasn't fighting gravity with every step. It was my eighth attempt to climb this mountain, and I was going to make it!
As the minutes melted into hours of ascending, the struggle became more mental than physical. My lungs were straining and my heart pounded in my ears.
With 800 meters below me and 340 more above, the air began to thin and my respiratory system took notice. I sat at the top of the second chimney, panting while waiting for our entire group to assemble. My feet felt hot so I unlaced my boots, then scanned the horizon. I had seen the view from this barren, windswept place seven times before, yet it was as if I was taking it in for the first time. Several meters from my booted feet, small cascades of monotone scree chirped and cascaded under the fingers and toes of scrambling climbers as one by one, all ten of us reached the open area at the top of the chimney. To my right, Seven Sister Mountain jutted into the sky, but its breathtaking, towering peaks were now below me. To my left, I could just make out the steel pipe holding the summit marker. I was going to make it to the top yet again!
Once the last of our group had struggled to where I sat, I re-tied my boots and trudged onward and upward. After another hour, I overheard something that made me grin through my pain. Another seasoned climber and my good friend, Decon, said, "So... you want to climb it again next year?" The lady, who had been asking Decon to take her up Crowsnest Mt. for two years, panted her reply, "This will be... my only time... going up here!" She was determined to reach the top, but it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. We struggled on.
As I slipped and slid on the unstable scree, the wind began to intensify. The day was warm, but the wind chilly. I scrambled onto the thin edge of the mountain and got my first look into the expansive valley protecting the twin communities of Blairmore and Coalman. The shear, two thousand foot drop, beginning only centimeters from my tentative toes, churned butterflies in my stomach and dizzied my head. The view was amazing! The summit was close, but the fierce wind tore at my exhausted body. I smiled and plodded on.
About ten minutes later, I reached the crown of the mountain . The view was breathtaking under a deep blue sky, punctuated randomly by a few puffy white clouds. With my head 2785 meters into the thinning atmosphere, I scanned the expansive horizon, absorbing the rugged beauty and splendor. A light breeze swept the summit while warm sunlight streamed down on us. One by one, all ten of us gathered at the pinnacle. It was sweet to have made it to the top for my eighth time!

PS. Today, as I write this entry, Decon is climbing Crowsnest Mountain again, this time with his son, daughter and a few of his son's friends. I have a dog house to build, or I might have tagged along. (My sweetheart just frowned and shook her head at the "tagging along" notion.) Hey, is it possible to have too much adventure? Perhaps, but I'll let you know if I ever find that unconquered pinnacle!


Tristi Pinkston said...

Those are some breath-taking photos.

Ajoy said...

You made it???!! Way to go! That's just AWESOME Davis.

Davis Bigelow said...

Thanks, If you hike, and ever visit Southern Alberta, I recommend the scramble.
Oh, by the way, when Decon and his group tried to climb last Saturday, they were stopped by mixed rain and snow about half way up and a full blizzard at the top. A group on their way down told them about the blizzard, so they just turned around. I'm so glad the weather was good for the 15th. At that altitude, you just never know what you're going to get.