Trekking into the Misty Mountains

There is nothing more powerful than the rugged landscape of a mountain range. Canada is filled with them, often marked as an ‘Avalanche Zone’. In an inspiring bout of adventure and exploration, we conquered the misty mountains.

On a day exploring the Canadian Rockies, we traveled to the famed Moraine Lake. In recent days, our ventures attracted dense cloud and rain.  The forecast for the day: sun! – much to our excitement. However, it was not meant to be; it starts to rain just as we arrived. Despite this, we continue on our planned hike and wander around the lake.
Even without the sun, Moraine Lake is a sight to see, with turquoise colored water you’d only see in a rare painting. Around a bend in the path, the real hiking trail begins, marked by a large picture of a suspiciously placid bear. The accompanying sign reads: by law, you can only pass this point in groups of 4 or more. Interesting.

We’re just in a group of 2, so we pair up with a Japanese tourist group for a short time – although they insist that they will be travelling “very slowly”. As we progress through the trail’s thick trees and endless switchbacks, they fall behind as advertised. The trail gradually becomes shrouded with mist, and our imagination introduces a bear around every corner. After a brief thirty minutes, our elevation changes significantly; it surprisingly starts snowing lightly! We also notice a cute chipmunk, which curiously poses for photos just for us.

The trail continues and the snow becomes much heavier. Sally is beginning to question if we should turn back; we’re increasingly worried about sneaky bears and getting lost in the snow by ourselves. On the other hand, I’m wondering if I should start throwing snowballs at her, but reach an understanding that this may not be a wise decision. Did I miss an opportunity here, I wonder? Luckily, we encounter another group and pair with them again to continue on. Before long, we’ve been walking over an hour and a half and we finally reach what we believe to be the top of the trail. The area is covered in deep snow, but we press on.

I enjoy another 30 minutes of snowfall on the nose, fresh snow crunching under my boots, and a dense wonderland of evergreen needle trees. I love this weather and location; it’s so foreign to me – and not seen since my last trip to Japan. Before long we emerge into an amazing area, with mountaintops reflecting onto the impressive Minnestimma Lakes. I’d never seen anything as truly breathtaking. We take a short break to tour around and take photos, only to notice the Japanese tour group has caught up with us. Potentially embarrassing, but we shrug it off.

So what’s our next steps from here? Climbing some steep switchbacks with barely any footing, covered in snow and ice, to the bottom of Sentinel’s pass. I’m afraid of heights, I’m not sure we can do it. However, adventure is the order of the day, so we bravely continue. What follows is an hour-long, slippery struggle to reach the final peak. We take a number of breaks to evaluate whether we should continue, and eventually Sally exercises her right to call it a day right before the last, steepest section – giving me permission to complete it quickly. I’m glad for her; it ends up being quite risky! Nonetheless, I make it to the top for some impressive but cloud-obstructed views.

As is well known, the trickiest part isn’t the way to the top; it’s the return journey! On the way down, you receive incredible sweeping views of the entire valley. This becomes a real struggle for me, as someone with vertigo who needs stable ground and something solid to hold onto when confronted with heights. Soon enough, I have a new friend to thank – someone who loaned a skiing pole as a balance for the return down the slope, to both myself and Sally. It’s a long, arduous journey down – but we make it! A suitable reward awaits us – the sun peaks out and gives us some fantastic photos.

The return trip doesn’t take us long, and we’ve a great story to remember. A brilliant trek through the misty mountains to Sentinel’s Pass, over the course of seven hours. My longest ever hike – and we’ll be back someday to do it again.