I find it rather difficult to describe our three-day epic backpacking journey to Mount Assiniboine – made far more difficult from the warmth and comfort of our travelling house: a stark contrast to lying in a tent watching lightning reflected off the fabric at night and listening to the rain pounding down.
But that was only one of our myriad experiences. We had everything – all the wonder we could possibly have hoped for.
Almost thirty years to the day, I stood on Sunshine Meadows, gazing down the trail that leads to Citadel Pass and Mount Assiniboine, wanting so badly to walk down that path to its ultimate destination. At the time, that wasn’t possible. But somewhere inside me I knew that day would come. I just didn’t know when or how.
When happened a few days ago – how was with my man – my husband, lover and best friend.
We set out on the trail shortly after 10 a.m. after catching the 9.30 shuttle – getting on just under the wire. We hiked in deep, low-hanging mist through meadow after meadow, studded here and there by tarns. I made the mistake of making my pack too heavy (exceeding one-third my body weight). I felt it badly. The going was hard. Simon offered to take some of the weight many times. I refused. He thinks I am stubborn. I think I was just building character (and muscle)
At any rate, the mist cleared bit by gradual bit. The top of Citadel Pass on the edge of The Citadel itself, was a beautiful sight. And that’s when we got a taste of what our return journey would be like: the other side plunges down at least six hundred metres in fairly steep switchbacks to meet a ridge walk – and then to rise up again gradually to Lake Og, a bit over 20 kilometres from our start and our camping spot for night number one.
The ridge challenged Simon but he did beautifully. We all have our places where we hit the edge of our comfort zones. It doesn’t matter what they are – each person’s courage is marked by hitting their edge and reaching past it. Simon is one of the bravest people I have ever known.
We managed to scoop up the last camp site at Og – a beautiful place, although the water level had gone down so far due to drought in past years (not this year!!!) and receding glaciers that fetching cooking and drinking water was a tad of an adventure.
After an early night, we also got an early start with glorious Assiniboine rising in the dawn through the swirling mist.
From Og, it was an easy and stunningly beautiful hike to Assiniboine – about seven K and then a couple more to camp. Day two was sunny, warm and simply beautiful. What a magical place to be. It seems that nature conspired to create a place in the world where so much beauty comes together that there is simply nothing more you could ask for.
After setting up the tent and gobbling down lunch, we took off for a day hike. But we kept it pretty low key because Simon had hurt his knee and unfortunately – no tensor bandage in the first aid kit. So we hiked to all three nearby lakes: Sunburst, Cerulean and Elizabeth, learned a lot about Elizabeth Rundle who was directly responsible for creating this magical park (thank you!) and lapped up the glory of the place. We circled back at last and headed down to the shore of Lake Magog where the real majesty of Assiniboine hits you square on.
At last, we headed back to camp. Our plan was to trek out the next morning and hike to Porcupine, about halfway to Sunshine. It meant losing at least 200 metres elevation directly before the long hike up Citadel Pass – but hey, it would be a fresh morning and we’d eaten enough food to lighten our packs.
That night the storm set in. Lightning and thunder swirled overhead. The rain pounded down. In the small hours, a local creature (we think it was a porcupine) decided to take shelter next to me, cuddling up right to the tent wall. How sweet! (or not)
Luckily, the rain stopped about two minutes before we crawled out of the tent at six-ish. After breakfast, we packed up and headed out at 8.15 through intermittent showers, drizzle, mist and rain.
We were near Porcupine when we ran into a small group who’d spent the night there. When they described the trail down and up from the camp on the other side, we decided no – we are not camping at Porcupine: very steep, muddy, slippery and no switchbacks. This might have been fine – but we had to be concerned with Simon’s knee. We stayed high on the ridge and headed up Citadel Pass, thinking to make the next campground on the other side of the pass.
It was a tough slog. About two-thirds of the way up, we took a break for crackers and cheese – in other words, lunch. On we went – me focussed on each step – so severely that Simon thought I was mad at him. NOT! Nice to get that cleared up.
We made the pass and then considered – do we head to the next campground or back to the trailhead at Sunshine? Thirty K with full packs in one day? No, I said. Right – on to the camp. Another slog through the day’s rain, showers, drizzle, mist and even the odd ray of sun.
It was about 4 or 4.30 by the time we got to the last camp site, which was full. Right, I said, when Simon asked – let’s get on with it.
From that point, it felt like every hill was a mountain – and there were a couple of very nice (nice?!) uphills along the way. And, by the way, why is every hike uphill both ways?
We kept looking at the time, knowing the last shuttle left at 6.30 p.m. back down the very, very long road to the parking lot where we’d left the SIGmobile and the car.
We plodded and even jogged a bit on the downhills. By this time, we were stinking so bad we could easily have been mistaken for homeless people. Which, come to think of it, we kind of are this summer. We were also sore, aching, hot, sweaty (so sweaty) and downright exhausted.
But we made it! Nine-and-a-half-hours after setting out we arrived at the trading post to meet the shuttle. And we had 45 minutes to spare!
I’ll tell you what we did with those precious minutes: dragged our packs to the sofas by the fireplace, ate chocolate and drank a latte (Simon did). We unthawed. We arrived “home” and found a super camping spot: showered, washed our hair and fell into bed in a warm, warm, dry home (did I mention how wet we got?)
And now, we have the puppies back and are planning new adventures.
What a miraculous time – and none of it could have happened without both of us doing this together. We are the most amazing team. Never have I felt so supported, loved and cherished – or so in spiritual harmony.
I am blessed.