We had been debating the merits of this hike for ages. Should we do Pocaterra or Centennial Ridge? Both seemed daunting due to elevation – not only gain but actual earthly height. But two hiking buddies suggested Pocaterra and when we asked a man we met on the Assiniboine bus which one (he’d done them all) he said Pocaterra without an instant’s hesitation.
When we set off this morning, we weren’t entirely sure of the trailhead or how we were going to get back from what appeared to be a hike best done point to point, but we decided to let the chips (or Doritos) fall where they may.
We couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day: sunshine and temperatures in that beautiful coolish-warmish place that hikers love.
We forded a stream over a log jam (ugh!) and headed up through the trees. This part of the hike was just about grunting uphill, which we did with a fair amount of alacrity. We came out of the forest quickly and up onto the most beautiful rolling green wind-swept ridge. The views were astounding – but not nearly as heart-stopping as they were about to get.
We were on top of the world, and that world got higher and higher. Hell, not just the world – we got higher and higher. You can’t buy a drug this good!
We knew we had four summits to top and we knocked them off fast. Looking down we saw a second parking lot on the road. Hell, we said – that’s a couple of kilometres from ours – we’ll just walk to the end of the ridge and go down to the road for the way back. Nothing to it!
So we topped peak two and three and hit the summit cairn on peak four! Not even noon. Done and done! Piece of cake – almost – just a tiny scramble near the summit. Then we looked ahead to what appeared to be a monster mountain with a huge ridge. “What’s that?” I asked.
“Oh – that’s a different mountain,” Simon said. “We’re not going there.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, noting that there appeared to be a trail going up it. Then Simon spotted some tiny figures clambering up.
Turns out our fourth “peak” was our first. The other three “peaks” had been little bumps on the ridge. We had three to go and they were all up ahead. Simon said, no way. I shrugged, thinking he was likely right. But we were here and we might as well follow the trail and see what came next.
What came next was a trail straight up to peak two, a dip down and an even straighter up to peak three. Then – the big one. Yeah, I had some trepidation. Meanwhile, Simon was whizzing along like he climbs two mountains a day before breakfast. The dogs were managing just fine as well.
May as well keep following the trail.
We did – and finally, after a neat scramble, topped out on the actual peak.
We took photos, we drank in the wonder, we basked in a sense of accomplishment, and realized that taking the trail down would lead us to a parking lot seven kilometres from our car. Oh hell – we could hitch a ride back, right? (oh sure – 2 smelly hikers and 2 stinky dogs!)
The trip back down was so beautiful – valleys and views and a stream and tarn and every single thing that makes alpine hiking so addictive. We even got lucky. Near the end of the hike, Simon asked two other hikers coming in from another ridge if they’d give one of us a ride back (the plan being to come back and fetch the other person and dogs waiting in the parking lot). They said yes and we were set!
What a day! An epic hike! Simon hiked at the edge of his comfort zone. I loved the huge elevation gain – more than 1000 metres – and we both felt duly accomplished. But mostly, we were blissed out on the beauty of these grand mountains and valleys.
Sharing these trips with the love of my life – that’s the best treat of all. Also a treat to use my new camera (awesome!) and to see teh gorgeous photos Simon took with his Nikon!
Tomorrow – the Columbia Icefields.