With the wind howling and my heart pounding I don't feel the cold. I don't feel the snow, the ice that is frozen in my hair, nor the sweat trickling down my neck and back. My legs, shaky from the climb, don't register any longer as I drop my pack to the rocks I stand on. All that matters is the view, the stunning panorama that surrounds me and stretches as far as the eye can see. There is nothing like the feeling of standing on the summit of a mountain after a long, hard, slog up the hill and knowing that you have challenged yourself and made it to the top. It's adrenaline driven, and super addicting. Even as I sit here a day later typing this with legs full of lactic acid I am itching to do it again!
We left for Powderface at 7am in the dark with skies overcast and the threat of snow looming. After driving an hour to the winter gate, a road block that closes off the highway from late October to May, we loaded up our gear and headed out on our 19km hike. Our destination - the summit - come hell or high winds we were going up! For me this was the first time up Powderface and only the second mountain I have summited ever. The first being nearby Prairie Mountain last summer. When my buddy first approached me to hike this mountain I said no - mountain hiking in the winter??? He has to be crazy. After thinking it over and doing a little research I relented and decided to join, after all I've been saying I want to start summiting mountains how would I ever manage to accomplish this feat if I made excuses every time an opportunity to hike one came up?
About 2km in our one friend bowed out. He had been suffering with a bad cold and the night before only got about 30 minutes of sleep. He bid us good luck and headed back to the vehicle to wait for his wife to come collect him. We carried on and within 1km encountered the first of the snow storms that would plague us off and on all day. As I discovered last summer hiking a mountain takes determination and doing it in the winter takes pure determined stubbornness! The falling snow, and snow on the trail added resistance and coupled with the constant uphill climb at times it was almost enough to make me stop and throw in the towel. My buddy was very supportive - he is much more in shape than I am and hikes mountains on almost a weekly basis all year long! Each time he would reassure me the summit would be worth it - just put one foot in front of the other and carry on.
At the four hour mark the trees started to thin out and shortly after we emerged out onto the pass. This bare rock ridge overlooks some beautiful country and although I was exhausted I glimpsed the summit not that far up from us and I was determined to reach it. We stopped at the pass for a quick lunch and then loaded up our gear to push on to the summit. Although it was only about 400 m up from us it took almost an hour to reach it as we had to climb a slick, wind swept slope that was very steep and covered in loose scree and ice. At times I was on hands and knees crawling up praying to whatever god might be listening for the rocks supporting me to stay in place.
About halfway up the slope I hit total exhaustion and my ascent became a game of inches. I literally put my head down and pushed on and before I knew it I was at the top enjoying the stunning views and that feeling, that feeling you only get standing on the top of a mountain - I never used to believe people when they said you just don't get it - you don't get that feeling anywhere else only on the top after pushing yourself to your limits (and beyond). I get it now - I love that feeling!
We high fived, cheered and pointed out all the ridges and mountains we knew. I marveled at the fact that I could see the city we live in from the top of the mountain and snapped a ton of pictures while the wind hurled snow off the edge of the summit around us. All to soon there was nothing left but to head back down. As it was already 1pm and we were only at the halfway mark we had some distance still to cover and with the weather nice for the moment we lost no time getting off the ridge and back down to the pass where we enjoyed lunch earlier. It took almost an hour to reach the summit from the pass but only 20 minutes to get back down. Riding the wave of satisfaction that comes from reaching your goal we made great time back to the closed highway where mother nature really threw her fury at us. We hiked the last 1.5km back to the winter gate in near whiteout conditions, by the time we made it back into the city the snow storm was over and the skies were clear. Funny how that happens here this time of year.
One summit down... 4 more to go to reach my goal for this year!
Bring it on!
“There are only two options regarding commitment, You’re either in or your out. There’s no such thing as life in between.” – Anonymous
"Das Beste oder nichts" - Gottlieb Wilhelm Daimler