Finally, after months of planning and anticipation, we got into the car and drove to Alberta.
We decided we’d find a few practice hikes first, so we could warm up to the 9,000 foot summit on Mount Fairview.
We arrived at Jasper National Park and set up camp. The next day, we decided to do a small hike so we picked Roche Miette.
Roche Miette is the first mountain anyone coming from the east sees when they enter Jasper National Park. The north face is no place for inexperienced climbers, but the eastern side has a good scrambling route and we took that up to the summit.
This was a good warm up climb that brought us to 7600 feet.
Next, we moved to the Banff area and started looking around for one more trek before we tackled Fairview. We decided on Edith Cavell.
I didn’t know much about Mount Edith Cavell but we had heard about Angel Glacier, which is a hanging glacier that spills over a 984 foot cliff. We decided we’d hike up to Cavell Meadows to see it.
We started out from the parking lot at 5800 feet. First a trek along the glacial trail, through a debris field of glacial moraine and then the Cavell Meadows Trail which takes you above the glacial debris to a subalpine meadow.
And there was the hanging glacier. It was beautiful. To be able to see something like this was amazing. I thought to myself when they take earth sciences in school, the boys will be able to say they’ve actually seen a glacier – not just a picture!
It was early in the day after getting to the meadow and the boys still had lots of energy. They asked if we could keep going and climb higher. So that’s what we did.
At first it wasn’t too difficult but as we got closer to the summit, it got really difficult.
The last part is actually quite hard with a really steep slope. Most people don’t go up there. To be completely honest, I was really tired and so was my oldest, Tristan.
But out of nowhere, Antwone surged forward and told us both to keep trying! Told us we could do it! And this determined seven year old went forward and led us for the next 30 minutes up the last 1000 meters right up to the summit.
I teared up. I was so proud of these two little men. I was proud of all of us.
That day, with all the other trekkers on the mountain, we only saw one other person go to the top. He followed us up and he could not believe that two boys as young as Tristan and Antwone had made it!
Turns out, we had just climbed a summit of 11,033 feet!
It was an incredible feeling to be standing there “on top of the world”, knowing what we had accomplished together.
We hadn’t planned it. Fairview Mountain was supposed to be the “big summit” on this trip. But we had just climbed 11,000 feet – a full 2000 feet more than Fairview.
From my perspective, we just “let it happen”. But as I thought about it afterwards, it wasn’t that simple.
The boys had no pressure from me to keep going. But they did. They didn’t want to give up. They wanted to be on that summit and they found the courage to keep going, even though they were tired. They made it their goal and they kept going and as I watched them I could see how completely at home they were in nature.
As I said, the mountains are a wonderful teacher.
We floated all the way down, elated with our accomplishment. I will always cherish the memories of that day as some of the most important in my life.
Two days later, we climbed Fairview.
This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. First nations people have been in the area for centuries but the first Europeans didn’t arrive until 1882. This was the Canadian Pacific Railway as they prepared to build the line that would link British Columbia with the rest of Canada. (This was part of a political promise made to British Columbia to entice it to join this young country.) The railway was to summit the Rockies at nearby Kicking Horse Pass.
The first recorded climbing of Fairview Mountain by a European was in 1893 when an American from Philadelphia named Samuel Allen reached the summit. Tragically, he was destined to go insane and spend most of his life in an asylum but friends wrote that he found true peace and was fascinated with the grandeur of the Canadian Rockies.
118 years later it was our turn to see what inspired him so deeply.
We woke up that morning extra early. It was quite chilly, which I think didn’t impress the boys much but they were used to waking up in a tent with snow on the ground! We wanted to start early so we’d have more time to complete the trek if we needed it.
We weren’t nervous because we had been working up to this climb for a whole year. And we had just done a climb of 11,000 feet. But I was a little anxious at first. I wondered if I was pushing the boys too much. Perhaps they were too tired after doing two summits in the last couple of days.
It’s five km (3 miles) up and five km (3 miles) down. But in elevation it’s one km (.6 mile) straight up. That’s an excellent workout for an adult in good physical shape.
It was easy.
The boys laughed and joked the whole way up and the whole way down.
We started the hike from the Lake Louise upper parking lot. We walked a well- maintained side trail until we intersected the Saddleback trail. Then more walking through the coniferous forest of tall, slender lodgpole pine and even taller white and silver spruce to Saddleback Pass between Fairview and Saddle mountains.
For the first kilometer or two, the gradient is very gentle but after that it gets steeper.By 0800 we had reached Saddleback Pass and the tree line. The view of the surrounding peaks was amazing. Now for the scramble up the scree to the summit.Not so fast. Boys being boys, at one point they both had to go to the washroom. Instead of going behind a rock like gentlemen, they decided to have a contest and see who could produce the bigger stream! Tristan, who always brought humour and good nature with him was, as usual, the instigator.
Here’s a safety tip – check the wind direction before you try that stunt. Serves them right….:)
The scree didn’t slow us down at all. And then we were there. On the summit. The one we had talked about for the last year.
The kids just wanted to fly their kite!
Part of the routine I had developed with them in encouraging them to the summit of all our climbs that year, was the chance to fly a kite “at the top of a mountain”. They loved the idea and every time we reached a summit the kite came out and the boys tried to get it airborne.To be honest, actually flying it was always an epic fail! The winds were never right and the kite never made it much higher than the elevation we were standing on! But they loved it anyway.
We stayed on the summit long enough to soak in the view, have a meal and talk to a couple of German hikers who came up right behind us. We sent a spot message to the Day Care Center announcing we had made it. (We found out later the whole day care cheered!)
Then we took our time and sauntered down the way we had gone up. The boys spent the whole descent practicing a few of the German words our new friends had taught them up at the summit.
They didn’t have a care in the world! And neither did I.