I went to visit my mom last week, and naturally, she wanted to give me a run for my money. My mom knows I like being active, and she’s seen me eyeing the peaks around where she lives in the Kootenays each time I come for a visit. This time, I brought Julien, who is equally addicted to exercise. So she researched the tallest peak in the Southern Rockies, and was set on taking us there on our first day of the visit.
Fisher Peak, at 2846 m (9336 feet) is the highest thing around Cranbrook, and reports of people doing it online suggested eight to ten hours of fun. So, we thought it may take four.
Except, broken/sprained toes put some plans into question. Julien managed to break or sprain his toe on a chill trail run the night before the Fisher adventure, which was incredibly sad, because I thought it meant the end for Fisher and other shenanigans in the Rockies. If it were me, I would want to rest up and I wouldn’t want to be putting my toe anywhere near a big adventure. But instead, he silently grimaced and carried on with the plan, my mom’s orders! We would still do it, just really slowly and carefully. Hah!
The hike is beautiful. Out of the 1,400m climb to the top, you’re in the alpine after what feels like 5 minutes. There is a short section in the trees, then you follow a river up to a waterfall, before hiking by alpine lakes, and then a beautiful bowl close to the top, surrounded by jagged peaks.
By this point we figured this hike was all reward with little work– only 1,000 meters of climbing for this?!
And then we proceeded onto the final steep pitch to the top, a scramble up some jagged rocky ledges. We took different routes, and we were working away at the slope. Suddenly, I was up high and exposed, with no area of solace in view, and I didn’t trust my Hoka shoe sole on that crumbly steep rock. I was terrified.
I looked over and Julien was about 50 meters away, which felt very far. I lost all my confidence, and a strange feeling of intense fear was coursing through my veins. I was paralyzed. Getting up to the summit was no longer something I craved, now I was determined only to get down. But even getting down felt impossible. I couldn’t move!
I laughed at myself as I sat there in paralysis. I pictured my friend Mike hopping down this stuff, or Kilian running right down the face. I thought of all the Hardrock runners, who have to face steep alpine descents after 50, 60, 70 miles and worse, at night. As I laughed, I realized that I had discovered a whole new area of skills to learn, and I could relate it to other skills I’ve learned in the past, like running over roots and rocks. At first I was horrible at running over roots and rocks, and in only a few years, it’s become my forte. I had discovered a whole new set of skills to learn that just need time– and some guts.
As soon as I convinced myself to crab-walk down, we descended the scramble laughing, and bounced off the trail with another fun, hilarious day in the books. And Julien’s toe was just fine, until we re-injured it again later… but that’s a story for another time.