Every once in a while, you experience a special time and place that simply refuses to release you from its spell. Our recent visit to Banff National Park was one of those trips that just sticks in your memory long after you leave it; the girls and I constantly find ourselves feeling wistful for its beauty and wishing we could return to those mountains.
On our third day in Banff, we were once again blessed with beautifully warm weather and clear skies. Therefore, we were determined to complete yet another difficult hike, known as Mount Fairview, that promised to reward us with fantastic views of the Rockies. After our epic adventure just the day before on Mt. Temple, we were feeling understandably sore and tired from the exertions of an extremely difficult, high altitude hike that had continued for twelve hours. Following a few moments of silence in the car prior to setting off on the trail, we readied ourselves for our next hike both physically and mentally (coffee also was a part of our secret).
In our original trip plans, we wanted to attempt the Cory and Edith Passes. However, after a long, long day of hiking, scrambling, and route-finding, we realized that we probably weren't up for another hike that would be almost as strenuous. When hiking, the conditions of the trail are major factors in challenging your mental state of mind. What I really mean is: Is the trail wide and easy to see? Or is it narrow, full of rocks and roots, and easy to miss? Are you constantly worried that you'll lose the path and fall off the side of the mountain? Therefore, the idea of doing more "route-finding" and scrambling across large scree fields after Mt. Temple was a sour taste in our mouths.
As a result, we decided to go with the slightly easier and shorter Mt. Fairview hike, which had been recommended to us by a fellow hiker. The trailhead begins at Lake Louise past the parking lot at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. While the beginning is relatively easy, the trail starts to gain plenty of elevation (at one point, you will gain more than 400 m in just 1.2 km) and will eventually make you climb a total of 1013 m. Long story short, while this hike may have been easier and shorter than Mt. Temple, it still certainly was a difficult hike!|
As soon as we begin our hike, I could feel my sore limbs aching in protest that I was doing more strenuous activity so soon after Mt. Temple. Unfortunately, one member of our company was soon unable to continue as her altitude sickness began to give her severe chest pains (if you experience such pains, do not continue. You could put yourself at serious risk-- possibly even a heart attack or stroke!). Sadly, we agreed to carry on without our dear friend and promised that we would finish the hike as soon as possible.
While I consider my cardio endurance to be pretty decent (especially as I quit running as regularly after beginning weightlifting), my cardio inspo Eva possesses an endurance far beyond my capabilities. She began to feel "antsy" (I still distinctly remember hearing those words in disbelief because I felt like I was dying only halfway through the hike) and I soon gave up on the idea of keeping up with her. I told her to go ahead and that I would prefer to complete the hike at my own pace. While I still finished the hike quite quickly and overtook many different hiking parties ahead of me, she reached the summit a clear 15 minutes ahead of me.
Clearly I need to start running again a lot more!
Can you spot the bear warning sign? On certain occasions, Banff National Park's regulations might require that visitors hike in groups of four or more in order to stay safe from potential encounters and attacks. Fortunately, since we were only a group of two, the sign indicated that hiking in a group of four was only "recommended" at that point in time.
As we began the scramble to the summit, we found ourselves on a well-defined path to the top that was far easier to navigate and hike than Mt. Temple. However, the day was much hotter and the elevation was still steep enough to make me question my own sanity. Luckily, I had a delicious bottle of Gatorade to quench my thirst during several quick rest and photo breaks that I took on the way up (I don't remember any liquid ever tasting that good).
Since Eva had gone far ahead of me, I began to concentrate on my own solo journey. I began to set small goals for myself-- I would spot large rock landmarks above or groups of hikers and not let myself stop until I had reached or overtaken them. The hike became just my thoughts, my breathing, and digging my trekking poles in the ground ahead of me. As I got into the zone, the hike became less torturous and even somewhat enjoyable despite the physical exertion. I can now see why some hikers like to hike alone (although it really isn't safe in many cases and I would never recommend it).
Once I reached the top, I was reunited with dear Eva and chatted with both her and several other enthusiastic hikers. We then took many photos, chatted some more, and got down the important business of eating our well-earned lunches. The Mt. Fairview summit offered superb, panoramic views of our old friend Mt. Temple, Haddo Peak, Mt. Victoria, Lake Louise and Bow Valley.
The view from summit looking towards the magnificent Mount Temple.
The gorgeous Bow Valley, a spectacular piece of land that was used as a filming location in The Revenant.
Haddo Peak, Mount Aberdeen, and Mount Victoria.
After we had drunk in the views at Mt. Fairview to our satisfaction, the chilly wind forced us to bundle up and hastily make our way down. To give you an idea of how fast we went downhill, I'll let you know that it took us about 2.5 hours to hike up and only an hour to get back down. We literally almost ran down the entire way with the help of our invaluable trekking poles. While I may have bailed twice on the first portion going down a loose scree rock field, the rest of the hike down became almost fun as we 'hopped' over all the rocks and roots using our poles.
When we finally reached the shores of Lake Louise back at the trailhead, we were so happy to discover that we had finished in the early afternoon (2:07 pm). As a result, we were now free to enjoy our day at the hotel hot tub, eating delicious food and ice cream, and shopping at some cute town boutiques.
Overall, I do not regret any moment that I spent hiking during my time in Banff, despite the fact that I was felt battered to near death after returning home. While I admit that some friends and family members believe that I am mentally unsound for hiking so much, I believe that I have a found a, hopefully, lifelong passion that I can explore to greater and greater lengths in the future.