First, we tackle Wilcox
I’ve been travelling a lot this past summer and I thought it might be fun to share an adventure or two every now and then. My most recent included a road trip to Alberta with my friend Barb to meet up with my son Scott and his girlfriend Bonnie. Our intent was to hike the most picturesque Wilcox Pass, a 11.4 km trek with an elevation gain of 550 meters.
August 15th dawned into a great day with some absolutely beautiful views of the Columbia Ice Fields. All in all, a perfectly doable hike for a novice Prairie Flatlander like myself. However, Wilcox Pass was only to be the prequel to our Crypt Lake hike in Waterton National Park, which Barb and I were planning to complete within several days.
Now the real fun begins
The 18 km Crypt Lake Trail boasts an elevation gain of 900 m and is rated as difficult. Access to the trailhead is by boat only, outbound at either 8:30 or 9:30 A.M. and returning at 3:30 and 5:30 P.M. Should you not make the 5:30 pick-up, Natural Resource Officers will be dispatched to the mountain for a search and rescue operation —normally involving transportation via helicopter.
This adventure, once committed to, cannot be taken lightly. Many of the people on the boat —approximately 50 enthusiastic hikers —were considerably younger than me. In fact, it was established en route that I was indeed the oldest adventure seeker aboard that day. The pressure for me to perform to my personal best regarding both my physical stamina and lung capacity was indeed building; never mind the anxiety of facing unknown terrain with uncertain depth perception. My friend Barb is a seasoned hiker and was committed to the venture from the get go, whereas I convinced myself that I could always turn back should the going become too treacherous for my skill level. My son, Scott, a seasoned mountain climber and hiker, did contact me the evening prior to express some reservations. But he also gave me some hints and heads-up about this particular trail, should I decide to attempt the 18 km trek.
Flying without a net
As I mentioned, Crypt Lake is assessed as a difficult hike, and is well known amongst Alberta hiking enthusiasts. The mountain scenery is truly jaw dropping, with the entire hike challenging almost from the very beginning. There are steep rock scrambles to navigate, and narrow exposed paths and ledges with sheer drop-offs ranging anywhere from 200 to 600 metres and beyond. At one point you reach a steel ladder that is bolted onto the side of the mountain —which you climb with a significant drop behind. At others, you must negotiate a 65 foot long tunnel through the mountain, file through a very narrow path, scramble to a rock ledge with sheer drop off and, last but not least, hustle across a significant cliff with the aid of a steel cable that is bolted into the face of the rock wall. You pick your way across this wall finding footholds among small outcroppings of rocks, using the cable as a guide to prevent almost certain severe injury or death should you slip. At no time are you tethered to any safety device. You are on your own, traversing a difficult mountain with awesome views and extreme terrain.
Thrill of a lifetime
This experience, for me, was way beyond my skill level, my comfort zone and my pay grade. Scott did try to give me the honest goods on this hike, but I’ve always been much too determined and stubborn for my own good. I pushed my ability and my comfort zone to the maximum and truly had a once in a lifetime experience. I may never do this hike again, but I am owning this one for sure!!
Few pictures were taken along the hike as it was too extreme to take the focus of actual surviving the trek away for the purpose of taking pictures. Some of the pictures I’m submitting are taken directly from the Crypt Lake Hike website, and some are pictures that Barb and I managed to take.
We completed the hike with an hour to spare before the 5:30 boat and felt so magnificent with ourselves for having challenged the mountain. I should add that I surprised the younger hikers with my determination and stamina and received applause from all for not hesitating and not turning back. I can honestly say that I put my trust in Barb’s hiking experience and simply followed her lead, refusing to give in to any fear of heights or insecurities about mountain rock scrambling.
My next adventure will be my Haida Gwaii experience. Another truly awesome trip.
This is Gail’s third (and amazing) contribution to our “Celebration of (Retired) Life“ series. Nice to have you back, Gail. We welcome any uplifting, funny, inspiring, or otherwise simply interesting story, profile, or bit of whimsy. To share with our other retirees, simply email your 300- to 2,400-word piece to HG-Editor@RRC.CA.