As a professional photographer with a passion for adventure, life in urban Toronto can sometimes offer little in terms of inspiration. Long hours, varied shoot locations, skyscrapers and car-choked streets slowly make the need for adventure more and more desirable.
Year after year, spending time in Alberta’s Rockies proved to be an amazing way to find inspiration and learn valuable lessons about mindfulness and living in the moment.
For me, going to the mountains was like coming home.
Eventually though, I grew tired of hiking the Rocky Mountain front country. I wanted to lift myself into the alpine, to push my boundaries. I’d find that in mountaineering.
For most, pursuing an exhilarating and skill-based activity without some form of coaching or mentorship, is ridiculous. Now factor in the backcountry and mountain conditions.
I quickly realized that the safest way to do this was to learn from those who knew more than me. And as an experiential learner, textbooks and DIY weren’t going to cut it; I sought to hire a guide or join a group expedition. This is how I first became acquainted with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures.
Unlocking the backcountry
I knew that glacier travel involved performing very mundane tasks in an absolutely stunning environment. With that though, comes some very low-risk/high-consequence scenarios.
Although a little more expensive than trying to learn a new skill on my own, the investment was invaluable. Having a qualified person to share the learning experience with meant that I had the freedom to focus on the finer details of what the guides know and do.
In my Intro to Mountaineering course, glacier travel and crevasse rescue were at the forefront of our daily routine up on the Wapta Glacier. I quickly realized how glad I was that I didn’t attempt to explore these zones without education. Likewise, I would never tie myself to someone who hadn't invested in these skills themselves.
The following year I found myself exploring beyond the well-trodden trails that trace Moraine Lake, having decided to join the Lake Louise Classics program. It was the next step and I found myself applying knowledge to more advanced objectives in the alpine.
The constant chatter from my rope partner (Jonathan, a teacher from Tokyo) was total awe for the incredible setting we were in, and that here we were, accomplishing goals, learning, and surely going back home as better versions of ourselves.
I became more comfortable attempting maneuvers and techniques that would have otherwise scared me beyond a healthy fear. Knowing that my guide had my back, I could venture out further, reach higher viewpoints, and build the skills I needed to become a capable climber.
With this support came confidence. Experience taught me that I possessed everything I needed to bring myself into these beautiful and challenging zones – I just needed to dig deep to get there.
Bringing the lessons home
If I had to bring one facet of mountaineering back to modern city civilization, it would be hut etiquette. (You might be thinking hunh? But hear me out…)
So much awareness has to come together in each and every occupant for this micro-community to work. Coming from a city with every convenience at my fingertips, tasks like collecting and melting snow or swapping barrels of poop from the outhouse, remind me of the ease afforded by urban life.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend nights at the Bow, Colgan and Abbot huts and the one lesson that underscores it all is total accountability for oneself, for your possessions and your mess. It's this righteous self-awareness that makes me a valuable and reliable teammate. And that is the real gold in all of this.
This article was brought to you by our friends at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures. Yamnuska Mountain Adventures is one of Canada’s premier providers of mountaineering, ice & rock climbing, backcountry skiing and hiking programs. We are best known for our quality mountain experiences, safety and well organized itineraries. Come join us in the Canadian Rockies.