GDT Reflection: Day 7

After the first 7 days I thought I’d write down some reflections on the trip so far.

Challenges

The trip so far has had a number of difficult moments (and so early!), but day 4 has shown that every day can reveal yet another challenge for us to face.

On day one, our challenge was to hike from Waterton Lakes, at the official GDT start, but then through our own made reroute to get around the closed sections of the park. Waterton had just opening up some trails and sections of the park so we had managed to snake through the park, government access roads nearby and back through the north edge of the park back where it was opened to connect to the official reroute. The difficulty there was having to switch between road walking and bushwacking through overgrown trail. It was a long (more than 30km), hot (34C, exposed with very little shade) and strenuous. But not technical or interesting.

On day two we tried climbing a mountain pass to do a ridgewalk on Avion Ridge for the day, but turned back due to high winds. The winds were reaching 30km in the bottom of the valley we camped in that night (breaking our water filter hose and tearing our footprint). At the top of the mountain earlier in the day the winds were at least 2 or 3 times that fast. The wind threw both Natasha and I down every ten teps while we hiked up, and tossed and toppled us down the hill when we tried to do the pass. This was very scary not to have firm footing and control of ourselves so we turned back and camped at the base by the waterfalls.

Day three was our reattempt at the pass and ridge walk. The wind was much slower (less than 8km max in the valley, and just a gentle breeze at the top) and the hike was very nice. My personal challenge at his point was getting over my fear of heights (as I do every time we climb a mountain). Managing that fear is doable but can prevent me from enjoying it as much as I could.

Then on day four, the challenges made the last three days look like a cakewalk.

I started the day having difficulties getting food down and spent most of the day with far fewer calories consumed than I should. I ate some bars but mostly yogurt/ baby food and probably had only around 700 calories consumed by noon.

The day was meant to be a hard one. We we’re planning on doing La Coullette Ridge. This is supposed to be one of the hardest sections of the trail and has a lot of elevation gain and loss. Basically the day is completely off trail, hiking on ridges for hours, with five peaks (four saddles). The third ridge is meant to be the hardest, but I’ve never really understood why it has that reputation until now.

It was a struggle all day, especially without much food, but the the third peak was not only the hardest thing I’ve ever done but one of the most unpleasant. It has a steep grade, and is covered in loose shale. Every step slides out from under me, and the distance was great so it was just constant climbing, if not running, up loose rocks on an exposed mountain. I was running on adrenaline only at this point and was close to breaking down. I can’t explain in words how terrified I was. The peak isn’t even that interesting or technically difficult. It’s just steep, scary and long. I did not enjoy. However the fourth peak was more my style but I was too tired to enjoy it. Overall we got through this but I really didn’t enjoy it.

On day five and six the challenges were to manage blisters. Much of the walking was on durable surfaces; either road or ATV trails. This is hard on my feet and a less interesting slog. I came out with damp feet and blisters (new toes!).

Rewards

There have been plenty of rewards so far though. It’s not all bad!

I really enjoyed the fourth peak of la coullette ridge. The mountain was interesting and the view amazing. This was my jam!

The waterfalls and views by Avion Ridge were breathtaking.

The wildflowers throughout have been very pleasant and sometimes overwhelming! We once saw an entire hillside blanketed in pink!

My favourite though, is when we went past Sage Pass and went through the burn. Despite as devastated the area was from the fire, it was also regrowing. Walking through the area we had suddenly come across regrowth. In amongst the black husks of burned trees and black soot on the ground we found the ground suddenly covered in vibrant green plants carpeting the ground. The entire atmosphere changed. The colour was amazing and the air became much cooler and less dry. Just walking into this instantly put a smile on my face. I can’t help but feel refreshed and optimistic.

Takeways

The trip has been great so far, but I am really looking forward to more large rewards. I’m glad we are past what is considered one of the hardest sections of the trail but still hope the challenges don’t let up on us!

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