Mountain Merriment: Treks of Terror

Last week I took part in a mountain safety training trip with my lab mates in the Mountain Legacy Project. I’ve done a lot of hiking in the Rockies in both Canada & in the USA, including some hikes that are rated as challenging.

I had always thought that I was quite adventurous, I haven’t found a hike yet that would make me balk. Or a go-kart I wouldn’t race. Or an aerial adventure I wouldn’t try. You know, I like non-wussy stuff.

Most people learn to rappel at a climbing gym, I learned it right on 5040 peak.

However, one thing that this training trip taught me is that I’m actually quite conservative when it comes to route finding choices. For example, I would never choose to climb a rock face, or descend over a ledge. Heck, I’ve gotten to this age without ever having to do so.

I don’t mind a small scramble over scree slopes, and I have always been able to make choices that keep me within my safety tolerance levels when hiking.

But what would happen if a storm was rolling in and necessitated an immediate descent, while also cutting me off from my “safe” route? That was the purpose of this safety training.

Good reason to change your route.

I wanted to nope out of there so many times over – every time we needed to use belaying, descending in steep melting snow, repelling over a ledge, or practice self-arrest techniques…

Thankful for these ladies who cheered me on when I thought I just couldn’t do it.

It was a learning experience that no matter how comfortable I feel in the mountains, that there was plenty of situations that could arise that would put me into fight or flight mode. I’m not too proud to admit that I was fighting tears and hyperventilation more than once. It’s not easy fighting your natural reactions.

I hope I am never in a situation where I need to use any of those skills I learned last week. But at least now I’ll know what to do if I’m ever faced with an unexpected, emergency route change.

Top of 5040 peak. Look I’m actually smiling. Photo: Charles Hayes.

After I’m done crying and hyperventilating, that is.

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