Anyone who knows me personally knows that I am stubborn and refuse to quit once I have started something. I can be hot-headed and don’t believe in half-a$$ing anything. Failure does not sit well with me.
But the flip side of that is that I have a good understanding of risk management. As both a firefighter and a guide, the core of my jobs are keeping people safe (and alive!). I will take a little more risk if it’s just myself on the line, but when it comes to hiking, I know when to call it a day. Even if it chafes me.
Knowing when to quit is a vital outdoors skill that we don’t talk about enough. No one wants to tell people about that time they almost climbed a mountain. But there are some circumstances where it is absolutely necessary to say ‘hey, this isn’t going to end well.’ Yesterday I was faced with a situation in which I could not successfully summit a mountain I had started. The irony of the name of the mountain and the fact I had to quit is not lost on me…
I often hike alone, and solo summits are one of my guilty pleasures. I hike so often with strangers for work, that I enjoy my peaceful time to myself when I can get it. Yesterday I had decided to summit Mt Indefatigable, near Upper Kananaskis Lake. The hike is not a particularly difficult one, it’s only about 5km round trip but over 1000 feet of elevation gain. The weather was fantastic when I started, sunny and warm with only a few clouds in the sky. I was carrying a pack with everything I could need: food, water, a light rain jacket, pocket knife, first aid kit and bear spray. I was ready for the day and whatever may come my way.
I got to the trailhead at about 2:15 and started up the mountain. The day was beautiful as I made my way towards the summit. About 3/4 of the way up, the radio tower and helipad on top of the mountain calling my name, I felt the air pressure drop. It was enough that my ears were actually popping. The feeling didn’t sit well with me, even though there was not a cloud in the sky. I decided to stop for a few minutes, have a snack and some water and see what happened before I continued on. Within 5 minutes, a storm rolled in from over Mt Sarrail. I lost visibility of the top of Mt Inde and could not see Mt Sarrail across the lake. I knew it was about to get bad and I started jogging back down the mountain, wanting to be clear of the scramble before the rocks got too wet.
The storm then proceeded to pelt me with rain, freezing rain and chunks of hail, but luckily I had turned around when I did, or I would have ended up taking shelter on the mountain until it cleared. As it was, I made it back to the trailhead in time for the sun to come out and rainbow to appear over Lower Lake. As much as I hate not summiting, I was happy to have called it quits when I did, especially after last week’s rescue on Mt Indefatigable.
All in all, it was a pretty great hike, despite having to turn around early. The views from Inde are stunning, probably some of my favourite in Kananaskis. On a side note, this trail is officially decommissioned by AB Parks due to bears and erosion, which means that it is not maintained. It is in prime grizzly habitat, so definitely carry bear spray and make noise. When travelling this trail, be extra sure to follow Leave No Trace hiking principles, walking in the centre of the trail, not picking flora or rocks and not creating your own shortcuts.
In another post, I will talk about other good reasons to call it quits on a hike. What are some reasons that would force you to turn around? Share your answers in the comments below!
Here are some of my other photos from the hike: