It was a friday late afternoon in June. Garry and I were on our way to Yoho National Park. An image of a geometric stone hut cradling Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria’s sparked this last minute decision. Abbot Hut is the second highest habitable structure in Canada and lies on the border of Alberta and British Columbia. At an elevation of 2925 metres, this alpine hut is made for serious climbers. For me, reaching the hut was already a challenge.
The trail starts by circumnavigating around Lake O’Hara.
I sat down next to young woman on a rock that seemed too big for its surroundings but too small for the Rocky Mountains. Slabs of loose rocks nestled beneath my feet shifting as I stepped on it. “This is really hard,” I admitted to her. She looked at me as she put on her crampons and nodded.
A man with a large beard, who I later learnt was her boyfriend, moved ahead onto a patch of packed snow. “Hurry up, Laura!” he yelled looking back. It was already summer, but snow remained. Laura grunted but remained silent.
“That looks icy,” I said pointing in the direction of her boyfriend trying to distract her. “Thank god we brought crampons!”
“I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t,” she confessed.
I laughed thinking about how dramatic we both sounded. But she was right. For the first time, I saw myself at the bottom of hill with broken limbs. There had already been couple close calls. Fifteen minutes ago I was in tears when my right foot slipped from under me. Doing a lunge on a steep incline was a challenge. I put more pressure on my left foot and it started sliding. The extra weight from my backpack was too much for my weak thighs and knees.
“That’s it.” I told myself, “I’m going to die.”
“Take off your backpack,” Garry yelled.
“Okay…” I tried yelling back, but my voice quivered.
“Are you crying?”
“Yeah…” I admitted hesitantly. In that moment, memories of being picked last in gym class haunted me. Couple deep breathes later, my breathing returned to normal. Garry pushed me up and we continued on.
The snow started falling and my hope for starry night shots dwindled. I put on some fleece pants and watched the sunset behind Lake Oesa in British Columbia. The last group arrived just as the sun disappeared. They were two men likely in their early twenties who carried their climbing gear. We all settled in next to the fire and waited for our boots and socks to dry.
We woke up to winter. Snow covered the paths and I slid on my butt.
We watched the yellow school bus peak through the trees as we sped through the remainder of the flat trail. Moments later, the two climbers appeared huffing and puffing. It had taken them forty five minutes. It had taken me two hours.
The bus trudged along the dirt road putting me to sleep. In twenty minutes we were back to our car. Feeling at peace, I remembered what a friend had told me. “You need nature to feel alive. I need the city.”