An Old Fashioned Beatdown: An Early Aged Senior Takes on the Great Divide Trail
This is the first time in my life I’ve experienced a true sense of panic. Three pm brought me to this ridge and a view of what lay ahead. I had already expended all my energy to get to this point high up in Watertown National Park in Canada and I had thought I packed enough water but found my efforts to keep hydrated had left me with little reserve. The trail summits both peaks ahead, then there is a long hike to the next water source deep into the valley below. What shocked me most was the terrain that tilted at such a degree to give me momentary vertigo and nowhere did I see an easy way up…
There was no reasonable option but to carry on. The plunge down into the saddle was a welcome relief from the daylong ascent but the trudge up the sharp-edged loose scree was the most difficult physical challenge I’ve experienced in a long time. One step at a time, double poling with frequent stops. My vision was blurred from the sweat in my eyes and I’d find myself looking up at a field of random jagged rock in a dizzying array. With no clear path, each step is a decision.
You set off thinking you have a fair idea of what to expect, then you find things turn out different. I was saved by a late remaining patch of mountain top snow facing north, a totally glorious find. That was after I spent the night camped out at the far side of that peak with a mere 4oz of water. I woke up to find some varmint had chewed the cork and webbing off one of my poles along with a cuff on one of my shoes. The salt no doubt. The water I drank first thing in the morning as a sign of faith.
Considering that this was just the start of a journey along the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies, this experience was a little bit of a beat down. Most people don’t do this and for good reason. What started as an effort to keep a base weight reasonable, morphed into a 40lb load with food and water. It took a week and a daily dose of Tylenol for my body to become accustomed to packing and the daily grind of unrelenting elevation transitions.
The plan is to go back, do that bit again. It just so happens that an alternate route out awaits and it has a few dicey spots that are worth exploring.
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