2018 is over. I am not sure about you, but I honestly have no clue where this past year went. I am fairly certain I blinked and then here we are. 2018 was a not an easy year. I say that for myself personally, and I say that from things I’ve read, heard, and seen from others. When people ask “how was your year?” my instant reaction is “oh, it wasn’t the best.” Although, when I stop to really think, it was actually a pretty good year. Hard and challenging do not equal bad. Hard and challenging I am realizing, have equaled growth; a hell of a lot of growth. If there is one word to sum up my year, it is exactly that. Through the good and the bad, I learned a lot.
The year started off with a pretty good bang. A heli-snowshoe trip in the Rockies and a backcountry hut trip with friends. Throughout the winter season, there were lots of split boarding trips, ice climbing trips, and even more hut trips. I tried cross country skiing for the first time and made a trip to California for a family wedding.
Among the good and the fun of winter, I experienced a certain darkness. For the first time ever, I felt sad, unmotivated, alone, and exhausted, for no apparent reason. It weighed heavy on me for a long time and was a big, personal battle. I struggled to find the excitement for the things that I loved, and the negative thoughts in my head would stream out of my eyes in tears at the frustration of not understanding why this was happening.
Lesson #1: It ok to get help, even if you don’t know what’s wrong.
I broke down at work one day and one of the girls suggested I speak to someone. Through my work, we had a handful of free sessions with a psychologist we were able to use if needed. Thanks to her suggestion and nudge, I took advantage of it. Its weird you know, going into someone’s office and of course the first words are “so, tell me what’s wrong”, and you have no idea what to say because you don’t actually know what’s wrong so you just start to cry and cry and cry. In the end though, it really helped. I discovered I struggle with seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder, and its way more common than you’d think. Just having a “why” made a big difference for me. Having the advice and help of someone who doesn’t know you is sometimes a really good thing too. However, I wouldn’t have got through that struggle as well if it hadn’t been for my amazing friends and boyfriend Link. Their patience, understanding, love, and support was truly remarkable and I am eternally grateful to them for it.
Life became sunnier again as the spring rolled around (literally, we truly are sun deprived during the winter months), and I found my motivation and passions coming back in full force. I ended the winter with a trip to Moraine Lake with my friend Mitch, as I had always wanted to see it in the winter with no one around. A week later, I found myself in Penticton on a rock climbing trip to Skaha with Link and a few of our friends. The warm weather and change in activities was very welcomed, and it was fun to have the first camping trip of the season too. I felt refreshed. More great climbing days came soon after, with an annual day up Ha Ling with Nolan, a day out on a new-to-me climb called Heartline with Yanick, a day on a new route, More Cowbell, with Kim, and a day on Tunnel when I got a surprise visit from my friend Tom who I met in Nepal. I finally signed up and took a rock rescue course which I had been wanting to do for a while as well. The experience and the things I learned were invaluable. If you see yourself climbing more often, I highly recommend taking this course with Kris from Rockies Ice and Alpine Specialists.
Lesson #2: Adventure is fun, but make sure you are prepared for the not so fun.
This year it felt like we lost a lot of great people in our community. Lots of accidents make you reflect on why we choose to do what we do. Without getting too in depth, in embracing the activities we do also means we embrace the risk. With that risk comes a certain unknown. We cannot predict freak events and occurrences, however, we can control how much we know about what we can control. Knowing how to get yourself and your partner out of a bad situation, knowing how to self rescue and get back home safely, knowing first aid, knowing proper practices like correct knots, rope systems, and so on, and knowing absolutely as much else as you can is critical. Always be prepared. Whether you learn from friends, or learn from the pro’s, it is worth every single ounce of your time and money. Step away from the fun for a day, dive into some learning, and make sure you are equipped with all the knowledge you can to come home safe at the end of the day. At the end of the day, that really is all that matters.
Summer rolled around quickly, although in typical Banff fashion, my first summer hiking trip to a hut with friends included a complete blizzard and hip deep snow. Nonetheless, we drank, ate great food and played all the games. I call that a success and a weekend well spent. June is usually an iffy month for weather in the Rockies, but I managed to squeeze in some awesome hiking and climbing days with friends, and got away to Revy for a much needed girls weekend with Freya. The weather in June made for better scrambling days as well, so I went back up Wastach Peak with Tom and checked out a new scramble, Bow Peak, with a group of friends for Canada Day.
Lesson #3: It doesn’t matter what you do, but who you do it with.
We all have big goals, dreams, and expectations for what we want to do in the mountains. Mine certainly grow and expand each year and become even more than I ever imagined I’d be able to achieve. However, sometimes it doesn’t work out. Things go wrong, weather shits the bed, and plans change, so make sure you are in good company. I’ve realized I don’t actually care what the activity is- hiking, scrambling, back packing, rock climbing, ice climbing, you name it- all I care about at the end of the day is being outside with the best company there is. Your partner can make a crappy day good, and can also make a good day crappy. Be selective about who you invest your time into and who you choose to adventure with. If you’re with a good soul, its always a good day.
I was lucky and escaped first week of crazy that is my workplace in the summer and went back to my roots in Ontario. I had family visiting from California, so I decided to head home and join all of them so I could see everyone at once. I spent the week at my cottage surrounded by some of the most incredible people in my life. Jet skiing, wake boarding, drinks by the water, cuddles, life chats, oh my heart! Living away from family truly makes you appreciate the time you get to spend together.
Lesson #4: Make more time for family
Family isn’t always biological. You can choose your family. Especially living in a place such as Banff, friends often become family. I know mine sure have. When I do get the moments to spend with my family, I try and engrain every second to my memory. These people raised me, shaped me, and continue to encourage and support me in who I am today. My time with them is so special, and it is a priority of mine to continue to make more time with them. You’d think living away from them for so long would make it slowly a little easier over time, but I honestly believe each time I see them it gets harder to say goodbye. I guess it just means I am pretty lucky to have such incredible people in my life.
Once I was back home in Banff, I dove head first into summer activities. Summer is short in Banff, so you really have to try and get as many things in as possible before the snow starts to fall again. Tam and I had a “type 2” day out on Valleyview (at least the company was great), and I got the chance to finally climb Mount Louis with Freya and her awesome partner Darren. A long, hot day in the sun with all the smiles, laughs, and killer mosquitos. Next up was camping for Charlotte’s 6th birthday with everyone, then heading up another multi pitch, Plutonian Shores, for Link’s first multi-lead. Some extra days off work gifted me with more adventures, starting with an attempt at the Asulkan Traverse with Yanick and Jesse, where we unfortunately made the decision to turn around due to nasty storms in the area. Curling up in the rocks in a ball waiting for the storm to pass over us was a first for me. At least I have a good goal to check off the list for next summer now! Next, Link and I headed up Mount Temple for his first time and my sixth. I guess I can’t stay away from that scramble. The views just make my jaw drop every single time.
Finally, at the end of July, it was time for my big ticket trip- Assiniboine. I had admired this peak for years, never even letting my mind entertain the idea of climbing it until last season. Nolan and I had planned a trip, but unfortunately the forest fires put out those plans pretty quickly. We decided to try again this year, and much to our surprise, everything lined up perfectly. Our first day to the hut was a typical day in the mountains: 30 degrees and sun, rain, snow, and a thunderstorm. We were pretty happy to arrive at the hut and dry off, eat, and get ready for the next day. Alarm clocks woke us up before dawn and we were geared up and out the door before we knew it. You know those days that just work? This was one of them. We moved quickly and efficiently, we communicated well, the weather was stellar, and before we knew it we were at the summit. The smiles on our faces couldn’t have been any bigger. 6 hours later, we were down at the hut and stuffing our faces with food.
Lesson #5: If you want it, you can achieve more than you ever thought possible.
When I moved out west I never had plans of being a climber, nor did I have any mountain goals or dreams. When I moved to the mountains, I started hiking and luckily met some incredible friends, Glenn and Tom, who introduced me to scrambling. I fell in love with an outdoor activity like I never had before. I scrambled for years, until finally I felt like I was ready and wanting more. After taking some courses and learning from patient, generous friends, I slowly established more skills and more experience in the mountains.
Assiniboine first caught my attention, like many others, while snowboarding at Sunshine Village. Its profile on the skyline catches your eye instantly, with its Matterhorn-like, prominent shape. Eventually, I learned you could backpack there, which I did a couple of summers later with my friend Alex. Once we backpacked there, I learned that some (in my opinion at the time, crazy) people even climbed this peak. I was in awe! Years later of learning and skill development, for some reason my friend Nolan started talking to me about climbing it. I didn’t know if I was ready, but he believed in me and encouraged me. Sure enough, nearly 5 years to the day of seeing Assiniboine, I was standing on top of it.
Don’t ever think anything is out of your reach. What may seem crazy, unfathomable, and impossible at the time, could easily become yours with time, effort, patience, and dedication. That moment-standing on top of Assiniboine, was huge for me because it was a realization of how far I had come and how much I had grown. Put the work in, believe in yourself, and you may just surprise yourself one day. My mountain dreams keep growing now, and I couldn’t be more excited.
July was intense with activities and after Assiniboine I felt like I needed some nice, easy, carefree days. Freya and I headed out to Elk Lakes for a little overnight trip. What we thought was a 2km approach turned into about 10km, but nonetheless we had a gorgeous hike in and a fun night camping. As August continued on, I had some great time with friends. A kid-free girls night with Mel, meeting a new friend in Fabi, meeting Sasha while she was in town working on her climbing project, and having some awesome days at the crag with so many others. I smile just thinking about it all. I was fortunate enough to get to head to Lake O’Hara again when Fiona and I managed to get a last minute booking at Elizabeth Parker Hut. The forest fire smoke was pretty bad, but we still had a great time checking out the alpine circuit and it was her first time doing an Alpine Club hut. I think it was safe to say she loved it.
Before I knew it, summer was coming to an add with rapidly cooling temperatures, however, there was still one trip left to squeeze in: Berg Lake. I had wanted to do this trail for years and finally it was happening. Tam and I set off on a quick, 3 day trip of the area. 23km from the trailhead to our campsite, 23km the next day from our campsite to Snowbird Pass, and 24km the next day from our campsite back to the car. 70km over the three days left us with sore feet, but the biggest smiles plastered permanently on our faces. The Berg Lake trail was even better than I ever could have imagined!
With the days growing shorter and the temperatures dropping even colder, fall was quickly upon us. I managed to squeeze in a few more awesome hikes with my friend Lena and her new little one Lowen. Its pretty amazing to see your friend not only have a child, but to carry him up mountains, breast feed him under the trees, and pass on her love of the outdoors to the next generation. At a few months old, he had already stood on the summit of more mountains than most do in a summer. Inspiring, right!? I got to spend my birthday in the mountains with my Mom and friends and I also got to meet up with a great group of girls for a snowy hike up Sarrail ridge. Some I had never heard of, some I had talked to for forever but never met. There’s something powerful about a group of women together in the outdoors. I can’t explain it, but I sure do love it.
Before I knew it, it was time to focus my attention to getting my life together to take a year leave from work. Oh yeah, I think I left that part out! Somewhere around August, I finally cracked. I asked for a year leave from work so that I could travel, which had been a dream of mine for a long time. I will save you my whining story about how I hated my job and got so frustrated with pay issues, politics, and management styles that I cried often (ok, most days), but finally it became too much and I finally made the decision to ask for the leave. It was sudden, and fast, and I really surprised myself by finally doing it. It must have been the right decision however, as everything really fell into place. My landlord approved my sublet, I found an awesome girl to take my room, flights were booked, visas approved, and before I could blink Link and I were off on our first adventure, a US road trip for 7 weeks.
Lesson #6: There is never a good time for anything, so just do it.
As I said, I had dreamt of taking time of to travel for a while, probably in the last couple of years since I went to Nepal. Something always kept me hesitating however. My apartment, a good paying job, missing my friends, finances, the list goes on. Finally, one day, my need for this time off trumped all the reasons not to. I got my leave approved without a single thing being figured out on my end. Where would I go? Would I lose my apartment? Would my friends forget me? How would I fund this? I know, some of those sound silly, but my brain just took off with it, thinking of all the reasons this wouldn’t work.
I read a quote once: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Well boy is that ever true! I was allowed to sublet my apartment so I wouldn’t have to give it up, which is a big deal in Banff. My friends were supportive, encouraging, and were excited for me. I realized I had enough funds to make it through to getting some work along my travels in the new year. Pretty soon, a plan came together.
There are ALWAYS going to be reasons why you shouldn’t do something. Its easy to get comfortable, and to risk losing that comfort can be terrifying, but, if we don’t do it, we will never get to experience all the world has to offer. So, just do it. Whether its leave that job, get on that plane, learn that new skill, just do it. Once you decide it, it will happen. Believe in yourself, believe the universe has your back, and things will always work out.
Our US road trip was nothing short of phenomenal. 7 weeks on the road visiting family, friends, rock climbing, hiking, camping, seeing new sights, just pure bliss. I’d like to say pure bliss was true for all of it, but that would be a lie. The trip was amazing, but it was not without its challenges. Navigating new roads and places, figuring out where we were allowed to sleep, a few fights (ok maybe more than a few), and trying to balance fun with a budget. We learned a lot. We nearly killed each other. We laughed and sung songs at the top of our lungs. We got interrogated by border security. We played in the most amazing places. We even had our roof box contents spill out for 10 miles on the desert highway. It truly was an adventure. I wish I could share all the amazing things we were able to experience, but if I did that this blog post would never end. We were so lucky. At the end of our trip, we were back in Banff and heading separate ways until January. We were both feeling ready for some downtime and quality time with friends and family.
So, here I am, sitting at my family cottage, writing to you about my year. Why? Because its helping me reflect. Why? Because maybe some of the lessons I have learned will resonate with others. Why? Because I have discovered I love to write. It helps me process and truly understand things.
This was the year of learning, growing, than growing some more. The high’s were high because they showed me how much I had grown and how far I had come. The low’s, although low, were moments where I was challenged and forced to grow and find the good and the lessons in them. Life events are truly about how you perceive them. Bad moments really suck, and that’s a fact, but if you can take the sourest lemon life gives you, and turn it into something resembling lemonade, then…. Ok, maybe I also watched too much “This is Us” this year.
What I’ve truly learned this year is to do things for you. Don’t compare yourself to others, or else you’ll always fall short. Don’t make decisions for anyone but yourself. Listen to your heart, not others’ opinions. Only you know what is best for you. Only you can decide what your life will look like and where it will go.
2019- this year will be for me. With some crazy adventures planned, a lot of lessons learned to take into this year, and a lot of time available to dedicate to experiences and more growth, I am excited for the potential this year holds. With a goal of caring less of what others think, here is my first act. I have a blog! It is something I have had for a while, but I am finally putting myself out there to share this with you. These words are for me, but I truly hope you enjoy them too.
So cheers, to what’s to come, to safe adventures ahead, to learning, and more growing. This life sure is one adventure, and I am definitely ready for the journey.