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Real Back-country Camping with Merrell Outside

Nothing says adventure much like heading out into the wilderness with a good friend and letting the unexpected find you, this is said to an extent of course. I have done many multi day trips, and I know the importance of preparation so I am here to share with you our three day trip in Kananaskis and how I was prepared, and not so prepared; and how most of my trips into the mountains come with a fair bit of suffering. 

 A kayak passes by on a still Upper Kananaskis Lake

A kayak passes by on a still Upper Kananaskis Lake

The Preparation:

I honestly came up with this trip about two days prior to heading out. I was thrilled that I could book available tent sites for the North-over Ridge Pass three day hike, however I just needed to find someone to come with me who was experienced in the mountains and enjoyed backpacking. Thankfully Becky Simrose (a fellow instagrammer/photographer) was available and looking to join on a not so smokey hike. Wildfires have created some huge visibility issues in the mountains so we were happy to hear that the Kananaskis area was a bit clearer than most areas. 

I had a few friends complete this hike last year and rave about it so I was so excited to finally get away from the computer and on my feet for a bit. The prep was literally me reading a blog about this hike and then printing off a map and route. My first mistake... not reading the entire blog carefully. My second mistake... having a crappy map.

 

I had a few friends complete this hike last year and rave about it so I was so excited to finally get away from the computer and on my feet for a bit.

Thankfully Becky came a bit more prepared with a SPOT satellite safety device (it calls a heli and will find us in case of extreme emergency), and a satellite pre-loaded map that had our trail and our location in retrospect to the trail. It is a free app called Maps Me and I totally recommend it. It actually saved our butts on this one.  

The other details of the trip I was actually impressed on how prepared I was. I had an excellent Merrell rain shell which really came in handy, a great fleece and puffy which saved a lot of suffering on this trip. We also had great snacks, Becky had this amazing organic gelatin free gummy bears that seriously kept our spirits up and I also had some great CLIF energy bars which kept me going. Other than the map and lack of reading I was very prepared. 

The Rain:

We had an amazing time at the first lake after one and clicked on an extra 10km running around getting photos. The lake grew perfectly still and reflections were perfect. The wildflowers were magnificent out there so that kept us busy as well. We had a great night taking photos and eating snacks then snuggling in my Big Agnes tent for the night to await sunrise.

The next day started out beautifully and although a bit windy and hazy we still raced around capturing photos of the stunning area. We took our time having breakfast and coffee before packing up and heading up the valley to the ridge. Today was a bigger day than we would have ever thought. 

The first climb was long and we had a hard time finding the trail but soon got onto it and headed up. With 40lbs on your back you don't move so quick. As we got to the top of the first climb we could see the spectacular North-Over lakes in the distance. With that was big black clouds rolling in. It looked nice for the photos but we knew all to well this perfect warm day was soon to change fast. 

High winds came in and the first raindrops were felt. We decided to set up the tent in the gully to shelter from the rain for a bit, we felt we had lots of time to get to our next campsite which was only 6km away.

 
On a sunny day without a heavy pack it would be a much less frightful area to cross, but I warn you not to do this hike if you have the slightest fear of a bit of high exposure scrambling.

Two hours of heavy rain fell until it finally stopped. Two boys were headed to the same campsite at Three Isle Lake and they also set up their tent to shelter from the rain. Becky and I took the window of the calm weather, we packed up quickly and headed into the fog. Surprisingly the two boys didn't want to join us, we thought it was really strange but soon found out the ridge we were walking into was much more of a challenge than expected. 

Side ways wind and rain fogged our chance of any view, we could only see down off the sheer edges of the cliffs into the depths of the earth which was a bit irking to me. We continued on very unsure of where the heck we were going. Becky kept checking Maps Me which kept providing us with the correct trail. We continued on trusting in the technology mostly worried that we were headed up Mt. Northover. We did not want this. 

We finally came to a section that made my heart race. It had a lot to do with the conditions and a lot to do with our uncertainty of the trail but I took a look at this crumbly knife edge section of ridge and said to Becky "This is not right, it can't be the right trail, this is not safe." Both sides dropped off at a near 75 degree angle and if you fell you would die for sure. We checked our satellite map once again and sure enough it was the correct way. Horrified by the thought of turning around over the challenging terrain, back the way we came we decided to take the ridge hands and knees. I have bruises all over my knees I was gripping so hard. The rock was wet but my Merrell hiking boots gripped well, it was only the loose rock you had to watch for. The section was only a few meters long and it got better after that, but boy I was not expecting that. We read about it later on in that blog I skimmed through... wish I had been more prepared for that! On a sunny day without a heavy pack it would be a much less frightful area to cross, but I warn you not to do this hike if you have the slightest fear of a bit of high exposure scrambling. 

There are the kind of days you can be done for and then there are the kind of days you are absolutely a zombie dead done for. This was a zombie day after 14 hours of walking.

The Ending:

We made it through the hardest part and lucky for us we would make it to camp before dark. There are the kind of days you can be done for and then there are the kind of days you are absolutely a zombie dead done for. This was a zombie day after 14 hours of walking. We got to camp at dusk and literally plopped down on the first tent pad, not even worried about how 'pretty' the site was. It was close to the bathroom and bear lockers so I was happy.

The Ending:

We made it through the hardest part and lucky for us we would make it to camp before dark. There are the kind of days you can be done for and then there are the kind of days you are absolutely a zombie dead done for. This was a zombie day after 14 hours of walking. We got to camp at dusk and literally plopped down on the first tent pad, not even worried about how 'pretty' the site was. It was close to the bathroom and bear lockers so I was happy.

The only thing that kept me going was dinner and a sleeping bag. After a hot dinner and dry clothes we snugged up in our bags and went into one of the best sleeps, only waking at the sound of heavy pelting rain on our tent. By sunrise we could still hear the rain on our tent and hit snooze. Waking up a few hours after to the sun shining through the tent. Welcomed with a glorious warm morning we enjoyed our coffee by the lake and took some photos casually. Clouds started to roll in again so we packed up and headed out.

It always feels like forever to get to the parking lot and it really did feel like forever. My pack had rubbed my shoulder raw and my feet were sore from the long days and heavy pack. When we finally made it to the car we had a bit of a celebratory hiking boot removal and headed home with happy hearts and refreshed souls.

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Every trip into the mountains teaches me something. This trip taught me a lot about how any weather can still make an amazing trip. Also I should probably read better when it comes to less explored areas. The little upsets make for a great story and I am so glad we were able to get out and make some memories. Hopefully the pictures can tell a bit too of why we go through this suffering, because it is really all worth it in the end.