4 guys, 4 days 60lb bags, 90km, 140,000steps, 2.6km ascents… one mountain.
When I agreed to move to Canada with Sam in December 2016 I googled ‘Canada’ and saved this awesome photo as my phone background. It remained my background for 18 months but I never bothered to look where the image was.
Fast forward 18 months and Navid mentioned he had booked 3 nights at a campsite within Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park over the August long weekend (start of August called BC day not at the end like us Brits). I googled Assiniboine and it was the same mountain. From that moment I HAD to go and some persistant prodding lead to a boys trip being organised. Navid and I were joined by Navid’s long time friend Jason and his room mate Dave.
The four of us are all fitness orientated and the 22km hike from trailhead to Og Lake campground didn’t really phase us (we were wrong, so so wrong). Therefore we packed heavy (silly silly) with luxuries including alcohol, camp chairs and more food than (as we found out) we could possibly eat in 4 days. Our packs were comfortably 60lbs (typically packs are 30-40lbs).
Our adventure started on Thursday afternoon and the 4 of us took Navids truck and headed east. Our destination for the evening was Golden, BC where we stayed in a motel for the evening to allow for an early start the next day. The journey (which included a stop for food in Revelstoke) took about 8 hours in total. We arrived just in time for final order at Whitetooth Brewery which was delicious.
We set our alarms for 6am to make the 1.5 hour trip to Sunshine Ski Resort (trailhead) but didnt factor in the time difference in Alberta and ended up an hour earlier. With an hour to kill we made a quick detour to the famous Lake Louise where we got a snap at the lake, saw 3 bears (mama and her baby cubs), had coffee at the famous Fairmont hotel and had breakfast. We arrived at the trailhead just after 8am ready to tackle the hike into the park.
To save our legs, 500m of elevation and 6km we took the gondola and then the Standish Chairlift up the mountain. Sunshine is a beautiful place and one to return to in the winter. Below are some of the pictures from the Sunshine area.
We began the hike south. We completed 3.5km in the first 30 minutes and our morale was high. Our first hill was Quartz hill which first raised the question about our bags being too heavy. The hill is the highest part of the journey and our first glimpse of the mountain. From their we headed down to Howard Douglas lake and up to Citadel Pass for lunch. Lunch included coffee (luxury item, aeropress) and snack wraps which is basically peanut butter and nutella in a tortilla wrap. Delicious.
The pass is the pivotal part of the journey and one that destroys the mood. Once over the pass there is a 400-500m drop in elevation which you have to make up later on in the journey. This drop is brutal and we saw the carnage it had on people travelling the other way. One for the return leg.
After the pass we had 12km of gradual uphill. We ascended more than 900m during the hike and this gradual grind was punishing. What was also punishing was the hike being 3.5km longer than the 22km advertised. The last hour (of an 8 hour journey) was full of constant hope that Og Lake (our campground) was just over the hill. It wasn’t. We couldn’t appreciate the beautiful scenery we were that tired.
We were destroyed, our heavy bags sapping our legs and I am not ashamed to say I had a tear in my eye when we finally saw the lake 8 hours after leaving sunshine. Just as we arrived, with dreams of sitting in my chair… it started to rain so we had to rush to get our tents up. We all fit in a 4 man tent but we decided to bring 2. you know, because we could.
That night consisted of a heavy re-feed centred around dehydrated meals (we weren’t stupid enough to pack tins for example) which were great. We had beef stew, chicken teriyaki and rice, rice and chicken, lasagna, breakfast skillet, scrambled eggs and bacon to name just a few. We had feasts. We also toasted the hike and our tired legs with some of the booze we brought.
That night, dead to the world I left the bloody tent door open. So I woke up pretty stiff.
The next morning, we woke late, ate as much as we physically could and headed 6km south to Assiniboine Lodge at the base of the mountain. The lodge was built by the Canadian Pacific railway and now host luxury cabins. At $400 a night with a $300 round trip in a helicopter an option its definitely glamping at its finest. From the lodge we headed to the Niblet, which offered the best views of Assiniboine. The hike, which is halfway up Nub Peak is a quick one made easier by our light day packs. The views from the Niblet were quite simply outstanding. We spent 2 hours up at the viewpoint and I could of stayed all day and all night.
Alas, beer was calling us. Between 4 and 5pm each day the lodge is open to the campers and hikers where they serve tea, lemonade, cake, beer and wine. We spent the hour drinking and chatting with the other hikers about the hellish journeys and the awesome views.
We headed back just before dusk, that night, knowing we had to be relatively sensible the next day we decided to drink ALL the booze. We didn’t succeed and this time, Navid (drunk and tired) also left the tent open…. 2 out of 2.
The next day, the one before our journey back home (in which we had to do the 25km hike and 8 hour drive back to Vancouver) we planned to head back to the lodge and check out the lake nearby. However we bumped into a group whom we met on the hike in. They were camping at Porcupine, a campsite at the base of Citadel Pass to break up the journey back. Considering our long day, we decided this was a great idea so we quickly packed up and headed 9km back towards the car. The campsite was busy with people splitting up the journey we did on day 1 (either way, coming in or leaving). We had a chilled night playing cards and hit the hay at 11pm with our alarms set for 6am the next day.
We awoke and spent an hour packing up our stuff before heading out at 7am. By this time, our consumed food and drink was gone so our packs were probably 10lbs lighted but the dreaded Citadel Pass (with an elevation of about 600m) was first on the agenda. This was a drag but we completed the 4km ascend in 1hr 45 passing several groups who left even earlier than us. We had breakfast at the same spot we had lunch on day 1. At the top of the pass watching the glorious sunrise before heading north towards Sunshine.
The final major climb of the day up Quartz hill killed me. I redlined and needed 10 mins at the top to catch my breath. With that completed it was an easy 5km down to the village and Gondola / Car
We did. An amazing weekend and one that taught a number of life lessons (namely don’t pack to heavy… you ain’t that hench). Until next time Mt Assiniboine.