5:30am the first alarm went off followed shortly by the second. “Good morning” Tess said to Matthew and I. It was time to get up and get ready for a full day of mountains. 6:30am and we are in the car with Soren headed from our hotel in Hinton to the Jasper Skyline trail head. On the one hour drive to the start, Tess and I excitedly chat away. All 4 of us are excited to meet our friends for a fun day running in the mountains.
Arriving right on time we quickly see Regan and Anna, followed by Rae- Ann. Jim pulls in and drops off Stephen. Jim is running from the other end to meet us in the middle. The Gang is now all here. We head off hiking up the fire road. We run and hike up a quad road for the first 8 kilometres until you reach the bike rack.
From there we take the single track on the left and we are above the tree line for the first time. We start to run as the trail flattens out for awhile only slowing to cross sections of snow that remain. The trail is absolutely beautiful in this section for hours we will run and hike through meadows of wild flowers. Crossing clean, cold and breathtaking streams. We catch up to some hikers travelling in the same direction we are. We chat with them a few minutes. They were amazed we were doing the whole trail in only 1 day. We press on running past alpine lakes of emerald. It doesn’t matter how many times I see one but these lakes are the most beautiful shades of blue and green.
We ran through the flower filled meadows and saw these plump little marmots running around, some getting within a foot or two of Tess and Anna, They were adorable.
As we started ascending up the trail Regan pointed out this amazing Boulder just off the path. He quickly scrambled up the backside and yelled out to us. I whipped out my phone to snap a picture of him, because it’s an amazing photo op. Just then like it was fated, a couple of hikers descended the trail at that exact moment. Quickly we asked if they’d take our picture and the whole crew scrambled up there. I’m so glad that we had that opportunity, thank you random hiking couple.
After our mini photo shoot we climbed down off the boulder and continued our upward journey. The terrain changed from lush green meadows, to a rocky barren landscape. We followed the trail a fine line in the sandy rubble by this point. It’s runnable and you feel as though you are on top of the world, because well you ARE!
We ran it in all the way to the Notch, well until 200m from the Notch when my adductor decided to cramp up and leave me wishing that I hadn’t left my mustard in my gear bin (by accident). Luckily it subsided a couple moments later. I doubled my electrolyte intake for the next 2 hours and started sucking on salted lime GU CHEWS (these are my favourite flavour & have + salt). With the cramping now subsided I was able to focus on descending the notch through the slippery snow and scree below.
The last time I did this trail 3 years ago the Notch was impassable with out scrambling up and over the Notch. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done. I have done a few things since then that have been slightly more terrifying yet I was still apprehensive about this section. Anna and I agreed to be brave through this section. Soren and Regan stayed between us to help with moral support and it worked. I was able to get through this section much faster and with way less anxiety than before. I kept looking at the footsteps in front of me and not at how far down things were. Just Knowing there were friends in front and behind me helped, I was not alone out there. They believe I can do it and I believe in them. Thank you friends for helping me build my confidence through our adventures. After descending the Notch in what I will call ‘record time’ we enjoyed running in the valley for a few miles seeing more and more hikers coming towards us.
With a beautiful view of a lake Regan asked me to stop and take a photo for him. I guess every big run and race he takes a special photo just for his daughter. I had the privilege of taking this one for him. After the photo we scooted off to catch the others.
At this time of year everything was alive and thriving. Clear blue lakes, fresh clean streams. Green trees and a full palette of wild flowers painted throughout the valley. About as picturesque as you can imagine, but you don’t have to because I took photos.
We ran, hiked and enjoyed the beauty of the trails, hopping over creeks and greeting the multitude it seemed of midday hikers coming in the opposite direction. By this point we had seen a dozen or more small groups or couples coming towards us from the other end of the trail. Most people will hike the trail in 2 or 3 days so they think we are pretty crazy/awesome/strong/fast when they find out we will run it all in one day.
As we start climbing again Anna asks if this is the last big climb. Jim says “yes” but I’m not convinced. Because I remember there was a big climb up at Little Shovel Pass and we hadn’t arrived there yet. I asked “are you sure Jim?” He thought for a moment and then said “well maybe there is one more” we all laughed. As we began climbing up gradually. At the base of the final push up Little Shovel Tess spotted a couple of kids stuck in the wrong side of the creek. She hopped over and quickly the kids began taking off their packs. As Tess grabbed the first child’s pack I appeared grabbing the second boys pack. They were able to hop across the creek safely as they were 50 lbs lighter without the huge packs. A few hundred meters back a shoeless man thanked us for helping them. It was then we trampled through the creek and headed up the pass for the final climb of the trail.
As we ascended the pass it began to sprinkle and the dark clouds that had been lingering in the background seemed to be chasing us down now. Reaching the top everyone else was already getting their coats on preparing for the rain. I was still so hot from the climb that my arm sleeves were enough for me. At the top of the pass we said goodbye to the rocky low bush alpine terrain and began to wind our way towards the single track that descends down through the last 2 campsites. Back in the tree line it felt great to be running again. It was time to fly, Anna jumped into the lead and the group took off. We let loose running down hill on winding single track, the dirt so soft under our feet. The lead group stopped briefly to let me catch up and then down, down we descended off the mountain. As we reached the last campsite with 5km left the group split and everyone finished individually and was able to cheer each other on as everyone came in at the end of the trail.
After crossing the last wooden bridge and calling out to Regan and Jim “5km left, we can do this” I started to kick into the final push and ran as much as I could only walking up a quick incline to catch my breath. As I looked at my watch running into the final stretch I was 2hrs faster than 3 years ago. I was able to deal with my anxiety on the Notch better. It was a wonderful day on the trails with friends and I am happy to have finished it so well. Even though almost everything has been cancelled this year I’m happy to have found a few good friends that I can still go adventuring with. Cancelled races meant making new goals, taking time to focus on the enjoyment, to appreciate more; my health, my friends and family, being in nature and exploring more. Until next time
Go forth and do great things my friends.