I had big plans for today - climb Ha Ling Peak near Canmore. This climb is part of a goal I set earlier this year to climb 20 Peaks in 2023. Of course, every big goal needs a schedule. And a deadline.
I decided my deadline for the 20 Peaks should be August 31. I know it seems early in the year because September is a fine month for hiking up summits in the Canadian Rockies and October can be nice too if the stars align.
However. The first half of September is reserved for a huge bike ride that will take 2 days and require a night out in the woods. (This is another 2023 goal.) It will be many gruelling hours of up hill kilometres and we will want some rest days before we take that on. After the ride, we’ll be too exhausted to move for days so I really can’t count on doing any summits in the first half of September.
Then we’ll be heading to Italy for the second half of September and first week of October. After that, weather and conditions could be bad and summiting could be extra challenging. If I want to make sure I get all 20 Peaks in before deep snow takes over the trails, I need to be done by the end of August.
But. August is when we’ll spend 2 weeks in the backcountry. (Yet another 2023 goal.). My plan is to spend one day in August bagging four peaks with the Glasgow Banded Peak Traverse.
Working backwards, July - the plan is for 5 peaks, June and May - 4 peaks each and in April - 3. A fine plan to ensure successful achievement of the Goal.
As of yesterday, April 19, I had only climbed one, Prairie Mountain. Today I woke up planning to climb Ha Ling and bag peak #2. When I sat down to enjoy my morning coffee, I looked out the window to see snow flakes, big and Christmas-y, swirling outside. Not inspiring. I sat in my warm chair contemplating getting out there and wondering if it would matter at all if I just blew it off.
No one was coming with me. Dan was away and Jared had to cancel. Adam wasn’t feeling well. Hiking isn’t his bag anyway. So I was on my own and no one would care if I bailed. I was kind of tired and my big comfy chair was so, well, comfy.
But then I remembered, I had a goal. If I was going to get the 20 Peaks, I had to get moving. I had to climb today. I got up and got moving. One step at a time. I packed up and put my boots on. I promised myself a Tim Horton’s breakfast to eat on the way. As I drove out of the city, the snowing intensified. I hit the highway and was glad I still had my winter tires on. Snow swirled across the road. I wondered how much worse it would be when I got into the mountains.
What a nice surprise when I got over Scott Lake Hill, a high point on the highway, and the snow had completely stopped. The highway was bare and dry. As I approached the mountains, I saw low hanging clouds clinging to the sides of the mountains and fog filling valleys. I drove around a corner and in the distance, the clouds opened up to reveal a patch of blue. Snow covered mountain tops glittered in the sunshine. One of them was Ha Ling. It looked like a treasured gem, far off and dreamy.
I drove closer and as I passed under the north face of the mountain, a few clouds floated around the base and partway up. The summit was clear and dazzling. Now I really wanted it.
I maneuvered the car up the gravel road towards the trail head and had to stop to let some mountain sheep pass. “The Welcoming Committee,” I thought. I found a parking spot at the trailhead and got my stuff. Now the fun could start.
I stopped near the beginning of the hike and put micro spikes on the bottoms of my boots. The trail was covered with hard packed snow but there was ice underneath it in places. I didn’t want to slip. Injury prevention is crucial to achieving these mountain goals. I ambled up the trail smoothly.
A new trail had been built here since the last time I climbed this mountain. It was cleverly built with a few long switchbacks that stretched across the mountain and cunningly avoided avalanche terrain. The trail was steep but not too bad. In most places not steeper than stairs in a house.
The trail ended at a high saddle between the summits of Ha Ling Peak and Miner’s Peak. There was a deep field of snow all the way to the summit of Ha Ling. No one had broken a trail yet. Luckily for me, another solo hiker just ahead of me called down that she was going to go for it. I said, “Great! I’m with you.” I took some photos at the saddle while she started up through the snow.
I honestly intended to catch up with her and take over the lead for a while. I know how tiring it is to post-hole through deep snow but she was really quick. I stepped in each of her footsteps in the snow all the way to the top where I finally caught up with her and we congratulated each other on reaching the summit. I was so happy I’d gotten my butt out of the comfy chair that morning.
I would never have gone if it wasn’t for my 20 Peaks in 2023 goal.
UPDATE: I have climbed 2 more peaks since Ha Ling and I’m on track to complete the 20 Peaks as scheduled. I seem to gain more momentum as I complete each Peak and it just gets easier to get moving to new summits.
Read more about the 20 Peaks in 2023 goal and some of my other goals for 2023: