After a delightful day on the road to Wrigley, I headed south into BC. Part 2 of my trip is all about spending some time in Northern BC, to better explore some of the places I saw 6 years ago. One of these spots is Summit Lake on the Alaska Highway.
On my way home in 2013, I drove by the Summit Lake Campground and thought it looked like a great place to camp. It’s all first-come-first-served sites, surrounded by mountains…with some directly on Summit Lake. After a 9 hour drive from NWT, I managed to arrive decently early at 4pm, and snatched one of the best sites!
I also had great camp neighbors. They were a small family on their way to Yukon. We chatted a lot, and they encouraged me in my Summit Peak aspirations.
Summit Peak. It’s a trail across from the campground that goes to the peak of a small mountain. For a seasoned mountain hiker, this trail is considered easy…just a walk in the park. I’m not in shape at all…so even an easy mountain trail is quite daunting…but I have a couple of must hike mountains in Yukon, so I figured this would make a good training mountain.
So the next day, I set off early…knowing that if I was going to be slow I would need lots of time. I hit the trail at 6am. The morning light made for some good pictures and the clouds were just starting to come in. They would get thicker throughout the day.
(each picture is clickable to see it bigger)
As I got close to 2/3 of the way up, the climbing became steeper and there were some harder more technical parts….along with climbing up slippery “scree”, or small loose rocks. I began to think about what it would be like to go back down…the fear started to kick in. The clouds had settled in leaving the peaks of most mountains wrapped in cloud…including mine. I started to convince myself that I didn’t need to get to the peak. I was also getting quite tired and winded at this point. Meanwhile I took a break on a nice flat viewpoint and got some great pictures. I also watched as hikers began to catch up with me, and realized just how far I’d come.
That guy in neon green was crazy. He looked to be in his late 50’s. He had hiking poles and he was pretty much galloping up the mountain. He was huffing and puffing, but man was he moving. He passed me as I sat, and then later passed me on the way down….still galloping. No idea how he didn’t fall and kill himself at that pace.
A young couple had passed me earlier on. As I sat…convincing myself the view didn’t get any better…they came back down from the peak. I asked how it was and if they thought it was worth it, considering the clouds. They said it was very surreal and that I must do it. That convinced me that I couldn’t flake out on this. So I got up and started moving.
The last bit was kind of crazy…at least for an uninitiated mountain hiker like myself. It got a bit more technical, and I started to wonder how in the world was I going to come back down. There was a short ridge to walk before the summit, and I started to see exactly what I had wondered/feared/wanted to experience.
I’ve been at the top of flat mountains before and it’s pretty chill. This mountain was quite pointy. That means that walking that ridge to the summit, the bulk of the mountain was far below. All I could see in my peripheral vision was air and a long way down. The ridge was totally wide enough to safely walk on, but it was a strange experience. One that I want to get used to, but first time was a bit much. I feel like I’m making a bigger deal of this than it’s worth, because everyone else seems to have no trouble with it….but a bit of a fear of heights mixed with being tired and shaky legged made this a bit scary….in a totally worth it sort of way.
The last bit to the summit was a bit of a climb with hands holding on rocks to get up. The clouds were still there so at first I couldn’t see much, but they eventually pulled back long enough to get a couple of pictures. I was kind of perched on a rock in mixed fear and awe at the great depths below me. It kind of felt like there just wasn’t enough to hold me up because I could easily look around and not see the mountain I was sitting on.
And then the building terror of coming down. I prayed a lot for the first bit. The initial descent from the summit was the worst and it slowly got better. I learned to look at my feet and not the view… I slipped a few times but didn’t fall. I imagine it’s not as bad as it seems and the chances of actually falling headlong are slim.
As I was nearing 3/4 of the way down, I met my camp neighbors going up. They were loving the hike and we stopped to chat. Later as I reached the end of the trail I was very exhausted. The way up takes a lot of cardio, but it’s easy to take breaks, get your breath back and then keep going. The way down is hard on the legs and knees. Taking a break doesn’t help much. I got back to camp, gave thanks for a safe and awe filled hike, then rested for a few hours. Somehow I know I’ll be doing this again on some other mountain…it’s worth it.
Oh, and when I arrived back at camp, I could barely make out my camp neighbors almost at the summit, so I grabbed a shot with my zoom lens.
Next, I’m headed south to Prince George and Smithers, then back up to Yukon along the Cassiar Highway with stops at the Salmon Glacier and Telegraph Creek along the way.