As I sit here and reflect upon this past year, I am reminded of the growth and opportunities, but also struggle that 2016 brought. A year that started out with heartbreak and disappointment took a dramatic turn when I decided to focus on the mountains and adventure for clarity and purpose. That passion led me to a year of personal and professional growth, new opportunities, everlasting friendships and life-changing experiences. Here is my favorite (well top 10), sometimes hazardous, hikes from 2016.
Havasu Falls, Arizona
Havasu falls in a breathtaking waterfall situated in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. I first saw this hike on Instagram and because of the magnificent blue-green waters, I instantly put it on my bucket list. After 5 days and 1400 phones calls later, I finally got a reservation. One plane ride from Calgary to Phoenix, a 5 ½ hour drive from Phoenix to Supai, and a 20 km trek down through the Grand Canyon to the Havasupai Indian reservation. I had finally made it to paradise with two of my favorite people in the world; my amazing brother, Logan and one of my best friends, Jaycee. The company and the amazing vistas made this trek one of my favorites this year.
West Coast Trail, British Columbia
A 75 km backpacking trail up the coastline of Vancouver Island. This hike takes you through the rain forest, climbing over 75 ladders, scaling boulders, taking cable cars over rivers and exploring the elements of the West Coast in 5 days. This hike is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and had been rated one of the most grueling, and rewarding hikes in North America. The views were spectacular, the mud was deep (there was so much mud) and the friendships built were lifelong.
Wiwaxy Gap – Lake Oesa, Lake O’Hara
The sublime scenery throughout the Wiwaxy Gap in Yoho National Park is reason enough for this Hike to be on everyone’s bucket list. However it is easier said than done. In an attempt to limit the amount of visitors within Lake O’Hara, they have a bus reservation system. As you cannot take personal vehicles up to the lake, you can either reserve a seat on the bus or walk the 11km up to the lake. As dogs are not aloud on the bus, Cali and myself braved the bears and walked the 11km in. I started at the Wiwaxy Gap, a steep climb on sometimes narrow ledges which takes you up to the saddle at 2703m (8868 feet). You gain about 500m of elevation in about 1km, this portion of the hike leaves your heart pumping however the views make up for it. From there I took the Huber Ledges down to Lake Oesa, you can see all 4 alpine lakes hanging in the valley below you. Lake Oesa is breathtaking and serene, a perfect spot for lunch- if the chipmunks don’t snag a bite. I continued back down to Lake O’Hara, 32 km later.
Pocaterra Ridge, Kananaskis
In my opinion this is one of the premier ridge walks in Alberta. If the climb and booty burn you get from conquering the first peak does not leave you breathless, the 360 degree vistas will. The first of the four peaks is the hardest with close to 1000m in elevation gain, but worth it. The total distance covered is about 11km from start to finish, and took about 5 hours to complete.
Angels Landing, Zion National Park Utah
Angels Landing is one of the most famous hikes within Zion National Park, this hike boasts incredible views of red rock in every direction. The narrowing trail and steep drop offs is enough to leave even the most adventurous people dizzy. This is a 5 mile hike, that can take up to 5 hours depending on how busy the trail is. Once the trail narrows, and the chains begin it can be quite slow moving if the trail is busy. This hike will cause your knees to shake, but the views from the top will take your breath away.
Mount Crandell, Waterton
You can approach Mount Crandell a few ways, we approached is via Bear’s Hump. The ascent is steep, tiered and the trail covers some exposed rocky terrain, but the views at the crest of the hump are mesmerizing. To get the famous Bears Hump you will climb 700 feet in less than 2 km, then you proceed upwards from there. This route is 8.5 km round trip with a vertical gain of 1,098 meters (3,600 feet.). This was an important hike for a few reasons: 1) It was my 52nd hike of the year! 2) One of my best friends dog had passed away the week prior to this hike. Kaiko had a zest for the mountains, snow and everything that involved the outdoors, so we hiked it for her, celebrating her life at the top. Hiking companions come in many forms, even our furry hiking companions deserve recognition, as sometimes they are the best kind.
Bryce Canyon, Utah
Bryce Canyon is the largest collection of sandstone hoodoos in the world, photos of these mesmerizing red-orange structures do not do this place justice. It’s a place you have to explore on your own in order to fully appreciate it’s beauty. I chose to wander through Bryce Canyon, instead of picking a specific trail(s), I ended up putting on 30+ KM that day, with an elevation gain of close to 1500 meters. I was in awe of the vast beauty that the hoodoos portrayed, when you are surrounded by beauty of that magnitude you don’t want to leave. I could have stayed there all day exploring. My Bryce Canyon Tip: Make sure you don’t miss out on Wall Street, the architecture within that stretch of trail is enchanting.
Mount Nokogiri, Chiba Japan
Mount Nokogiri is a unique outdoor adventure that offers breathtaking views of Tokyo Bay and the Boso Peninsula’s jungle. You hike through the lush forest, passing through temples immersing yourself within the Japanese culture. Climbing stair, stairs and more stairs in order to reach the summit. At the midway point, you are rewarded with the magnificent views of Japan’s largest stone-carved Buddha image (Daibutsu) reaching up to 30 meters at its highest point. At the summit the thick mountainous groves spanned out for miles towards the east, with ocean views of Tokyo Bay to the west. Two completely different vistas, equally beautiful in there own way.
Mount Rinjani, Lombok Indonesia
Mount Rinjani is an active volcano that stands at 3,726m (12,224 feet) and is situated in Lombok Indonesia, a prefecture just off of Bali. It’s latest eruption was in September, 2016. It is a restricted hike, so you need to hire a guide in order to hike it. I trekked the 2 day/1 night summit hike, which I found out later, is not common. The most popular trek is the 3 day/2 night, most hikers who choose to trek 2day/1night reach their final destination at the Crater Rim, which sits at 2,639m. The 2day/1night trek consists of a long, steep climb to the Crater Rim, with an estimated hiking time of 6-8 hours. Proceeding to the summit in the middle of the night for sunrise, then hiking down to Sembalun shortly after. A 24 hour trek, with friendships made that will last a lifetime.
Whaleback Mountain, Golden British Columbia
Some of the greatest places are found by accident. I had the intention of hiking to Twin Falls that day, however I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and ended up doing a 30 km circuit up to Whaleback Mountain. This route encompasses an abundance of waterfalls, emerald green lakes, boulders, switchbacks and forested areas. My unintentional trek consisted of the following route; Yoho Valley past Laughing and Twin Falls, following the switchbacks up to Whaleback, proceeding to the Isolated peak (just over 10,000ft), Little Yoho and down the Iceline Trail. It was a wonderful mishap.
I am so incredibly blessed to have been able to travel, explore and hike these amazing places. I am looking forward to what 2017 will hold, embarking on new adventures and tackling new ridgelines. I will be starting off my 2017 adventure by heading to Patagonia on a backpacking excursion. Torres del Paine here I come.