On my back was my large Osprey backpack carrying only essential things, but it felt like it weighed as much as it would if I overpacked. All I had with me was my tent, sleeping bag, warm clothes to sleep in, food and water (among little things like bug spray and chapstick).
The beginning of the hike was excruciating. It’s always the beginning, in my opinion, that is the toughest part. You throw your body into this intense workout without any prelude or preparation.
My lungs ached. My heart pounded so powerfully. I felt lightheaded and nauseous and my eyes were stinging because I was so exhausted. My quads had never been worked so vigorously in their lives. Any time my brain raised any doubts in my mind given by my body, I quickly tossed them away. “I can do this. I’m going to make it.”
Every time we passed people heading down we asked how far away we were, only to be given false information. Some would say we were halfway there but then we’d come across another group that told us we weren’t halfway until we reached “the rockslide.” I simply did not want to know any more. I kept pushing and pushing, taking in every bit of the journey and its challenges. After all, it is all about the journey.
The trail itself is very difficult. It’s labelled as difficult on the Whistler Hiatus website but it didn’t worry me when I heard it was tough. I’ve hiked a couple mountains before so I went into it assuming I’d be just fine. Silly of me, because it really, really was treacherous. (I’ve done some hiking prior to this but this was the first high-intensity one I tackled). I know it would have been a lot easier if I wasn’t carrying my huge pack, but I know it still would have been a challenge for me; I’m not exactly the fittest person in the world. Knowing I want to climb more mountains, though, has motivated me to start getting back in shape!
I’m getting off topic thinking about fitness! Back to the hike: The entire trail is steep and the end is even steeper. There are numerous switchbacks, branches and boulders you must navigate around. Streams and little rivers to hop over. You have to concentrate when you’re hiking because one wrong step and you can easily twist your ankle or trip on a rock or branch.
Many times I had to stop and catch my breath, eat some energy bloks (these saved my life) and chug some water. I drank an entire 1L of water halfway through the hike. At first I panicked… how did I drink my entire bladder of water so quickly? How will I carry on? Luckily I had another water bottle, a LifeStraw with me and I was able to refill my camelbak bladder with water from a stream. To help my lightheadedness and to help cool me down, I often poured water on my Buff head wrap and wrapped it around my head just above my forehead. It’s another lifesaver! Three of us were lagging behind, taking breaks, while two of our friends were nowhere in sight as they sped quickly up the mountain. But they also weren’t carrying heavy weight and they were much more fit (at least I think so).
Though the last stretch of the hike is the steepest, it was my favourite part. In fact, I didn’t find it as strenuous as the first two thirds of the trail. I’m giving credit to adrenaline. I knew it was the last stretch. I could feel it. I could almost see the top. With this adrenaline and excitement came a boost of energy that I didn’t know I had in me. I scrambled up the boulders on all fours as quickly as I could, even running a little when the earth plateaued.
I made sure to keep looking back, though. The view was the most stunning sight I’ve ever witnessed. My eyes adjusted to see mountains far off in the distance. They squinted as the sun shifted around the clouds. It was magical. And then I continued on.
The view during the last stretch of the hike.
After climbing over the top I started jogging again, quicker even, when the view of Wedgemount Lake came into sight. It was breathtaking and I was overwhelmed with excitement and accomplishment. The descending sun painted the rocks a golden hue and the lake was a vivid shade of turquoise green. It didn’t seem real.
Three of the group were adamant about camping in the hut that exists at the top. My friend JM planted his tent outside on the planks of wood set up. I wanted to be by the water so I trekked downwards over large rock piles towards a little patch of grass down by the lake’s edge. I was missing the setting sun, but the view was still magnificent from where I was by the lake as I pushed pegs into the dirt.
My tent set up at Wedgemount Lake
The sunset from my tent
Once it had set, we all gathered around a little stove and shared ramen noodles. We passed the pot around, each taking turns having a bite. My eyelids were starting to droop and I suddenly realized navigating back and finding my tent in the dark would be tough as the tent was on the furthest side of the lake and there was no trail or path leading that way.
My mind was playing games with my senses as I stumbled over the boulders in the direction of my tent. If I make it to the water’s edge, I can keep following that until I reach grass.
That was my plan. I navigated downwards towards where I heard the subtle movement of water. Plenty of rock piles and structures had been created amoung the entire rocky surface. You usually see rock piles in alpine areas where trails are so you can find your way when your sight is obstructed by intense weather conditions or by lack of light. But there was no path to my tent. Instead, these structures kept looking like people standing in the distance. It creeped me out. I was getting increasingly nervous; I started singing Disney songs to myself to keep the mood light.
So many enormous boulders fooled me into thinking my tent was near. After several disappointments, I finally reached the grassy area. I peed near a rock pile as mice ran around my feet, still having thoughts of people sneaking up on me… and a new thought: a bear watching me.
Inside my tent, which was all mesh (I didn’t want to sleep with the cover on), I tried to calm my nerves by staring up at the stars. I couldn’t rid myself of these eerie thoughts, though. A bear tearing open my tent. A crazy killer knifing open my tent and stealing me away. I then took some melatonin and huddled under my sleeping bag, shivering a little.
I can’t remember what woke me up. Either the rattling of my bones, an alarm or discomfort. It was incredibly early and the sun had not risen above the rock wall of the mountain yet. Please rise higher sun, please rise soon. I’m soooo cold. I was waiting and waiting for the sun’s arrival, and while I waited, I sat snuggled up in my cocoon. I was so exhausted. My tent was damp from the morning dew so I also needed the sun, not only for warmth, but to dry out my tent before packing it up.
At the first sight of sunlight on the ground, I ran out and sat on a rock by the water with my journal. The lake was completely still. No movement. It was mirror-like and provided the perfect photo opportunity. The waves slowly started rolling in and it was extremely relaxing. I could have stayed there for hours, writing. I’ll share the reflective lake photo with you because I love the way it looked:
Good Morning, Wedgemount Lake!
As I wrote in my journal, I let my tent dry out under the rays of the sun, upside down. I didn’t want to be too long because I knew my friends would wake early. I ended my blissful time alone to pack up and head up the boulders towards the hut.
The two who hiked further ahead of us wanted to hike around the end of the lake, where the glacier was. But I had literally just came from there. My tent was pitched on the far end of the lake. I would’ve stayed over there if I knew that was the plan. Instead, I had my heart set on jumping in the beautifully coloured water.
The water was ICE COLD! That was to be expected, though, as it is a glacier-fed lake. There wasn’t really a good spot to jump in; my friend and I had to walk in on some slippery rocks beneath our barefeet. Walking in to frigid water is extremely uncomfortable! But it was so refreshing and so worth it (it was already getting really hot outside).
While we waited for the two to get back from the glacier, I played around on one of the wooden platforms, doing some yoga, while another washed his dishes and my other friend took pictures of inukshuit. Here are a couple photos from the morning before we departed and began our hike back down:
A dip in the glacier lake!
Yoga at Wedgemount
Knowing how difficult the hike up was, I was a little worried about the trek back down. It’s always easier hiking down, yes, but it is really tough on the knees and thighs.
I discovered another challenge soon into the descent.
Though I did eat snacks from my bag, that did not do much to relieve the weight of the pack, and thus, it still remained heavily on top of my back. Putting it on again sent sharp pains around my hips and I knew my hip bones were bruised. I had to ignore that though and push through. The CHALLENGE though, was actually balancing down the steep, bouldered scramble. I felt very wobbly and if I leaned too far forwards, I’d go toppling down and definitely suffer serious injuries. To prevent that, I often leaned backwards. This cause me to fall on my butt but I’d rather that then fall forwards without any control.
It almost involved a bit of strategy as I descended. My head was tilted downward for the majority of the hike to the valley as I continued to keep my weight behind me. The trail is so intricate; one second you look away and your toe could catch a root or a rock. One wrong placement of your foot good easily twist your ankle (which I did, but thankfully no sprain), and you can easily trip and fall if you aren’t watching where and how you place your feet over the trail’s little obstacles.
I ran to catch up to the speedy ones for part of the trail, which was quite intense with my large pack. I often would let the trees below me catch the weight of me falling in towards them. I don’t know how three of our group advanced so quickly ahead and I still don’t even understand why they wanted to get down so fast. When I hike, I like to take my time and enjoy the journey (upwards or downwards). I’m not slow, but I definitely don’t need to race down the mountain. And so I was content falling behind with my friend JM (who also had a very large pack).
We realized we weren’t going to catch up and made the decision to stop a few times to rest our knees.
“Nadia you’ve actually impressed me! I didn’t think you would make it up with that huge backpack on you. It’s bigger than you! I was so worried when I saw you with it but you surprised me.”
It felt amazing hearing that. Knowing that I accomplished something that someone doubted I could complete. It was a wonderful compliment to end the hike…