I traveled to Canada in early August for Sloane Hunter and Mitch Wegmann’s wedding in Canmore, in the Canadian Rockies. I hadn’t seen Sloane, a close friend from my European backpacking travels in ’99, in around eight years since I visited her in chilly Alberta over Christmas 2000. I’d never met Mitch either, so I was really excited to be there for their big day.
I arrived into Calgary late on Thursday night after a delayed flight, and once I’d unearthed my lost baggage and waited for the rental car it was past midnight. After an uneventful 1.5 hour drive west into the mountains I eventually found my hotel and collapsed into bed around 2am. Even though I was exhasted I woke up at 7am on Friday as I wanted to get out and enjoy my “free” day in the mountains. I originally planned a strenuous day hike, but a quick glance out the window at the unsettled weather made my change my plans. I switched gears from a hike to a mini road trip.
I drove north past Banff and continued along Highway 1 to Lake Louise. By the time I got there it was raining heavily, and without even being able to see across the lake to the mountains and glaciers beyond I instead settled down over a cup of tea in the hotel. With the weather not looking to lift, I changed my focus and tracked down a couple of waterfalls (a guaranteed winner on a wet and rainy day) in some side valleys near the town of Field.
(L) An elk by the roadside. (R) Sadly not much to see at Lake Louise….
(L) Gushing Takakkaw Falls. (R) A raindrop-laden fir tree at Emerald Lake.
With the hint of finer weather to the north, I wrapped up the day by driving up part of the Icefields Parkway – a world-class highway drive up the Continental Divide between Banff and Jasper with views of turquoise lakes, green forests, towering mountains and numerous glaciers. While I didn’t have time to drive the whole length of the road, I was able to hit up some of its highlights. Even better, the sun did indeed come out, and I was able to enjoy some incredible vistas.
Now that’s more like it! Magnificent Peyto Lake along the Icefields Parkway.
Panorama of Lake Peyto.
On the morning of the wedding I decided to hike nearby 2450m Ha Ling Peak. This mountain holds special significance to Sloane’s family, as her brother Chris died rock climbing on its steep face in 1999 as Sloane was returning from Europe. I’d heard so much about Chris but never had the chance to meet him, so it meant a lot for me to climb the peak. I woke up at 7am and drove to the base of the mountain; it was a cool, crisp morning, but sunny with some clouds – perfect hiking weather. I hoofed up the steep forested slope, and after a scramble across some scree above the treeline near the summit I reached the peak in a little less than two hours. I found I’d beaten the crowds and had the whole mountain to myself. I had a quick breakfast at the summit enjoying the expansive views, shot off a quick text message to Sloane, and then raced back down to the car to get back to the hotel and get ready for the wedding.
Ha Ling Peak at far right. Looking north along the ridge.
Reflections in a canal at the base of the mountain.
Above the treeline and nearing the summit.
View looking north from the summit. Canmore down below.
The wedding itself was lovely, set in Riverside Park by the river, with an incredible backdrop of towering mountain summits (including Ha Ling Peak). The service included a mix of First Nation and Celtic traditions, which suited the location perfectly. After the wedding, and following some early evening cocktails back at the hotel, the reception was held in one of the hotel ballrooms where we partied until well after midnight.
Who ever thought a chance encounter in a Salzburg hostel would lead to this nine years later! Stephanie, Andrea, myself and Sloane at the reception. It was fantastic to catch up with the girls again after so long.