Banff Winter Guide

This is a bit different than the kind of post I usually write, but I just spent a full 7 days in Banff on a winter ski holiday. That’s pretty much the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place on vacation, so I actually feel like I have a lot to say about Banff in the winter – from skiing, to hiking, to skating, and where to eat and shop.

Getting There


The easiest way to get to Banff is to fly to Calgary. If you’re in BC, you could consider driving, but since I was meeting Emily (who was coming from Newfoundland), I opted to fly as well. It’s actually relatively easy to get around without a car in Banff (there’s a pretty comprehensive bus system around town and to the ski resorts), so you can just take a shuttle from the airport into Banff if you prefer. Otherwise, you’re pretty much limited to renting a car, which is what we did – it’s about a 90 minute drive. Just be careful, most rentals come with 4 season tires, which we were fine with because we grew up driving in a snowy climate, but if you’ve never driven on snow, I recommend paying extra for proper snow tires. Along the main highway from Calgary to Lake Louise, you will be fine, but beyond that, winter tires are needed.

Where to Stay


Your options are pretty much to stay in Banff or Canmore. I think there is limited accommodations in Lake Louise, but there’s little else there, so I recommend Banff or Canmore. Banff is definitely more fun and attracts the tourists and crowds. Canmore is where more of the locals live, so it has a different atmosphere, but I do still really like it there. It’s cheaper in Canmore, so if you’re looking to save some money, it’s a good option. The thing about Banff is that it’s 20 minutes closer to all of the ski resorts and it’s actually located in the National Park, so it’s a lot of fun. We stayed in Banff and I recommend staying on the main road so you can walk into town for shopping and food. We were about 1.5km outside of the downtown, but we didn’t mind the 15 minute walk because parking in the downtown is a bit of a nightmare.

Skiing Guide


I’m going to be making an individual post about each of the ski resorts, but in a nutshell, there are 3 major resorts to chose from in Banff National Park. We opted to get the “SkiBig3” pass, which allowed us to hop around from resort to resort. With our pass, we had a 5 day span in which to do 3 ski days, so we did one at each mountain. The pass also includes tubing and night skiing at Norquay on the same day you ski there. As well as there are other perks and discounts with the pass at various stores and restaurants. If you need to rent gear, I recommend doing it in Banff to save yourself some time on the mountain. There are many rental places and you can pick up your skis or board the night before you use them.

Lake Louise – the furthest from Banff (45 min drive), but arguably the most popular of the 3. It’s located right off the highway, so it’s not as high elevation as Sunshine, but has some great runs on the back of the mountain for more advanced riders.

Sunshine Village – the highest and largest of the 3, it’s about a 20 minute drive from Banff and there’s a big gondola to transport you to the top. Probably the best resort for beginners as it had the most variety of terrain and on a sunny day you can see all the way to Mount Assiniboine. Because of its higher elevation, it generally gets the most powder.

Norquay – the smallest of the 3 mountains, but the closest to Banff (just 10 min drive). Norquay is the most diversified as they also offer a small area for night skiing and have tubing. That said, it’s a steeper mountain and I wouldn’t recommend for beginners.

Where to Eat


Advising on restaurants is way out of my normal wheelhouse, but I ate at so many that I wanted to share some of my thoughts. In Banff, most of the restaurants are located in the downtown core and they continue up along Banff Ave, with several located in the hotels. Canmore also has a really nice downtown area and it’s worth checking out for a day.

Ticino Swiss Italian – This was my favourite restaurant of the trip because they do a traditional cheese fondue and have a cute Swiss-ski vibe. It was also the most expensive meal I had on the trip, but I don’t regret it. The Grizzly House also does fondue and is located right in downtown.

Park Distillery – We almost skipped this one because we didn’t realize it had food – in addition to a HUGE cocktail menu, it also has a great food menu. I had the game bannock (elk and beef) and Emily had a vegan burger, both of which were delicious. I was extremely tempted by their bison burger as well and will have to return again!

Nourish Bistro – A completely vegetarian restaurant, we visited this one for Emily and ended up loving it. They also have a lot of cocktails (at very reasonable prices), as well as yummy salads, bowls, and burgers. A great option for non-meat alternatives.

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co – I didn’t visit on this trip because they don’t offer vegan cheese for Emily, but it’s located in Canmore and is a fantastic pizza restaurant if you have a craving!

El Toro – A Mexican restaurant higher up on Banff Ave. We hadn’t been planning to eat there because it didn’t look like anything special, but it was the closest restaurant to our hotel and we were really lazy one night. They have a wide variety of choices and we ended up really loving the pasta! A great cheaper alternative.

3 Bears Brewing – We mostly visited this one for the beer, but it has a really great vibe and food as well. It’s in a new building with beautiful high ceilings – you can get a 6-beer flight and some really tasty eats to accompany your meal. We also visited Banff Ave Brewing, but liked 3 bears a lot more.

Grizzly Paw Pub – Similar vibes to 3 Bears, but located in Canmore, I really like their beer (which you can find in most AB liquor stores) and their burgers!

Canary Coffee – A very cute little coffee shop in Canmore that has the kindest owner! Recommend if you’re looking for a hot drink or a tasty snack.

Beaver Tails – There are 2 locations in Banff and a third in Canmore. BeaverTails are iconic canadian pastries shaped like, you guessed it… beaver tails, and you can customize with your own toppings. It’s a bit of a must have if you’re on a winter trip to the Rockies!

Other places we tried included Farm + Fire, which is a beautiful restaurant that had mildly disappointing food, and Graze, in Canmore, which likewise was mildly disappointing. The next time I return I would like to visit The Bison or Saltlik, which seem to be the higher end restaurants. There’s also several Indian, Mexican, and Italian restaurants that we never made it to. We wanted to visit Block, which is a tapas restaurant, but it’s very small and cramped and Covid is still a thing, so we opted not to risk it.

Where to Shop


Banff has a plethora of crappy souvenir shops that I kind of despise (please if you are buying something associated with indigenous culture, make sure it is authentic!), so we skipped pretty much all of those, but there’s still a bunch of great shops in both Canmore and Banff. To be honest, I even kind of prefer the shopping in Canmore because there’s less of the touristy crap and more locally made wares.

Banff Tea Co – I’m obsessed with tea and I go here every time I visit. The workers are so nice and they have so many great flavours, as well as health teas. Lots of the teas are named after local landmarks and it’s such a fun place to shop.

Evoolution – This was a new discovery for us and there’s a shop located in both Banff and Canmore. They sell specialty oils and vinegars and have the whole store set up as a tasting bar. Try as many as you want with bread and check out their recommended pairings to bring a few small bottles home with you!

Cafe Books – There are no book shops that I’m aware of in Banff, but there’s a great one in Canmore! Cafe Books is split into two sections, with new books in the front shop and used books in the back shop. They carry a ton of specialty items and special editions and I had the best time browsing through both parts of the shop!

Big Bear Trading – This is the one souvenir shop I did like because they carried a wider variety of items and featured more locally made items. If you want to get specific Banff related items, then I would recommend this one.

Alberta’s Own Marketplace – Located in Canmore, this is the much more authentic place to buy souvenirs. Everything in this shop is hand crafted and beautiful! They have tons of beauty products, hand knits, clothing, jewelry, and prints. I got a gorgeous handmade merino knit headband.

Project A – Similar to Alberta’s Own Marketplace, Project A has a beautifully curated selection of jewelry, clothing, and beauty products. My top pick is the candles from Land of Daughters, which is a female, indigenous owned business (FYI, you can also get these at Coastal Bookstore in Port Moody).

Banff Doghouse – Definitely stop in here if you have a dog. They have all kinds of great toys and treats, so we had to get a little souvenir to take home for Sadie (she’s already eaten it).

A few other shops I’m a fan of are The Tin Box and Mountain Mercantile in Canmore, as well as the Canmore Tea Co. I didn’t like it quite as much as the Banff Tea Co, but I still bought some tea to take home from both! There’s also a few nifty stores in Banff, including Cabin 108, The Spirit of Christmas, and Monod Sports.

If you’re looking for any outdoor clothing or gear, there’s also a ton of shops to choose from. They’re all franchises, so I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s great to be able to visit SmartWool, North Face, Patagonia, and Atmosphere, which are more often stocked in other stores rather than having their own flagship stores.



In addition to skiing, there are lots of other outdoor attractions in Banff, here’s a few that we tried just to get you started:

Banff Upper Hot Springs – Located just outside of town and up on the mountain, it makes for a great side trip! You can drive or take the bus and the springs is owned by Parks Canada, so it’s actually very reasonably priced at just $10pp.

Johnston Canyon – Located on the Bow Valley Parkway, it’s a fun walk out to some ice waterfalls through the canyon. The trail will be covered in snow and ice though, so make sure you bring microspikes, or rent cleats in town.

Lake Louise Skating or Snowshoeing – One of the most iconic scenes in the Rocky mountains, in the winter you can skate on the lake or rent snowshoes or cross country skis to explore across it. We were hoping to skate, but it was a very snowy day when we visited, so we hiked to the back of the lake instead.

Lake Minnewanka – Probably the highlight of the whole trip for me. Lake Minnewanka is a huge lake that completely freezes over in the winter. Similar to Lake Louise, whether you will be able to skate or snowshoe on it will largely depend on the weather. If you opt to skate on any lake, make sure you check the ice conditions and research the weather from the previous week. Blue ice is the safest. Stay away from grey ice.

Other Things to Note

There’s just 2 random things I wanted to note. The first is to make sure you get your park pass when you enter the park on the way to Banff. You will need it to park everywhere inside the park. It’s $10 per person, per day, or you can get the family pass for the whole year for $145. This is what we did since I plan to be back in the Rockies again later in the summer.

The second thing is to watch your speed. The speed limit on the highway inside the park is 90km/h, which is 20km/h less than on the highway from Calgary. The speed limit in Banff is 30km/h. I’ve never seen so many cops prowling around the streets as in Banff, so pay close attention to your speed or you might be going home with a fine.

Mount Assiniboine Backpacking Trip: Part IV

On Day 5 we got up at 5am to try and beat the heat for the day (Part I, Part II, Part III for reference). We had to backpack 15km to the next campsite, but fortunately our packs were lighter and the day was pretty much going to be entirely downhill. We packed up everything and were off at 7am.

We hiked back towards the lodge and then took the trail branching off to Og Lake. This was the route most people had entered by and our final destination was Sunshine Village. After leaving the lodge it’s about 5.5km to Og Lake and the trail leaves the woods almost immediately. It’s a very exposed trail and it would have been exhausting late in the day in the open sun. Fortunately there was still a nice breeze so I actually really enjoyed the first half of the walk across the plain.


There’s a lone boulder about halfway across the plain, so we stopped there for a quick shady break, but the mosquitoes quickly ruined our solitude and we were forced to go on. After that the trail was entirely inundated with mosquitoes. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many of them. It’s a boggy area around the trail and I guess they’ve just been breeding like crazy in the heat, there were literally thousands of them flying around everywhere. It was a nightmare. You couldn’t stop moving for 2 seconds or they would swarm you. I hiked in my bug hat and left full length pants on despite the heat. I couldn’t bear to cover my arms, so I used fly dope to keep them away. All I can say is thank goodness it wasn’t also hot at this point in the day.

We arrived at Og Lake around 9am to find it totally deserted. There are 10 tent pads by Og Lake, but there is absolutely no shade to be found anywhere and the mosquitoes are awful, so I think everyone either got up early or bypassed it altogether. Magog Lake was buggy, but it definitely didn’t have anything on Og. I’d seen on the internet that a lot of people actually prefer Og Lake and think the campground itself is more scenic than Magog Campground. I could see how it would be nice on a cooler day, but on this particular trip I’ve never been so happy to skip a campsite.


We did stop briefly to go for a swim because I was still determined to swim in every lake. The water was a little cool because it was morning, but I could see it being so nice in the heat of the day. The big thing about this section of the trail is you need to make sure to fill up your water bladders between Og Lake and Porcupine Camp. There’s no water for the first 6km to Porcupine and while there are two small lakes in the last 3km, they’re not great water sources because they are stagnant, so we avoided them. We’d been carrying 3L of water with us where ever we went, so it wasn’t really a problem for us.

The 9km between Og Lake and Porcupine Camp are a bit of a bummer though. The area is known as the Valley of the Rocks and it’s basically a semi forested area with lots of big glacial till. It is a really interesting topography because you can tell it was once super barren and that the entire valley would have been glacier covered, but now a lot of vegetation has grown on the top of the rocks. But after 9km it gets pretty boring. The only saving grace was the mosquitoes were a lot less and it was semi shaded.


We trudged along taking a break every 3km. We stopped at km 6 to have lunch on a windy rocky ledge and we were getting pretty tired. The final 3km were brutal. There’s a junction and if you don’t need to stop at Porcupine Camp, you can avoid 200m of elevation gain by taking the other trail, but we had to stay at the campsite, so there was no avoiding it for us. Our part of the trail was very meandering, with several steep uphill sections and a whole lot of downhill (that we would have to undo the following day). The steep sections were filled with that slippery cobble sized gravel that’s a pain in the ass to walk on and I had several close calls and 1-2 falls.

But eventually the trail flattened out and we finally hit Porcupine Camp. It’s a first come-first serve camp and since it was only 2pm, we were the second group to arrive. The other group was a couple there that were bushwacking their way across the park and having their afternoon siesta. Fortunately the mosquitoes weren’t bad and we had a nice nap in the shade before taking a little river bath. I heard a lot of the other hikers complaining at Magog about how it’s not a nice campsite, but I actually didn’t mind it at all. It had a nice cool creek and it was quiet and shaded, I actually found it quite relaxing! I had some journaling time and befriended the new hikers as they arrived from the other direction.


The bushwackers had come from the same direction as us and were debating whether to bushwack out along the Simpson River Trail the next day (they didn’t), while the other 2 groups that showed up were on their way to Magog Lake. One couple arrived at 5pm and were debating continuing to Og Lake, but I convinced them to stay. I was like, “Og Lake is one big mosquito orgy. It’s all uphill, has no shade, and it took us 5 hours to get there from here”. Needless to say they were easily convinced considering they’d already done almost 20km in the heat that day. (PSA, don’t try and go from Sunshine Village to Og Lake in one day with the gondola out, it’s too much).

It’d still been a pretty hot day and we were thrilled to see more clouds rolling in. Brandon was convinced it would rain overnight, but I wasn’t optimistic. We enjoyed our final dinner on the trail and went to bed early to prepare for another early rise.

Us and the bushwackers were up again at 5am, but everyone else was still asleep when we hauled out at 7am. The location of Porcupine Camp was perfect for us because we had to start the day with a huge climb up Citadel Pass. We had to go up 500m of elevation in just 3km and then another 100m in the last km. I was dreading it after Wonder Pass, but it ended up not being that bad! I was surprised that on the final day I was actually feeling pretty good. Day 5 had been a bit of a slog and I felt like I’d been battling dehydration since Day 2, but on Day 6 I actually started to feel a bit rejuvenated.


The clouds hadn’t amounted to anything and we’d woken to blue sky again, but it was definitely a bit cooler. It took us about an hour and 15mins to ascend the 3km and another 45minutes to the top of the pass. Citadel Pass is absolutely beautiful! It’s filled with meadows and mountain peaks on all sides, I actually really enjoyed our hike through the pass.

After that we descended for most of the rest of the day. A lot of the trail was exposed, but it was so scenic and there were so many wildflowers, I loved it and it ended up being my second favourite day on the trail after our sunset hike up the Nublet. Unfortunately Brandon didn’t have the same boost of energy I had and was still not feeling great. I don’t know if it’s actually related, but I drank 1L of electrolytes every day throughout the trip (500mL with breakfast and 500mL with dinner); Brandon didn’t drink any electrolytes, only water, so I wonder if that’s why I recovered faster. Could also be age since Brandon has a decade on me 😛 But I’ll stop rubbing it in because usually Brandon outpaces me on every hike, this just wasn’t his day.


We hit Howard Douglas Lake at about the 8km mark and stopped for a break and a swim. It was my last lake. It wasn’t my favourite, but it was still very beautiful and quite warm since it wasn’t very large. Unfortunately there was a final push uphill after that to the top of Windy Ridge – it wasn’t very long, but it was steep and hot, so it took us a little while. But again, from the top of the ridge there were absolutely gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains! Plus there was a nice breeze on the top so I felt good again. The only downside is from the top you can see the rest of the trail as it meanders through meadow after meadow all the way to the ski resort, and it looks far.

We continued down from the ridge and the trail was still partially shaded along this stretch. The trail went in and out of the meadows and it was very hot crossing them, but we decided we’d push until the end of the last treed section and then take a break for lunch before crossing the last meadow. The last meadow is Sunshine Meadow, which is super popular among tourists when the gondola is running. We had the unique experience of visiting when it was totally empty, but it’s exposed for about 3km, so we weren’t looking forward to crossing it.


We stopped for lunch in the trees before pushing through the final stretch. As we were sitting we saw more and more clouds moving in. Just as we were packing up to head back to the meadows, a miracle occurred and the clouds moved to actually block the sun! We were so thrilled, we cheered and quickly started crossing the meadow to try and beat the sun. We encountered two groups heading in the other direction while we were crossing the meadow and they were the first people we’d encountered that day, save for one couple at Howard Douglas Lake. There was a nice breeze going through the meadow and I still felt great as we crossed.

Once we finally hit the ski resort though I started to lose my motivation. The trail continues down to the gondola and then it’s a brutal 6km walk along the road that goes under the gondola. It was interesting seeing the ski village empty and in the summer, but we were both ready to be done so we blew through quick. The sun had poked out from the clouds again and it was exhausting as it beat down our backs on the descent. It was around 1:30pm, so there was no shade to be found and the road was that awful gravel that’s great for rolling an ankle, so it was hard to go too fast.


About halfway down some dark rainclouds moved in and blocked out the sun again. We could hear a thunderstorm brewing from the neighbouring mountains and we figured we’d better haul ass. Honestly I would have welcomed a bit of rain, but a full fledged thunderstorm was probably more than we needed. We felt a few drops on the way down, but it never amounted to more than that while we were on the trail. The last few kilometers were brutal on the feet. We hiked almost 20km, which was our longest day, so my feet were throbbing and so desperate to be done.

Finally we hit the parking lot and I kid you not, 5 minutes later the clouds completely let loose a torrential downpour on us. We felt sorry for everyone on their way into Porcupine, but were thrilled to be back in our air conditioned vehicle. We no longer had to pick up Lien’s car from Mount Shark, so we went straight to Canmore to check into our hotel for the night. I finally got to talk to Seth and my Mom about what had happened and we showered before going out for a celebratory dinner. We each had 1 beer and we were toast, so we did some more walking (I know right?) and shopping along the pedestrian road to sober up. It ended up actually being a really nice evening!


There’s not much to report on the drive home the next day. We learned the intense heat wave had unfortunately caught half of the province on fire and the air quality was atrocious driving through Kamloops from the smoke. Surprisingly though, I didn’t feel sore after the hike and the drive. I usually find nothing makes you more stiff than getting in a car after a hike, but I didn’t get the post hike stiffness this time. I had a stiff shoulder early in the hike, but otherwise I did a good job keeping my pack light on this trip! I started with a 38lb pack and I weighed it at 30lbs on the final day of the trip. Not the lightest, but pretty good for 6 days!

So overall, it was not the trip we anticipated. We faced a lot more challenges on this trail than I expected, but I did still find the experience rewarding. I would like to re-visit Assiniboine some day, but in future I would definitely do things differently. But really, that’s what all treks are about – bettering yourself. We learned some hard lessons on this trip, but I also learned that the effort I regularly put into preparedness actually really matters. Never underestimate the trail and bring your essentials every single time. The time and money put into courses like wilderness first aid and invested in gear like an inreach can quite literally save your life. Invest in yourself. It’s worth it.


Mount Assiniboine Backpacking Trip: Part II

We had a pretty solid start to our trip on Day 1 (Part I), but things went downhill really fast on Day 2. It’s hard to write about, but backcountry safety and emergency preparedness in the wilderness are so important to me, so I think it’s really important to share when things go wrong. More people than ever have been exploring the backcountry during the pandemic and search and rescue tasks have been way up. Social media has exposed a lot of very beautiful locations, but people don’t always share the challenges that often come along with those experiences. I don’t want to give a false idea of what multi-day thru-hikes are like, so I think it’s really important to share the good along with the bad. In general, my entire 6 day trip to Assiniboine was extremely challenging, but Day 2 was probably one of the worst days I’ve ever had in the backcountry.


On Day 2 we had to go 14km to get to our campsite at Magog Lake. We departed shortly after 8am and it was about 1km to the lake. There’s a short uphill section that takes you partway up the mountainside and from there, it’s another 6km of relatively flat terrain that runs parallel to the lake. The trail traverses in and out of the trees, so we had a pretty good time because large parts of the trail were shaded, and the parts that weren’t shaded offered absolutely gorgeous views of Marvel Lake and the glacier covered mountains at the end of the lake. From the trail, we could just see the tip of Mount Assiniboine peaking out from behind the mountains.

Once the trail reaches the end of the lake, it starts to ascend up to Wonder Pass via a series of switchbacks. We knew the switchbacks would be challenging in the heat, so we planned a nice break before starting them. It was around 11am, so we decided to wait to have lunch and instead has some snacks. I was feeling a little tired, so I mixed myself some electrolytes to help prepare for the climb. We hit a river right before starting the ascent, so we all topped up our bladders and bottles.


I was feeling good as we started the switchbacks, but I was also worried about the others, particularly Lien, who drinks a lot of water on a normal day, much less a really hot one. I told everyone to say if they felt the least bit dizzy or nauseous and that we would stop. But one mistake I think I made was that as we climbed up the switchbacks, I was at the head of the group. We probably should have put a slower hiker at the front, but the trail goes in and out of the trees, so we were stopping for short breaks at every single shady section of the trail, so I didn’t think much of it.

I was one shady section ahead of the group taking a break when the guys called up to me that our other companion, whose name I’ve left out for privacy reasons, was feeling tired and wanted a quick break. I walked back down the trail to see her sitting on the ground leaning against her pack with her eyes closed. This was a bad sign for me and indicated to me that she probably already had heat exhaustion. I quickly mixed her a half litre of electrolytes to try and perk up her energy. The guys seemed pretty sure she’d come around quickly, but honestly for me it was a really bad omen. I’ve had first aid training since I was 16 and have treated 2 other cases of heat exhaustion in the past (1 of which resulted in a seizure), so I just had a really bad feeling.


What I wasn’t prepared for though was how quickly our companion’s health went downhill. Within minutes she was fully lying down on the trail while I continued to give her electrolytes and Brandon gave her energy chews. She kept saying she just needed a few minutes to rest up, but I was not reassured by the fact that she was lying down and knew she was likely already dehydrated and needed more than a few minutes of rest. I booted up my Inreach on the side as a precaution, but the guys wanted to give her more time. This is not unreasonable as you definitely don’t want to call for emergency assistance unless you’re sure you need it.

But shortly after that things really deteriorated and she started having severe muscle cramps in her arms and legs. At first I thought she was having a seizure, but then recognized it as heat cramps and immediately made the SOS call. This is something I hoped never to have to do when I purchased my Inreach, but of course, I also purchased it for this exact scenario. While I was making the call the guys removed her shoes and socks and anything that was creating tightness and started massaging her legs, feet, and arms. This definitely helped with the pain of the cramps, but I knew that in the long term she needed hydration. I poured water over her face and torso to try and cool her down and kept feeding her electrolytes, hoping she would not pass out because I needed to keep giving her water.


As we gave first aid, I noticed the SOS had still not sent. It often takes my inreach about 20 minutes to send messages, especially in the trees like where we were, but I didn’t want to wait for it, so Brandon offered to run it up the trail to try and get the message through. It stressed me out for us to split up, but we needed help and I had wilderness first aid training and Brandon was fast, so it made the most sense. He took his water and left. It felt like he was gone forever, during which I mostly continued to feed her electrolytes until she complained it was too much and asked me to switch to water. At that point, I started drinking the electrolytes myself because I was starting to get tired too. Lien continued to massage her limbs. She had initially been frantic because she couldn’t feel her legs or arms, but overtime, she started to regain feeling and fortunately, still never passed out. Eventually she became cold from all the water I poured on her, so I changed her into dry clothes and we put an emergency blanket under her to insulate against the cold ground.

I don’t know what the official diagnosis was for her condition, but I believe it was heat stroke, which can only be treated with medical help. The fact that she had such severe cramping and lost feeling in her limbs likely suggests that her body was starting to shut down and was taking energy away from her limbs to preserve her body’s core functions. I’m not a professional, so perhaps it wasn’t as extreme as heat stroke, but I don’t doubt she needed more help than we were able to provide on that mountain.


The sun was on the move and our shade was disappearing, so I put up my tarp to shield us all from it. Her pain had subsided so me and Lien quickly ate some food to keep up our own strength and then kept giving her water. There wasn’t much else I could do for her aside from try to replenish her fluids. Thankfully Brandon returned, having finally got the SOS to go through. He was immediately inundated with messages from Emergency Services looking for more details. Fortunately the Inreach had found the satellite and we were now able to message from our location. I’m sure the technicians were frustrated with us because it takes forever to type using the text pick on the Inreach and we gave them pretty limited info to try and get the messages out as fast as possible. They asked if we could move at all, to which I responded no, and I told them we’d wait at this location and to look for a yellow tarp. Lien tied his red ground sheet to the trees as well to make us more visible.

Once I finished the trip, I learned Inreach had called both Seth and my Mom, who were listed as my emergency contacts. They couldn’t originally get a hold of Seth, who had our entire trip plan, but the main thing they first asked my Mom was about my level of experience and whether she thought I had sent the SOS accidentally. The reason they wondered is because the GPS location showed we were directly on the trail. Mom told them she thought it was unlikely it was an accident and to please send help. By then we had got more messages through and Inreach reassured my Mom they were already on the way.


They definitely were on the way. Shortly after Brandon returned and less than an hour after the message had gone through, a helicopter circled our location and sirened at us to let us know they’d seen us. They told us after it was really easy to find us having our exact GPS location and with the tarp. They flew off and returned some time later with a guy on longline. He landed about 15metres down the trail from us and Lien accompanied him to our location. He asked our companion some questions and we filled him in on what had occurred. During this, Brandon had departed again to go back to the water source to refill our bladders and Lien began packing up the backpacks for departure. A second S&R guy was flown in on longline and they assessed whether they could bring our companion out lying down or sitting up. They decided lying down would be best for the extraction and then to transfer her to the helicopter to sit on the way to the hospital. At this point she was looking better. She was actually keeping her eyes open and giving longer responses, plus she needed to go to the bathroom twice. S&R never actually gave her any first aid on the ground and instead transferred her to hospital to go on saline.

They told us we had taken the right actions in putting up the tarp, cooling her down, and giving her lots of water and electrolytes. They took her out via longline lying down and then took Lien out by longline sitting up. They waited for Brandon to return before taking Lien so we could plan what to do next. They did indicate they would take us all via longline if we needed it, but that it wasn’t preferred as the helicopter wasn’t big enough. They needed to take Lien so he could go to the hospital, but it made no sense for them to take me and Brandon too, so we had to decide whether to go back or continue on. I felt that we should go back. We had been through something traumatic and I wanted to know she was okay after having given her first aid for 3 hours. But Brandon pointed out there was really nothing more we could do for her and we were more than a day from either trailhead, so we should just go on.


So we went on. I still feel a bit guilty about it, but I’m also glad that at least the trip wasn’t over for everyone. In the back of my mind though I was concerned about me and Brandon also getting heat exhaustion. Brandon had already climbed the pass once with the Inreach and I was tired from the stress of attending to the incident. One of the eeriest parts of the day was the fact that we hadn’t seen a single person besides S&R. It made us feel like we were the only people crazy enough to be out hiking, but we encountered lots of other people at Assiniboine who were day hiking up to the pass and thru-hiking in the opposite direction, so it was just a coincidence we were the only ones hiking through the pass that day.

Before moving anywhere we finally sat down and ate our lunch to get some energy back. After that we took it really slow. We crawled at a snail’s pace through the sunny sections and took a break every time we encountered shade. There was limited shade in Wonder Pass, but was it ever gorgeous! I felt like we weren’t able to properly enjoy it, but we still got some lovely photos. We debated camping in the pass since it was an extenuating circumstance, but there was so little shade to be found we ultimately decided to press on. Though we did find a single tree up there and took a break.


It was approaching 6pm when we left the pass. The top of the pass marks both the Alberta-BC border and the transition between Banff National Park and Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. It was a relief to finally start moving downhill and we walked through a beautiful larch forest that I’m sure is super scenic in the fall. We descended past a waterfall and down to some meadows where we re-filled our bottles from the stream. In total Brandon drank a whopping 7L of water on this day!

It was still late June, so I was surprised by the amount of wildflowers we saw on the trip! We saw lots of buttercups and Indian Paintbrush, as well as the Alberta Wild Rose, forget-me-nots, and lots of other white and purple flowers I can’t identify. Eventually we arrived at Gog Lake, which still had some small bergy bits floating in it. I wanted to go for a swim in it, but it’s surrounded by wetland, so I settled for a dunk in freezing Magog Creek instead. It was only knee deep and my feet immediately started to go numb, so I quickly washed myself down before crawling back out.


We were pretty exhausted at this point, but we continued on through the meadows and couldn’t help exclaiming at the beauty of the park. We finally hit the Naiset Huts and were disappointed to learn it was still another 2km to the Magog Lake campsite. It was finally starting to cool off now though and the sun was lower in the sky, we continued along the edge of Magog Lake and were treated to the most gorgeous views of the lake. Every step hurt and when we finally rolled into the campsite it was 8pm – almost 12 hours after we had started! We were greeted by the Ranger who directed us to the shadiest campsite remaining (not very shady). But we didn’t care and trudged our way out to site number 40 at the back of a little meadow.

I have lots to write about the campsite, but this post is getting long, so I’ll save it for the next entry. We set up camp as quick as possible and I got dinner going while Brandon filtered water. We scarfed down our dinner and sent messages out to Lien and Seth to let them know we’d made it to the campsite and check on our companion. She was still in the hospital, but doing better. After that we pretty much hit the sack immediately. Unfortunately sleep was elusive. There was too much to process from the day, I just lay in bed for hours with my brain spinning. At one point I got up to pee and I could barely open my eyes or move my body I was so tired, but my mind just would not go to sleep. Eventually I drifted off late in the night with no alarms set for the next day. Click for Part III.