Walk faster. I hear banjos.
26.08.2014 - 26.08.2014
Day Four: Walk faster. I hear banjos.
Matt and I had a boat to catch, so it was “up and at ‘em” very early. After a breakfast of oatmeal with nuts, brown sugar, and dried fruit and some bacon, we said “goodbye” to Crandall Lake and hiked back to the car.
Matt and I dropped John and Teresa off at the Carthew Alderson trailhead so that they could do that amazing hike and then drove to Waterton Marina to catch the early morning boat to the Crypt Lake trailhead.
I had been intrigued by the Cyrpt Lake hike ever since seeing it described as, “a test of nerves,” “one of the most unique hikes you will ever do,” and “the Indiana Jones adventure of the Canadian Rockies.” It was featured by National Geographic as one of the world’s most thrilling hikes.
It is a 5.5 mile mile hike back to the lake with a 2300 foot elevation gain, with a round trip return making it 11 miles. And it includes a boat, a cliff, a ladder, a tunnel, a cable, maybe some snow, and an icy lake. Twice.
Sign me up.
One reason Matt and I hike is for the solitude, so we knew that getting off of a boat with 50 other people starting the same hike was going to mean we had to go really fast to break free of the majority of the pack. Given that the first part of the hike consists of a seemingly never-ending series of uphill switchbacks through the forest, this fact pretty much SUCKED.
Most people dawdled at the dock, but we set off with the ambitious few that charged right in. Only 2 small groups managed to out-hike us and I am pleased to report that it was a group of 20-ish boys and 3 teenage girls.
We may be pushing 50, but we can still hang.
The initial series of switchbacks was brutal, but goat-boy Matt ran up them like it was a stroll in the park, so I did my best to keep up.
At some point, Matt spotted another couple in the distance gaining on us.
“Hike faster,” he said. “I don’t want to get passed.”
Matt has road rage even on a hiking trail in Montana.
I did my best. I hiked faster. Uphill. My legs were SCREAMING. I couldn’t breathe. I was getting dizzy from the lack of oxygen and the vertigo from the steep slope below me. Every time Matt looked behind him, I was farther behind.
No matter how fast I go, I can never keep up with Matt. He has the internal speedometer of a cheetah and has two speeds in Montana: 1) Sitting by the fire drinking hot cocoa and 2) Running uphill with a full pack.
It became a forced death march. Hiking was supposed to be FUN. This was not fun.
I scrambled to catch up, repeating a mantra to help me keep going forward:
I started dreaming of a dripping ice cream cone, the one I would get when we got off this God-forsaken trail and would eat like a woman on death row.
When all else fails, ice cream works.
We managed to stay ahead of the other couple, much to Matt’s delight, but part of my soul died in the process.
The trail continued high up a cliff until we reached a section covered with loose scree. This gave way to a narrow ledge. The trail was only about a foot wide and the drop was a long one. If I fell off this trail, I would not end up in Mexico, I would be swollowed by center of the earth.
This is where Matt got his payback. Matt HATES heights. And ledges. So a high ledge was his idea of torture.
“You didn’t tell me about this,” he said.
I told him just to keep thinking about ice cream and he’d be fine.
The exposed ledge leads to a ladder drilled into the rock face. The ladder goes up about 10 feet, leaving you dangling over the vast expanse of the valley. When you reach the top, you have to carefully hoist yourself onto another ledge and crawl through a 100 foot tunnel. A surprisingly tight tunnel.
Acrophobia was replaced by claustrophobia.
I passive-aggressively hoped he would start to hyperventilate.
And it just kept getting better.
After the tunnel climb, there was another steep, narrow ledge. This one was so bad they had installed steel cables to hang onto. You had to use the cables to climb about 100 feet straight UP the cliff on the ledge.
I like to think Matt was crying on the inside.
After the cables, it was a quick hike back to Crypt Lake.
There were still some snowfields hanging over the edges of the lake, so we knew the water was frigid. That didn’t stop the crazy few from stripping down and jumping in.
It’s a tradition.
I kept my butt parked firmly on a warm rock. Like a lizard.
We spent a good hour at the lake. My legs needed a break and Matt’s nerves needed one. We enjoyed the sunshine as we ate our lunch: smoked trout, spinach, and cream cheese pitas with cookies and an apple.
Then we got to do that whole mess again. In reverse.
I loved it.
We got back to the boat dock with about an hour to spare, so we soaked our aching feet in the ice cold water of Waterton Lake.
The boat ride back was a mixture of satisfaction, relief, and downright jubilation. We had all survived! Yay! I celebrated with an ice cream.
We met John and Teresa at the Northland Lodge. No camping tonight – it was time for a hot shower and a real bed! Or three real beds, as the case may be.
We headed to the Bayshore Inn’s Lakeside Chophouse for dinner.
The outstanding views were almost as good as the platter of nachos so big you could hide in it.
We shared a local bison tasting platter and I finished off with a giant plate of carbs and fat: fish n’ chips.
Hey, I had earned it.