“Are you kidding me?!!!” was the common response when I told people I was choosing, with my own free will, to spend my weekend with 20 other women in a backcountry alpine hut. With that many women in a very basic and isolated type of accommodation, you’d think that hormones and cattiness would take over. Well I can attest, that this past weekend has been one of the most inspirational weekends I’ve had in a long time. It was a true testament to how empowering the outdoors can be!
This group of women, all connected through some line of friendship, came from all ends of the backcountry/outdoor experience spectrum. For many, this was their first time putting on a 35lb+ backpack and hiking for several hours, for some it was their first time overnighting in an alpine hut, and for some it was amazingly (and courageous on their part) their first time on a hike. All blindly putting their faith in the few that knew what they were doing and kept promising “…it will be fun!”. Here is a post dedicated to these brave women who trusted me and my fellow outdoor women. I thank you for being so open minded and fully embracing becoming a backcountry beauty.
After weeks of email threads, lists of what to bring, what not to bring and meal planning, we casually met at the trailhead at Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on Bow Lake, ready to spend a weekend up at Bow Hut. A quick roadside lunch, a debriefing and bear spray check, the first gaggle of gals was off. For the next 4 hours the girls manoeuvred around swollen creeks, crossed a raging river canyon via a wedged boulder and ascended meters upon meters of elevation until the trees disappeared and the landscape resembled more closely to Mars than Earth.
One of the beautiful things about hiking and backpacking is when a person comes to the realization that only they themselves can get them to the top of that mountain, that they have the strength, they just have to muster up the will. I witnessed this in everyone as we slowly encountered obstacle after obstacle; snow covered slopes, near knee deep river crossings and slopes so steep it sucks the breath out of you just staring at it. Not to mention the overwhelming sense of isolation as we ascended higher and higher. When stopped on a break, all you could hear was your heart beating, your heavy breath and small avalanches in the distance.
Slowly, group by group trickled into the hut; an industrial looking structure perched atop a band of cliffs (for the best view of course). The hut is comprised of two large rooms (bunk style sleeping quarters and a kitchen common area) connected via a hallway with the outhouses attached in between. Bow Hut and along with a handful of others is run and maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada, anyone can reserve spots, but preference is given to members.
Thankfully we were the only ones at the hut the first night. Unfortunately seven strangers didn’t know what fate had in store for them at 2500m Saturday night. It wasn’t long before the wood stove in the common area was surrounded on all sides, above and below, by hiking boots and socks drenched from the snow and river crossings. After getting their bearings, the girl’s energy started to return and so did the laughter. It’s good to hear laughter after an ascent like the one up to Bow Hut, it means I’m still their friend and they’re willing to listen at least one more time when I say it’ll be fun! Phew!
Once up at the hut, they were quick to see that now the glamping can start! With a fresh change of clothes (I was really impressed with all the backcountry styles), a quick fluff of the hair, some lip gloss and a full glass of wine, the first evening of glamping had begun! The room started to fill with different aromas as the various gourmet meals were prepared in the fully stocked kitchen; Moroccan chicken, vegetable stir fry, pesto pasta and veggie curry were just some of the dishes on the menu that night. We even managed to pack up Mandy’s infamous decadent chocolate cake to celebrate a couple birthdays!
In the soft comforting lull that happens after a delicious fulfilling meal, we shared what our previous outdoor experience is, if any at all, and what luxury item we thought was absolutely worth hauling up a mountain. For the number of girls who had never been backpacking, I was honestly amazed by how well they handled the challenges thrown at them that day. Not only did no one complain about how tired they were, or how sore their feet were but everyone maintained a smile! Having some encouragement from your girlfriends always helps too. Furthermore, I was even more relieved to hear that they would be up to do something like this again. The Backcountry Beauty conversion was working!
Luxury items were a good source of entertainment. From the obviously practical, hut booties and headbands, to the pure innocence of a beginner bringing her cell phone charger (sorry Amanda, it is just way to hilarious!), to the die hards who brought up a carton of almond milk, kudos to all you girls for adopting the glamping mantra! I have always believed that a person doesn’t need to be the most intense, the most experienced or the most hardy to have a good time in the backcountry. These girls solidified my belief; it is ok to bring mascara, face lotion, slippers, headbands or anything that makes you feel good! An open mind to trying new things, giving it your all and a little luxury never hurt anyone. Plus when you have a backdrop as amazing as the one off the side deck, beauty shots are a necessity.
Much of the rest of the weekend followed closely to the first few hours; good food, lots of laughter, even more wine and other concoctions (Kelly and Vanessa’s Arctic Whisk with a Twist might be the weekend’s signature cocktail), Bananagrams, other games and of course DDD; Dusk Deck Dance Parties. Being up there for the summer solstice also offered up a chance for some prime star gazing. Saturday we ventured out for a day hike, feeling the freedom without a big backpack. Due to the high snow pack, we had to opt for the lower “shallot” summit instead of the higher “onion”. It wouldn’t be an early season hike without some butt sledding, which was fully taken advantage of on the way down.
By the time it came to leave the hut, everyone seemed to have fallen with ease into the backcountry lifestyle. Over the course of two days we all made new friends, became closer to friends we already had and discovered new capabilities within ourselves. It’s funny how the backcountry tends to do that! One last group shot, and we slowly started our descent under perfect blue skies, with discussions already floating about of the next trip.
This group of women proved that anyone can be a backcountry beauty, all you need is someone to show you the ropes and keep pushing you to the summit. If you would like more information on how to get started in backpacking or how to put together a trip like this, leave a comment below or shoot me a message!