The sun had already risen when we exited our warm and cozy tent. The air was fresh in a way only mountain air can be. Piercing through our lungs, straight to our souls, it promptly provided the energy we required to explore our hike that morning. We aimed to return to our temporary home before the first star could shimmer above us, so our departure was swift.
Our first steps immediately reverberated of our excitement for what was to come: the most breathtaking panoramic view of the mountain range; a shade of blue that only revealed itself from the highest peak; and the strong feeling of accomplishment once at the top. We were ready, we were on our way to be impressed, to be amazed. The beaten footpath resonated of past adventurers. Other lucky souls who put in the effort to witness magic. Amongst the high pitched birds and the soft flicker of leaves above us we could only hear our footsteps and our deep, accelerating breaths. The blend of a thousand shades of green was all that surrounded us for kilometres… with the occasional smile here and there from incoming hikers.
Our enthusiasm shared the space in our hearts with the secret pride felt when overtaking fellow explorers, with our slightly faster pace and our profusely more sweaty skin. But there was also a mild self reflection when being passed by fitter, mostly younger but sometimes much older, “competitors”. Because that’s what if felt like: a competition… to the top of course, but also with our own body’s limitations. Pushing through each movement, at first with ease but soon enough with the increasing revelation of our weaknesses.
The end goal kept us going through each turn, each ascent, each encounter that would gently confirm we were not there yet. It kept us going, thinking that perhaps our struggle with pace was irrelevant since the peak, unlike us, stood still, and every second was progress in its own way. Magnificent peak. Attainable peak. The lingering idea that it might not offer its panorama views to us today remained unspoken as we carefully watched the forming clouds from the corner of our eyes. Hiking to a peak and finding oneself above the clouds has its rewards.. but not at Panorama Ridge.
Our steps were getting slower. Minutes, hours had gone by. Our eyes, now accustomed to the beauty surrounding us, seemed to be resting more peacefully, focused on the task at hand… until they suddenly stared in disbelief! The path was disappearing into an uneven, unwelcoming white surface. The green tree line now behind us, we were, at last, facing the final stage: a field of aggressive rocks submerged in icy snow. We glared, again, at the clouds surrounding the peak. Thick. Impenetrable. The smiles on incoming hikers had turned into looks of disappointment, of tired failures; but yet they were accompanied by weak encouragements for us to still make it to the top. And “see” for ourselves one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces.
We started our attempt, using every bit of energy we had left to fuel our optimism. At one of the last turns, a couple meters away from the steepest portion, we could not face the dark reality. We could not bring ourselves to go up the last few steps, into the clouds. So we paused, weakly smiled and decided that there was hope, but that we should rest first. In reality, we were giving the clouds time to depart. Maybe, hopefully. So that we could catch a glimpse of the blue down below. A few other adventurers appeared to do the same, lingering up at the ridge, looking down where they should see a beautiful lake. Some still snapping pictures and some, perhaps due to altitude, laughing it off.
Out of the distant laughters and shredded ice I suddenly heard a hopeful awe. Just behind us, behind the enormous rock that had provided us with shelter for lunch. I jumped to my feet to see for myself. It was small. It was tiny. But there it was, a substantial opening in the clouds that confirmed there was magic underneath. I ran back to my partner and sparked a new hope in his eyes, in his muscles. He followed me back to the tiny window and we knew we had no time to spare. The clouds were stepping aside to give us what we had longed for the whole way up.
All packed up again, we took our fastest steps yet, up the steep finale. It seemed twice as long, thrice as hard as we had anticipated but we made it up to the ridge, short breathed. A powerful, flat, arid space became visible… yet, surrounded by clouds, which had closed back up. The onlookers we had shared the previous moment of hope with were already heading back down, apparently satisfied. We were not. We still could not accept this outcome. It was time for a favour, a return for our efforts.
Determined that I not only wanted this but needed it, I sat away from the edge and closed my eyes. I looked down, but inwards this time, looking for my dear friend Mother Earth. She was everywhere with us, yet so often overlooked, disrespected. But I trusted in our relationship and maybe, hopefully, she would accept my request today. I just wanted to see the lake. For my partner’s birthday. For the conviction that we were one in the universe. For the reassurance that Mother Earth was still on my side. After a few moments, lost in my meditation I heard words of agreement… or was it the wind? I felt the energy shift around me and opened my eyes.
Back at the ridge, it started barely perceptible. The grey clouds appeared to be turning dark blue as they were spreading, slowly revealing Garibaldi Lake in all of its splendour. The sky was opening below us, oddly. Our view of the lake was growing, as were our smiles and our hearts. It reached all the way to the shores below and paused. The magic lasted seven minutes. And it was simply, truly, amazing.