Mount Norquay Via Ferrata and Bears!July 31, 2017 in Canada ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C
Had booked for Tash and I to do climbing on Mount Norquay this morning - had to be there at 8.45 so had breakfast in hotel (toast, pastries and waffle maker were there along with some cereals). During the night my phone had rung, turned out to be Julie from the shirt framers wanting to sort payment for the Kyle Sinckler shirt. Called them back and spoke to a chatty Mancunian who was trying to grow their charity memorabilia side. He was friendly with Oasis and the Stone Roses and was godfather to Mani's kids! Left about 8 as the drive up to the Mount was a little windy and also good for wildlife spotting - and indeed we saw a deer in the vegetation on the way up.
Got to base station, went into the lodge and saw the Australian family from our raft the other day. Didn't see them again, so not sure what they were doing up there. We filled out the usual waiver forms, then bought some water bottles as the chap said we would want a drink up there. They lent us a rucksack to put water and jumpers in to carry around. Had to wait a few minutes for the rest of the group to turn up - a family of 6 from Holland. Chatted a bit to our guide, who said lots of Brits think it is a bit like Go Ape, which calmed Tash's nerves as she is fine with that. Word came through that there was a bear under the chairlift between towers 8 and 9 near the top. Sam and Ed were going to go up the chairlift to watch us a bit and have some food and drink at the cafe up there, so they went for the lift ahead of us to see if they could see the bear. They didn't, but more on that later!
Tash and I got kitted out with helmets (a fetching pink which pleased Tash) and harnesses. The clips were quite simple to operate and the rule was to always have one attached to the cable. We had gloves too, but found they made operating the cable tough so didn't wear them. We then headed up the chairlift, camera ready for the bear, who wasn't to be seen. We did see what I think was a marmot as it was too big and chubby to be a squirrel. Saw some mountain sheep too.
At the top we found Sam and Ed who showed us a great picture of a bear, which turned out they had photographed from a sign! We did a little practice climb to get used to clipping on and off and the metal foot and hand nailed in the rock. Ed and Sam watched this, then we were off and didn't see them again until the end. A few minutes of uphill walking on a trail and we reached the start of the climb. We clipped onto the cable and started moving sideways and upwards across the rocks, where metal foot holds and hand holds had been carefully positioned to supplement the rocks natural holds. We soon forgot that we were moving up as you were concentrating on the next step and clipping on and off the cable - this had to be done every time the cable went through an anchor point in the rock - quite often as that would be the point you would fall back to if you did. We were heading towards a rope bridge across a gulley (quite high up) and had some fairly challenging sections with some fairly big stretches required, but everyone made it ok. The youngest lad of the family got scared and needed some coaxing, but carried on. His sister was ahead of Tash and I and separated from her family so we swapped around at the bridge so I was first. I teetered across a plank then hit the bridge. It was a bit wobbly but OK as there were cables for both hands to hold onto and whilst the planks wobbled a bit, it was very go ape like this bit. The climbing less so as it was more like assisted rock climbing.
Tash followed me across fine. The Dutch elder kids wobbled the bridge for each other, but fortunately waited until we had got off!
A few minutes after the bridge we came to a flat area where we unclipped, had a drink and admired the view down to Banff, then off again with more climbing and traversing until we came to the end of the climb up. We then largely walked down though many sections were narrow and so we were on and off the cable at different times. Both Tash and I felt a sense of achievement having done it and were pleased we had. We agreed the 4 or 6 hour versions would have been too much - 2 hours was enough. It was very hot up there with no wind - unusually so and I ended up with sweat dripping off at times.
Our guide had been very good at being a calming influence and coaxing us around. He leant me a collapsible walking pole when climbing down as I had complained of the strain on my knees. At the end we gave back the equipment (except for a pair of gloves I later discovered in my pocket - a souvenir!). We were given a souvenir lanyard clip, which also gave us 10% off at the restaurant, so in we went. We ordered drinks and a meat and cheese sharing platter, which was very tasty. Whilst eating we got message from Sam and Ed that they were now back down the bottom and a bear was down there. We ate our food, then realised Sam had my wallet. Phone contactless didn't work, but I sadly remember ny Amex number so used that to pay and we went down. Saw lots of sheep (which other chairlifters we heard refer to as goats) but no bear. But then we got down and it was pointed out to us - our first bear sighting, just wandering through the grass meadow. Sam and Ed had seen two different ones - very lucky.
We drove back to the hotel and after a brief break in the room went down to the cave themed hot pool in the hotel. I leant a chap 25c in the changing room for the locker and we then chatted in the pool. He was a Kiwi and we talked about NZ, his Alaskan cruise (Chicago of Dreams was the boat - he recommended that company as smaller boats), time in Canada and his daughter who had been a nurse in London and been very ill.
Once we had got too hot we left and the kids went into the small gym and did some work on the cross trainer. Then back to the room and kids and I headed to the supermarket 10 minutes walk away to buy some food for tomorrow for the Icefield Parkway drive as there aren't a lot of places to eat along it. Once back we went to Chillis the restaurant in the hotel, which did some good burgers and fajitas. Also I had a large Granville Island IPA, very tasty and Sam and I shred a bottle of Canadian Rose, which was also very nice. We had a good chat over dinner and finished off with cookies in a fajita skillet topped with ice cream - cookie was essentially still doughy so was very yummy but too big to finish.
Retired for the night to start early tomorrow for the Icefields Parkway.Read more