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Excerpt: Type 2 Fun – A Traverse of the Purcell Mountains


By Steve Tersmette

type 2 fun
[tayhp too fuhn]
Noun. An activity that is fun only after you have stopped doing it.
(Urban Dictionary)

I peer over the edge of the crevasse, trying to see if my hiking pole is salvageable after dropping it just moments before. The verdict? Not a chance. As I stare down into the dark blue underbelly of the glacier, I question what the hell I’m doing here. I have already thrown up twice today – likely a combination of nerves and carsickness – and my mouth tastes like roadkill. Now, perched up high on the steep north face of Radiant Peak in the southern Purcells, I consider the weight of my fully loaded 95-litre expedition pack and the loss of my walking stick – a valuable tool for the long journey ahead.

We are barely six hours into Day One and already I am wondering what possessed us to pull the trigger on this nearly month-long expedition. My only comfort is that my most trusted friend is on the other end of the rope, but it is unlikely he’s having any more fun than I am. Our objective is to become the first to traverse the spine of the Purcell Mountains on foot – a 280-kilometre obstacle course of rugged and undeveloped mountain terrain.

* * *

How many times have mountain adventurers muttered the words: “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”? Yet it was an easy sell to my friend Shawn: “It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime, right here in our own backyard! We’ll start out just up the valley from our hometown and, a month later, prance out onto the Trans-Canada Highway near Rogers Pass, having frolicked with woodland creatures in sprawling alpine meadows while the late-summer sun glistened on mountain streams. It’ll be wonderful and we’ll come back more complete human beings when it’s all over.” 

Good one.

By Day Five, our feet had become patchworks of hockey tape, Band-Aids and moleskin. Our morning routine was to bandage our feet before cramming them into wet boots, choke down a mug of crappy coffee, pack up camp and march on. 

Day Five also proved to be one of my worst days in the mountains, if not my entire life: nearly fourteen hours of misery, frustration and dehydration as we crashed through walls of alder, waded through creeks and eventually staggered by headlamp into camp. Our pace at one point had slowed so much it took us three hours to cover a single, seemingly endless, kilometre.

* * *

Though we had fallen a day behind our schedule, we elected to take a rest day on Day Eight, 75 kilometres into our expedition. Shawn’s feet were badly blistered and bordering on trench foot after seven days in wet socks and boots. We questioned whether he would even be able to continue. After collecting the first of three food drops, in the Toby Creek valley, we set up camp at the eastern end of the Earl Grey Pass trail. The rest day worked wonders for him. 

I was not so fortunate.

→ Keep reading this piece in Volume 4 of the Canadian Rockies Annual.

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