Mount Rundle. Impossible to ignore and impossible (for me, anyway) to get out of my mind. It acts as an intimidating and seemingly impassable wall that stands between you and the mountains behind. And despite it acting as a protector for the countless peaks beyond, it is a barrier that no one minds being trapped behind. But who can blame them? It is difficult not to get lost in the stegosaurus-like ridge line. Especially as the sun dips and a purple glow fills the sky above it. It is safe to say that Rundle is a favourite of the Alberta mountain community.
For these reasons, the Rundle Traverse had been on my list for a long time. Though I knew it was not easy and not for the faint of heart. I had heard the stories of helicopter evacuations, close calls and tragedy on this route and knew it took skill and experience to attempt. This is why is sat on my list for so many years. While many of my other objectives had a satisfying check mark beside them, the Rundle Traverse was left, "un-checked", for some time.
Last summer, however, I decided I had amassed the experience needed to give it a try. Myself and my climbing partner were at the trailhead before the sun-up with bags packed, bellies full and bursting with nervous energy. As we took our first steps uphill, we did not know that we would touch back down 17 hours later in the middle of a thunderstorm after midnight.
It is funny, frightening and exciting how quickly weather conditions can change in the mountains. How they have the ability to hide entire weather systems from view and how you can experience all four seasons within an hour. The route was going according to plan as we moved efficiently over the ridge. After we had carefully passed through the crux of the route, we stood proud and tall on top. We overlooked Canmore and thought about the many times we had looked up at this peak and dreamed of being here. Being at the highest point on the traverse, we could finally peer off the other side of the wall and see the wonders that Mount Rundle hides. Along with the dozens of new peaks you will never see from the road (including the striking Mount Assiniboine), we saw a dark and towering thunderstorm waiting for us that was indifferent to both our presence and sense of accomplishment. It was a deflating and energizing sight, and we knew we had to get down to the ground as fast as possible.
Though shortly before being chased off the mountain a rainbow appeared. Had we not been utterly consumed in our mission to reach the ground, we may have seen it as a metaphor for something: risk versus reward, taking the good with the bad, enjoy the journey and not just the destination. But we were in no mindset to be sentimental.
We reached the ground hours later and stared up in defeat at the peak we had worked so hard to summit. I was now trapped on the other side of the wall I so desperately wanted to peer over, soaking wet, in a thunderstorm, unable to find flat ground to bivy. There seemed to be no protection on this side of the mountain.
And while it may not be a metaphor, my partner summed up the photo below perfectly as, "The calm beside the storm".
The Rundle Ridge in Canmore, Alberta, Canada
12.0-100.0 mm f/4.0
12mm, f16, 1/160, ISO 320