By Amanada Yanagisawa
Elk Mountain is a great intermediate, 7 km hike in Chilliwack, BC with an 800 meter elevation gain. The trail is generally well marked, though I find after the 2nd Km, some trail threading has occurred and you may need to keep your eyes up to find another orange flag to find your next steps.
This past week I had a partner (my sister!) available to make an attempt at the sub~peak. It is my fourth attempt. Where the path is steep and a good leg and lung burner, it is sadly the fear of heights that keep me from reaching the top. The unseasonably warm weather allowed us to do this hike unusually early in the year as the trail up was totally free of ice and snow. We went up wearing only our light jackets and enjoying the sunshine. I must say, I was definitely thankful for such a nice day to attempt this hike again.
It’s a hike that fills my stomach with a special kind of dread. Will I make it this time? What will my sister think of me when we're done? I have one friend that will no longer hike Elk Mountain with me because of me not 'completing' the hike bothers her too much. Will I have a panic attack on the trail? It's hard to explain to a 'normal' person the feelings of frustration and humiliation one experiences when trying to hike with high up, exposed views. You watch children happily trudge along the trail, many even stopping and exclaiming in delight while you stand there thinking, maybe if I just don’t look it will be ok' (np) So as we near the point of exposure, I stop for a moment to steady my nerves. I take the first few steps up the path and into the glorious sunshine and take in the view. This is where I typically stop. Today, I took my sisters hand and up we went. I took 10 more steps. Stopped. Steadied myself. Allowed my vision to stop spinning. Took another 10 more steps. Can I do this? I am now further than I've ever gone before. Took 10 more steps, getting pretty close! A little more to go and I just about have it! I had to let go of her hand now and sort of pull and scramble up the last bit. I. Have. Made. It. This time I’m happy to report that the goose egg from the scoreboard has gone and the score is now Elk 3 and Amanda ONE!!! Relief and joy overflow my whole body and I hoot and holler! I spent the next 10 minutes hiding in the trees at the top. Taking pictures and enjoying my success. I think the part of my fears that confuse and amaze me the most is how once I'd conquered them, how much easier the hike down was. I still held my sisters hand, but the trip down was quick and easy and without an issue.
I doubt that Elk will ever be easy for me and I suspect there will likely be another failure (and maybe another and another) but the joy of this summit will never leave me.... that and this is a hike I will enjoy again and again regardless of that summit.