Recap of 4 Peaks Canmore and Lessons Learned

On September 1, 2016, my friend Tyler Williams and I did a fundraising hike to raise funds for causes that are close to our hearts, and to get outside of our comfort zones physically.


Tyler raised money for Parkinson Canada and I did for the International Bipolar Foundation. Combined we raised just shy of $1100CAD! Thank you to everyone who donated it was greatly appreciated!!

Media coverage

Radio interview with Rob Murray from MountainFM in Canmore (2min5sec)

The day

The start – As soon as I got up around 4 am, my stomach did not feel good. Tyler and I started biking from Banff to Canmore just after 5 am. Once in Canmore, I changed clothes and we got a snack at my car before biking to the Alpine Club of Canada hut at the base of Grotto Mountain.

Grotto – Part way up Grotto we were blasted with a very warm wind coming over the top of the mountain…we shed a layer of clothing each before going on. We enjoyed a snack and rest at the top after some photos and a Facebook post. On the way down from Grotto, both Tyler and I said that we were reminded why we’ve only done that mountain once each before! Very steep and unrelenting for about 1/2 of the vertical gain, and it is very tricky coming down. After hiking down Grotto and biking up to the Cougar Creek area, my buddy Joe and his girlfriend Jess met us there for support. Very kind of them to take time out of their day to support us! They had snacks, drinks, and water.

The four photos below are all from the top of Grotto Mountain.

Lady MacDonald – After a short break and chatting with Joe and Jess, we biked up Cougar Creek to the base of Lady MacDonald. On the way hiking up we both felt it was much hotter than the 17C that my phone said it was. My stomach got progressively worse during this and I was really debating whether to keep going or not. My pace slowed and I had to take more breaks than normal. Once we got to the paragliding platform (approximately 900m or 2950 foot elevation gain from Cougar Creek) I told Tyler that I was not going to go any further uphill. My stomach was really churning. I lay on the platform for a few minutes before starting to head down. In approximately 25 minutes since we parted ways, Tyler met me a short ways down the trail from the platform. He was cruisin! We did a moderate pace the rest of the way down before getting on our bikes and biking to my car in Canmore. Tyler fuelled up by eating some pasta and other snacks. I couldn’t eat anything.

The photo below is of Tyler fuelling up after the first two peaks.

Grassi Lakes/East End of Rundle – Tyler headed off on his bike, and biked to Grassi Lakes before running that trail and going up and down East End of Rundle (EEOR). During that time I drove back to Banff, had a bath and managed to eat a little bit. He estimated that he’d be down EEOR at 7:40 pm. I had a feeling that he’d be down quicker so I got to the Ha Ling parking lot about 20 minutes early. When I got there he said he had been up and down EEOR in just over 2 hours and had been at the bottom waiting for me for 10 minutes! Tyler got some food and drinks into him and grabbed his headlamp before heading up Ha Ling, the final peak.

Ha Ling – Tyler figured he’d be up and down Ha Ling in approximately 90 minutes. After he started going up, I drove down Spray Lakes road towards Canmore to get back into cell range, posted a Facebook update and messaged a few people. I then went back to the Ha Ling parking lot and read a book while waiting for Tyler. Shortly after 9 pm, I saw a headlamp bouncing through the lower portion of the trail. I figured that had to be him. Sure enough it was! When he got to my car he was totally spent and had slightly twisted a knee on the way down. He said that his day was done. We drove to Grassi Lakes to pick up his bike and then we drove back to Banff together, before I dropped Tyler and his stuff at his place.

My lessons

I had many lessons during and after that day. Some of them are highlighted below.

Complaining/whining to myself does not help – As I mentioned above, my stomach did not feel good from the moment I got up that day. One of the first questions Tyler asked when I met him on my bike outside his place at 5 am was “How are you feeling?”. I said that my stomach was not good. He asked a couple of other times during the first few peaks and I was honest when I either said it was not good or that it was getting worse. A few times going up Lady MacDonald I had to take a break and said that I was not feeling well. At the platform I told him that my day was done. I got the sense that Tyler was very mindful that I was not feeling well the whole time, yet neither of us focused on that. It wouldn’t help the situation at all. Nor would me complaining or whining about it. I did my best to hike those first two peaks and only intermittently say or respond about how I felt. I kept telling myself to focus on one step at a time…and on admiring the scenery when we had a break or on portions of the trail that were not technical.

In the past I used to be someone who complained and/or whined to myself a lot about MANY things, mainly my bipolar disorder diagnosis. I’m happy to say that I’ve reached a point in my life when I rarely complain or whine to myself about that or other things/situations/events. And I feel confident in saying that other people don’t hear me complain or whine very often.

Focus on what I accomplished – Obviously I was disappointed when I got to the platform at Lady MacDonald and knew that essentially my 4 Peaks Canmore day was done. This had been something I had been looking forward to for a while, and that Tyler and I had planned out. Even though I completed less than half of what I intended to that day I still did a fair amount. Tyler estimated that I biked about 28km (17 miles) and hiked around 12km (7.5 miles) with about 2500m vertical gain (8200 feet).

Looking back at it now, I am happy to say that I accomplished that on a wonky stomach. I am someone who in the past, and sometimes now, tends to be hard on myself and focus on what I didn’t get done or achieve. I have high standards for myself and at times forget or don’t realize what I’ve done. 4 Peaks Canmore was a fantastic reminder for me that I still accomplished a lot that day despite not fully completing what I had intended to. This lesson is something that I’ve been embedding increasingly more into my life since September 1 and I am truly happy about that!

Quick shift of focus to my self care during a challenging time – Once I knew I was done hiking up and was on the platform at Lady MacDonald, I decided to truly focus on my self care for the rest of the day. It was very challenging for me going down Lady MacDonald with my stomach the way it was. Driving back to Canmore I drank as much fluid as I could with electrolyte tablets in them. Even though my day was cut short, I had still been active for nearly 11 hours. I had been drinking a lot during the bike ride to Canmore and on both Grotto and Lady MacDonald, and I wanted to ensure that I kept drinking a lot for the rest of the day even though my stomach could handle very little food. On the drive back to Banff I decided once I got home to take an epsom salt bath and use my roller afterwards. Using the roller on a wonky stomach was not fun however I knew it would assist my recovery since my legs were pretty sore. I wore a warm hoody the rest of the day, kept drinking a lot of fluid, and had snacks on hand. Fortunately my stomach did not get any worse during the rest of the day, although it did go in waves. Whenever my stomach felt even a little better I ate something. Once back in Banff, Tyler’s girlfriend Sam had a large pizza awaiting him and they generously offered me a slice, however I just couldn’t stomach it at that time. After getting home I had a long sleep. For the next couple of days my stomach was not 100% and I slept a lot.

This quick shift of focus was a great lesson and reminder for me to do the same when I feel low (slightly depressed) or hypo-manic (elevated state). During each of those times, the more that I can do to look after myself in a holistically healthy way quickly, the lesser the chance that my mood will get progressively worse…leading to either depression or a manic episode. There are many components and things to do for self care, and I am fortunate to be ever expanding my toolkit in that area.

Fully supporting others – After watching Tyler bike away from my car towards Grassi Lakes on his own, my focus shifted to the above mentioned self care and fully supporting Tyler the best that I could. I desired to do everything possible to ensure that he had all he needed to complete 4 Peaks Canmore on his own. When he met me at the car after finishing both EEOR and Ha Ling, I ensured that he had plenty of food and drinks. I also kept a close eye on his overall state especially mentally. That was a huge day and I wanted to ensure that he was doing as well as possible despite how physically exhausted he was. There were other little things I did to support him as best as I could during and after he finished. They are things that any good friend or parent would do: messaging his girlfriend Sam to keep her in the loop as much as possible, loading his bike in my car for him after he was done, having the heat on in the car on the drive back to Banff to keep him warm, taking his bike and stuff up to his place after dropping him off at home, and doing Facebook updates at various points during the day to update his friends and family on his progress.

In my life I’ve been very fortunate and feel truly grateful to have had incredible support from family and friends throughout all of my ups and downs. I’ve had family and friends come into the psychiatric ward after my manic episodes despite their unease with being there. One of my cousins cut my hair in the psychiatric hospital in Auckland after my first manic episode which meant a ton to me. That is…when I still had hair! 4 Peaks Canmore was a huge reminder of how blessed I am to have had, and continue to have, so much fantastic and full support in my life. The one thing I FORGOT to do in fully supporting Tyler was getting a photo of him after finishing EEOR and especially at the end after completing Ha Ling! My apologies Tyler.

Being happy for others’ success – Watching Tyler running down from both EEOR and Ha Ling after such a long intensive and technical day was truly inspiring. Even though I felt like crap I was very happy for him and let him know that. I did my best to translate my feelings into Facebook posts during that day as well.

There are times in my past and even fairly recently when I’ve been either slightly depressed or have had full on depression. During all of those times there is a common thread – that of focusing on myself and not recognizing what others are accomplishing, or even feeling jealous of them. Despite all of the work I’ve done on myself those still sometimes happen to me when I am feeling down. 4 Peaks Canmore was a big reminder for me to truly be happy for others’ success, especially when they’re doing (or have done) something outside of their comfort zone. Even though I was feeling disappointed and low after calling it quits to my 4 Peaks Canmore day, I was able to be happy for Tyler that he completed all four peaks. That is something I am very happy about upon reflection!

Embrace being the slower one – Tyler is much fitter than me, and I knew going in that I  would be mostly dictating the pace since he is quicker both on the bike and hiking.  I also knew that the day would be a massive stretch for me, as I’d never done anything even remotely as long and sustained before. Going into the day I felt fit however I wasn’t 100% sure if I’d be able to complete the day as we had planned. It was definitely outside of my comfort zone!

In my past I used to be a very competitive person and detested when others were better or faster than me at something. As an adult I’ve become much less competitive however I still am at times. With the exception of a few very short stretches while biking downhill, I was by far the slower and less fit of the two. I am happy that I embraced being the slower one and let Tyler know on multiple occasions when I needed a break…even a very short one.




Posted in Events, Mindset, Support, Vulnerability

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