I was so happy when my cousin Adam emailed me about hiking to the peak of Mt.Vimy on his most recent visit to Alberta. The first time I hiked this peak was in 2011 with Adam and his brother Quinton and I was carrying almost 25 extra pounds of bodyweight and was in terrible shape back then. I was super excited to do it this time around because I’m in way better shape. Newsflash- it was still super exhausting and difficult! Not as bad, but just as hard.
Biking In with Blue Skies
I always suggest biking to the base of Mt. Vimy on Wishbone because it’s a fairly flat ride for about 3 or 4 miles through the meadows of the Maskinoge. It’s a beautiful spot and there is rarely anyone else on the trail and it’s nice to zip to the base when you have a steady climb ahead of you. I had to beg friends for bikes for the three of us (Ryan broke my bike last year and still hasn’t fixed it) and then it took me 45 minutes of playing bike tetris to get them to fit into my Jeep Patriot.
I met Adam and his wife Amanda at the trailhead and we were enthusiastic to get going with a gorgeous sunny day and blue skies. On our last trip up we ran out of water so this time around we packed. I had two litres and then the three of us split up a twelve back of .5 litre water bottles amongst ourselves.
This bike trail is hard if:
a. the gears on your bike don’t work so you’re stuck in a single gear the whole time and
b. if you aren’t super confident on a bike.
A lot of times this trail is so arrow and deep that your pedals will hit the side of the trail and threaten to knock you over. It’s also a small but steady incline up as you approach the base. We were huffing and puffing and took a lot of breaks.
Halfway through we came to the creek and Adam is so cute, he walked his bike through, then Amanda’s, then he came back and piggy backed her across so she didn’t have to get her feet wet. Is that too cute or what? I made sure to tell Ryan how impressed I was by Adam’s chivalry and he said “You’re an independent girl you don’t need me to that stuff for you.” Ha ha ha!
Testing the Distance to go Up Vimy’s Peak
We finally came to the base and there was that sign that said it was a mere 4.8km to Vimy Peak. This time we were prepared and had Amanda set her fitbit so we could get to the bottom of this debate over whether the hike was only 5k or if it was double as I suspected the last time we went.
And so we headed up, up, up. Adam loves how the ecosystem changes on this hike. You start off biking through birches, then you go up amongst a more humid environment with tons of vegetation covering the trail, then you come into alpine evergreens, then into the sparse hardy bushed before hitting open rock.
I was super excited because the beargrass was out everywhere! Beargrass is a tough one to see because it doesn’t last very long but it was scattered all around the trail head.
Adam and Amanda were having a hard time with the elevation change because they are both from Kansas. e stopped often for 30 second to 1 minute breather breaks and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ask to stop just as much as those two did. It is a long steady incline and I was sweating buckets!
We stopped for lunch while still in the alpine evergreens and I realized I was an idiot and put my sandwich on the bottom of the bag. Have you ever eaten a squished gluten free sandwich? I think there was more bread on the trail than in my stomach when I was done.
We finally came up to the where the trail turns off to go to the point on Vimy’s peak. A look at Amanda’s fitbit told us we had gone almost 4km up so THAT is what the sign considers to be Vimy’s Peak! NOT the actual top of the mountain. Mystery solved everybody! So if you read that it’s 4.8km to Vimy’s Peak from the base, that is to Vimy’s pimple not the actual peak. Ha ha. Vimy’s pimple. I’m going to call it that from now on.
This is where I thought a self timer hiking shot would be great. But Adam and I are not very good at pretending to be hiking. LOL!
Bad self timer pic!!
I felt like we would never reach the waterfall which is kind of like the halfway point of the climb. We finally did and sat down and took a long snack break and enjoyed the gorgeousness of the spring water cascading down the mountain.
One of the prettiest sections of the trail
Just a little ways up from the waterfall we encountered our first patch of alpine snow.
First patch of snow but not the last!
I even got to recreate a photo from the last hike.
This part of the hike is nice because you’re high enough that the air is cooler and the wind coming of the snowpack is nice and cold.
We finally came within sight of the peak and to the open rock and loose terrain. We opted to climb straight up instead of taking the winding path thinking that it would be faster- it wasn’t. Take my advice, the paths are there to make your climb easier go ahead and take them.
Approaching the peak
We went straight up! I even found a little tree I photographed last time to show how steep the incline was at this part.
Loo ma! I’m using my hands!
This is where Adam and Amanda changed my life by introducing me to the ‘Zombie Walk.’ Basically, when you’re hiking steep terrain your instinct is to take large wide steps to get you up as fast as possible. This gets your heart rate going like mad and it’s exhausting. the zombie walk is when you shuffle up like a zombie. You take small steps as you go up and it’s not as difficult as the large steps and you take less breaks. Blew my mind away!
We were nearly to the top when we stopped for a snack and a chipmunk came to say hello. I know the Bears Hump chipmunks are used to people but I was surprised to see one so used to people on a more seldom hiked trail. And I KNOW you’re not supposed to feed the animals but I couldn’t help giving him a couple unsalted sunflower seeds to munch on.
As I was feeding him a crash of thunder started in the distance. Adam managed to capture my face when I heard it.
You can see the concern in my face!
The storm seemed quite aways away but I knew the last place I wanted to be was the top of a mountain in a storm so we booked it up the last little bit to the peak.
And the view was worth every step, every drop of sweat, every loss of breath. It was stunning.
We signed the registry where I blatantly promoted the blogs URL, ha ha ha! And we stopped to take pics all around us.
This is where Adam proposed to Amanda two years ago so I snapped a few photos for them. But alas, the thunder was still rolling in the distance so we had to book it down. I wouldn’t feel safe until we were in the treeline.
The way down on scree is a lot of fun and we kind of surfed down the loose rock until we found the solid trail again.
On the way down the snowpack I decided to try my hand at skiing and have this hilarious video to show for it. I crack myself up with my complete dorkiness!
But my balance wasn’t always good. I did slip and fall and slide down the snowpack- twice! Ha ha ha!
As we came down I eyeballed the storm that seemed to be staying on the other side of the lake from us. We did watch a crazy crash of lightning hit the side of the mountain opposite us and I was very happy to get to the base.
Storm off in the horizon
Biking in the Hail
I think I cursed us when we got to our bikes and I said “I think we might just beat this storm.”
The mountain on the other side of the lake from us
That tempted fate because as soon as we pulled up to the stream it started to rain. No big deal we popped on our coats, put the cell phones in my waterproof Mountain Hardwear bag and continued on.
We had just gotten on our bikes after the stream when we rode right into the storm and began to be pelted with hail! It stung as it hit me in the face and legs and to make matters worse I was on a bike stuck in one gear and exhausted from a difficult climb. It was nice that we were going at a slight decline but soon we had to start walking our bikes big time because the hail gathered in the bike trails ankle deep and I found my bike coming to an abrupt stop because it couldn’t make it through the thick hail.
Hail on the trail
As we sloshed through freezing water and pushed our bikes through trails filled with hail all we could do was laugh! I laughed and laughed and actually enjoyed my time thoroughly. While the thunder was loud we didn’t see any lightning so I didn’t have to worry about a lightning strike. It felt so real to be IN the storm. Normally we watch storms from the safety and comfort of our homes or vehicles so to be IN it with the hail pelting my face and the thunder crashing around me was incredible, almost spiritual.
We walked our bikes more than we rode them because of the hail filled trails and when we finally got to the car I was so relieved- my legs were done. Pleasant surprise, I had left my car window rolled all the way down and my drivers side was completely soaked. I just laughed! Thank goodness I drive a Jeep because those cars are meant to be beat up.
We capped off the perfect day with dinner at Vimy’s and the steak sandwich (minus the bread) and sweet potato fries never tasted so good!
We three had such a good time and Adam and I decided we need to get a permit and hike to the peak of Old Chief Mountain in Montana next summer when he comes up for a visit.
If you’re looking for a difficult hike that is doable and safe, Mt. Vimy is for you!
Let me hear from other Vimy conquerors! Favourite part of the hike? Least favourite?