Saturday, May 1, 2010


When you leave Calgary and drive from the plains to the mountains, you've probably seen Mount Yamnuska.

"Yamnuska" is the popular name for the mountain guarding the Bow River's exit from the Rockies. This Stoney Indian word means 'flat faced mountain'. It is this 'flat face' that makes it so easy to recognize and a familiar sight if you are a Calgarian. Being born and raised in Calgary, Yamnuska has always been symbolic to me: it's the Gateway to the mountains. The Gateway to the Promiseland. Hallelujah, praise the Yam. When you've driven the Trans Canada highway as frequently as me, you know Yamnuska well. I love this mountain. But mostly, I like to look at this mountain.

I'm not the only one who has been enamored with Mount Yamnuska. Whether you're a climber or an artist, or a just a lover of great big mountains: Yamnuska is enchanting. There are books written about it. It's revered, respected and it's a playground for many.

The Yamnuska mountain range is even movie star famous, having been in numerous movies shot in Alberta including Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt and Open Range with Kevin Costner. More recently, it was prominently featured in Brokeback Mountain in the "naked cliff jumping scene" - Yay for Yam - and Heath Ledger's butt!

There's a whole lot of obsessed local climbers that love the challenges of Yam - local climbing legend Sharon Wood climbed all 34 routes from the original Yamnuska climbing guide. Will Gadd completed a seven-year-old project to establish a new free climb up the most daunting buttress on Yamnuska, the Canadian Rockies’ famed adventure crag. He even made a movie about it: Yamabushi! However, we did not get to see Will Gadd's naked arse in this movie.

Though I've driven by a gazillion times, I haven't been up Yamnuska since I was a kid. It's a very achievable and a very popular scramble. I've met some new girly friends this past month and not only are these ladies fun and fantastic, they actually LIKE to run really, really, really far! Suzie and Monica also like to bag peaks, climb and scramble and I had been looking forward to taking a little "run" up Yamnuska all week.

We had a picture perfect spring day for our trip up Yam - fresh snow, blue sky and lovely. Spring has sprung on the front range - the leaves are coming out and there are crocuses and other flowers making their brief spring appearances. Suzie and Monica were awesome company and were gentle with me: they didn't force me to do anything I wasn't comfortable with while scrambling up the side of a mountain. We ended our day on a patio in Canmore, to cap off our perfect spring day.

The day after our scramble, I had a long run planned and I was also looking forward to spending some time with friend Petra Graen. This gal I met many years ago at the Death Race, see each other sporadically at races, but haven't spent any time together on the trails. Well, we got 6 hours of quality time and Mike joined us for 4 hours of runnin' and chattin'. Petra was gentle with us - this lady is capable of going reeeal fast, but I made her run Leslie speed instead. That's the perk of being the tour guide - I get to be the pacer!

I also managed to squeak out a quick trip to Calgary to visit my Mummy and Keith's Mom and ended up squeezing in a 2 hour run on the trails of North Glenmore. I love it that you can get lost in a city park. Soft trails, incredible scenery, wildlife, the Elbow River, the Glenmore Reservoir and silence - all in the city.

When I drove back to Banff in the early afternoon,
I drove past Yamnuska - the unofficial portal to these great mountains I call home - and shouted out loud: Yamnuska! I also promised to not let 27 years go by between visits. I'll be back. Probably sooner, than later. In the meantime, Yamnuska will always make me smile as it welcomes me back to the mountains.


Stuart said...

Looks great, I must have driven past that at least half a dozen times!

Here's to girlfriends who love to cover miles!

Leslie said...

Aaaah, yes. Here's to friends who like to cover miles. And to Yam!

Brian said...

Thanks for another round of beautiful pictures. Needless to say I am jealous. We (2 men - 4 women on a 30+ hour roadtrip) will be on the lookout for Yam on our upcoming trip to Banff.

HappyTrails said...

Sounds like a great time - great scenery and great time spent with great friends. Life is good! :-)

Leslie said...

Hi Brian! Where the heck are you coming from?!?

Hello Mr and Mrs HT. Happy Trails to YOU! And congrats on your great race! Nice work out on them thar trails.

Brian said...

We are coming from the decidedly flat lands of Detroit Michigan. Since there is a couple involved, I have 3 women to myself! Unfortuantely they all know my wife ;o)

Leslie said...

Detroit! Now that's about a world away from the mountains of Banff. Are we going for beers when you get here? I love a good road trip. But what happens on the road...stays on the road!

Deanna Stoppler said...

Awesome Leslie! We used to camp at the base of Yamnuska, for free! Now they have a place set up with buildings where you have to park and pay (probably b/c of more people trying to access the area). Oh way back when. Glad you had a good day girl!

Deanna Stoppler said...

Awesome Leslie! We used to camp at the base of Yamnuska, for free! Now they have a place set up with buildings where you have to park and pay (probably b/c of more people trying to access the area). Oh way back when. Glad you had a good day girl!

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