Phew and wow.
Canada is one big and beautiful country! I drove from Montreal to Vancouver in 2009, so the size of the country isn’t lost on me. But seeing a new part of Canada (to me) and being overwhelmed by its beauty wasn’t something I had expected.
Visiting Banff, AB was three times sweet for me. For starters, I had never been before, so exploring this part of the country was long overdue. The fact that this trip had been many months in planning made it that much sweeter. You see, this had been a press trip we (Food Bloggers of Canada) had been planning with Tourism Banff Lake Louise and it’s just so nice to see a project (of any kind) come to fruition. And lastly, I was super excited to see some familiar and new faces on the trip. There was going to be a total of six of us, some I had met at previous Food Bloggers of Canada conferences and others who were just an avatar! The #MyBanffFBC crew consisted of Julie (Sober Julie), Yuli (Fat Girl Food Squad), Annie (Chu on This), Davida (The Healthy Maven) and Louisa (Living Lou). They each have shared their experiences in Banff too and was a great group to spend a few days with!
The trip had a bunch of highlights, but one heart-thumping highlight stood out to me from all the others. I’ve played team sports for as long as I can remember, competitive hockey, soccer, high school football, basketball, you name it and I’ve played it. I haven’t done much in the way of outdoorsy things. Since moving to Vancouver, I would consider myself a runner, but hiking hasn’t been on the top of the list. So when the Via Ferrata (Italian for Iron Path) on Mt. Norquay appeared on the itinerary, I was equally excited and nervous.
The Via Ferrata in Banff is a trail along/in the mountains made accessible by a series of steel steps, handles and small ladder rungs all the while being connected to a steel cable. These steel measures are reinforced with the weight of two 18-wheeler trucks but I can assure you that didn’t make my heart race any slower from 8,300 feet high!
When we got there, we were all outfitted with our safety equipment complete with harness and two heavy-duty caribiners that would become our best friend (aside from our guide) for the next two and a half hours. The nervous energy began which was not unlike the feel right before a roller coaster ride. The only difference here is that I was in charge of my own safety!
After taking the chair-lift to the start of the climb, we received our instructions and got to test out our carabiners. You see, with two carabiners, we could always be assured of being locked in when the steel cable was beside us should something happen. For something like this, a great (and calming) guide is key and our guide was amazing. Chuck was an experienced climber and most importantly, was chill and fun. He explained that for better or for worse, our safety was in our individual hands. It was up to us to make sure we’re clipped in, watch where we’re going and take the time we needed.
I’m not afraid of heights, but I certainly could feel the nerves creeping in as we started the journey. The second great thing that I think really helped was that everyone in the group was figuring it out too as we went along. There is comfort in camaraderie and we were there to support each other, provide encourage and be each other’s personal mountain-climing photographers! The good news is that with each step and each clip into the steel cable, it got easier from a confidence standpoint even if the climb itself was getting tougher.
And of course, what goes up, must come down. Clipping into the steel cable was great for going up and across but for large chunks of the descent was just a good old fashioned hike. It wasn’t time to celebrate yet with the climb down still to happen. There were some stumbles along the way, so let’s just say I was thankful for my hiking boots providing extra grip. When we finally got to the end, it was time for high-fives and a well-deserved snack!
The Cliffhouse Bistro sits atop Mt. Norquay and not surprising, the view is spectacular! We were just a couple days early from them launching their new menu, but we happily devoured a charcuterie board that stacks up to any I’ve ever had. All the meats and cheeses were locally-sourced from nearby Canmore and had a collection of local meats that you would expect to find in Alberta.
As part of the My Banff FBC press trip, I was a guest of Banff Lake Louise Tourism and my transportation, accommodation, excursions and all meals were covered. I am not being further compensated for writing about my experiences and all opinions are 100% my own. Neither Banff Lake Louise Tourism nor the businesses mentioned reviewed this post before publication.