I completed Akamina Ridge on Sunday, September 18, 2022. It was not a hike I’d intended to attempt in this lifetime but it was one of James’ bucket-list hikes so when I saw that ideal weather forecast, I made sure we’d be heading up to Akamina Ridge. I am very glad that I did Akamina Ridge. It turned out to be the best hike I have ever done.
The Akamina Ridge hike did not turn out as I had expected. There were others heading up to hike the ridge at the same time as us, so I told them that I’d get to the top and wait for them there so they could go ahead of us since we’d be slower than them. One man said “don’t worry, we can always leap frog you.” I definitely wanted to avoid a “leap frog” situation on a narrow ridge. I have done Crypt Lake trail in the past and that cable part (especially) is insane when people are heading in both directions at once “leap frogging” each other. I hadn’t done Akamina Ridge before and was concerned it would be like Crypt in parts. Akimina, like Crypt, is one of the Triple Crown hikes.
I take every hike very slowly. Elevations are tough for me so slow is the only way to go. I stop often to look at plants along the way and I get up to the tops of mountains just like everyone else does.
There is nothing “extreme” about the way I hike. I am not an “extreme” person so I tend to avoid scrambles up mountain cliffs and the like. I would characterize that first part of the Akamina Ridge hike up to the ridge over-looking Wall and Forum Lake as a “scramble”. It cannot really be called a trail at that point. It’s tough to see anything like a trail between those rocks and it is too steep for switchbacks.
You can hear my voice shaking with fear as I sang my song, Our International Peace Park (which I sang while taking a break on a rock just off the “trail” on that scary part while I was waiting for those who were catching up with me to pass me). Not only was my voice shaking, but my legs were shaking while I sang my song, Akamina, which I sang once I reached the flat(ish) part of the top of that rise. That climb up to the ridge was the scariest thing I’ve hiked. I recorded my performances and attached them below with the other videos that I recorded while on the Akamina Ridge hike.
I had got word, through the grapevine of hikers along the “trail”, between my two songs, that James had decided to bail. I passed the message back down to him, through the grapevine, that I was going to finish the hike along the ridge. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back down the way I’d come up without falling. Moving forward fearlessly was the only option for me at that point.
The most frightening part of the Akamina Ridge hike is that short climb up those rocks to get up onto the ridge. Unless you have hiked up there before, you cannot know whether or not more of the same (or worse) awaits you along the trail, yet you know that you cannot go back the same direction that you came on. That is a scary feeling. Singing my song, Akamina, helped me regain my courage.
I could see that the trail went up to the top of the mountain ahead of me and I knew that the trail went around the ridge surrounding Wall Lake so when I heard a woman say that she felt like she was going in the wrong direction because she thought Akamina was flat at the top, I became concerned for their safety. The trail looked much like the one that heads up from the Goat Lake side of Avion Ridge where James had been certain was the wrong way to go and wouldn’t follow me up. He was instead frantically looking for a trail down the slope (and I was concerned that he might find a goat trail to follow).
I pointed out where I could see the trail going down from the ridge on the other side. James had our map but one woman in the group of four had a map on her phone (besides, one of the four in her group was “the goat” and I felt pretty sure he would keep his mother safe). When they stopped for a break, I continued the trail on my own.
I really enjoyed doing the hike along the top of Akamina Ridge on my own. I didn’t have anyone to worry about up there (besides myself). There was barely a breeze and I found it relaxing to walk along the tops of mountains, for the most part.
Eventually, once I had completed all of the more unpleasant parts of the hike (down a fairly steep scree slope along a knife edge, for example), a lovely young couple from Calgary caught up with me and then passed me. We talked up there for quite awhile. They were very nice people.
At the end of the Akamina Ridge hike, the thing I’d enjoyed most about the hike turned out to be the people I’d met along the way. The first two people I’d met on the way up to the ridge were mother and son. The mother said that her son was a gazelle and he corrected her, referring to himself as “a goat”.
He said that he’d already done Crypt Lake trail fifteen times and he was only twelve years old! He was awesome. What I found most awesome about him was how much he loved and cared for his mother. I watched as he told her where to place her feet while climbing up the first (scary) part up to the ridge.
The “goat” stayed right with his mother as she struggled up the rocks. What twelve year old cares for their parents so well as that? He was an awesome person who had been raised to be awesome by an awesome mother.
One woman in their group, the one who’d been leading, told me that I was awesome when I left them to continue on my own. I told her that she and all of us were awesome and I meant it. I was glad to see that they all made it down the other side of the ridge to safety.
Perhaps that woman thought I was awesome because I was heading off on my own. I hadn’t asked her why she’d thought I was awesome. When I met a group coming up to the ridge from the other end (near Wall Lake), a woman in their group told me that I was courageous. I asked her why she thought that and she replied “because you went up on your own.” I explained that I hadn’t but my husband had turned around at the beginning of the hike up to the ridge. I did enjoy getting two very nice compliments in one day.
I liked knowing that there were other people on the Akamina Ridge while I was there but I honestly preferred the moments that I had to myself up there. It was so peaceful.
When I met up with James, I was telling him about how the group I had been near at the beginning of the ridge was questioning where to go. I knew it was a moment like the one James and I had had on Avion Ridge. When James had reached a point where the trail went up a slope, when he’d expected the trail to be heading down into a different direction, he was sure it was not the right path. I couldn’t see any other path there and started climbing it but he refused to follow.
James had done ample research and talked to other people who’d just hiked Avion. If someone tells you that a trail like Avion or Akamina is flat on the top, they might mean that the trail no longer requires a scramble or free climbing up chest high rocks on an insanely steep slope.
Don’t start to panic and question what you can see with your eyes. You do not want to panic up there and you certainly don’t want that kind of energy building within the group. If you start to question where you’re going, take a break, look at flowers or the view, and calmly enjoy the moment. Try singing a song or make a joke to get everyone in your group happy and relaxed again. Keep the energy positive up there.
Also, there is a park sign that indicates that those who hike the ridge should have a compass with them. I can’t see how a compass could help you up there but you must keep a solid sense of where you are. Keep reminding yourself of where Forum and Wall Lake are. They look different from above.
Stop and look around often and remind yourself of where you are. The views are worth seeing so keep your eyes open and consciously see the sights. The photographs you take will likely not do the trail justice. Consciously take some time to live the trail so that it lives in your memory for a lifetime so that you can relive the adventure many times over once you have completed the trail.
Windy days aren’t easy
on day-today terrain
but you can get blown away
with elevation gain.
Twenty K’s? – just breezy;
but forty K’s? – a pain.
When the wind speed’s sixty K’s
then hiking is insane.
Don’t think raging weather
won’t wax; winds may not wane.
Morning wind is sure to stay
unless you get some rain.
Swing and sway together,
can make your day a strain.
Weather’s what you must obey
in alpine and montane.