It was an unseasonably warm Fall day when we left the trailhead at Mt Shark full of hubris for our adventure ahead. Jogging our way down the cross-country ski trails, enjoying the beautiful weather… “Wait a minute! I forgot my phone, how am I going to take FOMO inducing photos to share with all my followers on Instagram?” Bonus kilometre added (because we didn’t have far enough to go) we carried on, forging our way forward to the Bryant Creek trail. After meandering our way on the slowly thawing double track, attempting to keep our feet as dry as possible, we found one of the many spectacular sights that would grace the run: a roaring creek and waterfall..
Luckily the trolls let us pass and the kilometers passed uneventfully flowing steadily through the forest conserving our energy for the distance ahead, we encountered a warden on horseback on her way to the Bryant Creek ranger station, but saw no one else: a beautiful solitude with nothing other than the sound of our feet moving along the loamy, mossy trail. Bursting out of the forest into the wetlands of the Bryant Creek area we crossed the creek and continued on to Assiniboine Pass, every step we climbed offered greater views of the route we had covered.
After the grunt to the top of Assiniboine Pass, a rapid descent lead us down into Assiniboine Lodge and the spectacular views of Mount Assiniboine; the Matterhorn of the Rockies quietly imposed itself, towering above Magog Lake as the late afternoon sun glistened on the rippling waters
With the obligatory shots of Assiniboine taken care of and a quick stop for lunch we wound our way through the Naiset Huts and up to Wonder Pass. Larch needles and snow coated the trail providing soft footing and vibrant colour contrast with the stark, wintry needle-less trees. Topping out on Wonder Pass provided glorious views of the valley towards Citadel Pass and Banff National Park, our tiring bodies given a new lease of life by the scenery and the prospect of a rapid descent to Mystic Lake.
Rolling down the singletrack from Wonder Pass we made a hasty, erroneous left turn and found ourselves climbing again, something wasn’t right… We topped out at a viewpoint overlooking Mystic Lake and decided to continue into the forest on a rapidly disappearing trail, descending to a scree covered cliff band, our run devolved into a scramble, stubbornly staying the course we eventually conceded to the realisation we were cliffed out. Our motivation was low to re-ascend the steep, loose slope we’d just descended but with darkness rapidly approaching we had to move quickly. Back on track we continued, but having lost around 45 minutes the sun was setting and darkness was looming. Descending the switch-backing trail, skirting along the slopes high above Mystic Lake tiredness was taking its toll but with 15 kilometres still to go slowing was not an option, progress was steady. Bryant Creek came and went and darkness fell… moving through the same forest that seemed enchanted earlier in the day, now seemed eerie in the darkness, just the lights of the headlamps showing us the way. Slowly, very slowly, tired and carbohydrate depleted we soldiered on, jumping at the shadows that seemed to be creeping ever closer.
After 8 hours, 54 kilometres and 1300 metres of climbing the car was finally illuminated by the beam of our headlamps and we were back to where we started, tired, sore, and more than a little delirious: Assiniboine there and back again, a trail running adventure; maybe next time we could just stay for a day or two.