Now that there is an improved trail, magnificently constructed by the province and contractors, to access the summit of Ha Ling Peak, this may be a good time to ensure that the history of the first trail will not be lost.
As an attempt to meet this, my granddaughter Lydia came from Calgary one Sunday to help me produce a short video and upload it on YouTube.
The title is: Ha Ling Peak – the first trail to the summit.
The video is quite concise, and it has been suggested that more information would be appreciated. The Outlook included such details in earlier letters and I suggest it could be repeated now, as follows:
History is often forgotten or misrepresented, and I fear this will be the case with respect to the genesis of the Ha Ling/Miners Peak trail. In the mountains, it is rare to have trails carved into a steep hillside. They usually follow ridges or valleys because these were the obvious and easiest routes for animals and Indigenous populations.
So it occurred to me the users of this trail, and the local community, would like to know how it got there before I, the pioneer, could no longer relate the story of its birth.
In the summer of 1996, as I was descending into the woods at the foot of one of the open, rocky slabs of the back side of the mountain I slipped on a wet root and hurt my tailbone. Once into the trees, I noticed the mossy carpet of the forest was being severely damaged by the boots of folks who descended vertically, ignoring the many zig-zagging animal trails which they had probably used for the ascent.
But time was the essence of the situation, so in the fall of that year I made a move, making many solo visits to survey on foot the back side woods and noting the locations of the steep, open treeless rocky slabs. The treed slope was very steep, and I often slipped and slid. But I was a 70-year-old mountaineer, so was cautious and conscious about safety.
By the end of the year, I had marked a route which was later improved by friends with improvised tools, including the ice axe that had accompanied me over the summit of the Matterhorn.
Subsequently the Trailminders of the Bow Valley made it possible, with the use of proper Pulaski trail axes, to make it available for public use by the end of summer 1998. The mountain face is hard, smooth limestone, and the builders ingeniously used dead trees, the roots and stumps of dead trees – this face had been logged earlier for pit props – and the rare loose matter, to form the trail.
It had a steady grade from the three winder steps at the top of the two zig-zags, which were needed to enable the first long leg to be above the great rock cliff above the aqueduct.
Unfortunately, rotting wood and heavy use has destroyed some of this section, forcing hikers to drop down to where the material has lodged, then face a steep rise to rejoin the sound, original, route.