I’ve been itching to get out to Trophy Mountain in Wells Gray for a couple of years, and after multiple cancelations due to bad weather, I finally got my chance at the end of July. As an alpine, backcountry destination, the Trophies have a bit of everything. Our plan was to run the trail to Trophy Meadows, continuing onward to Plateau of the Lakes, up the col between Long Hill and Trophy 2, along the ridge line past Cwem Cwem lake to Trophy 1, and from there, using some directions from local trails expert Doug Smith, a GPS, and a bit of luck, to pick a route back via Plateau of the Lakes. (The Backcountry Mapbook for the BC Interior/Thompson-Nicola has an excellent map of this area that includes topographical features, access roads, and trails.) The alpine flower show in Trophy Meadows was in full bloom; much of the route above tree-line, and the ridge to Trophy 1, a Class 3 scramble.
Unfortunately, around half an hour into our run, I felt something tugging in my right calf and within a couple of minutes, it was pretty clear to me that although the pull felt relatively insignificant, continuing to run would be disastrous. We power-hiked the rest of the way into the meadows, beyond which the trail became mostly un-runnable anyhow.
Sooner or later, most runners have to sit a few weeks (or months) out due to an injury of some kind. Thankfully, at least until now, I’ve had luck on my side. Apart from a bit of achilles tendonitis, which goes away if I stretch properly and use my orthotics, and one brief bout of IT band syndrome a few years back when I ran a 50k race without training for the distance, I don’t seem to get injured. And I run quite a bit – typically 5 days a week for between 1-1.5 hours, with a longer run every other weekend or so. I do try to be vigilant about prevention: I have an elaborate stretching regime, am careful to limit speed and other quality workouts, keeping most of my running at an easy aerobic pace, and I do pay attention to things like quality nutrition and sleep.
So what happened? I’ve gotten a bit lazy about stretching as much as I used to; I’ve been pretty carefree about running this spring/summer – planning less & doing pretty much whatever I’ve feel like in the moment. I’ve cared less (not at all) about “training” for specific races this year, and more about keeping it fun and spontaneous. In doing so, I accidentally ramped up both quality and distance at the same time – a surefire formula for getting injured.
Getting injured in the backcountry can also, obviously, be dangerous. I’ve noticed quite a range of preparedness (and lack thereof) among the folks I’ve done longer backcountry runs with, and it’s worth emphasizing that in places like Wells Gray, where, if you break a leg somewhere off-trail (as any of us could have in an unstable boulder field we crossed), it could be hours or even a day before SAR finds you. For me, it goes without saying that a (summer) trip into the alpine necessitates, at a bare minimum: a shell, gloves, warm hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, emergency blanket, headlamp, water purification tablets (or a filter), at least a liter of water (more if you’re going somewhere without streams), some first aid essentials, lots of extra food, a knife and a whistle. On hikes, I also typically bring a puffy and hand warmers, as I get post-exercise hypothermia pretty quickly whenever I stop for more than a minute or two, and I sometimes also bring rain pants. Mountain weather changes quickly and it’s easy to get caught in unexpected rain or hail. Andy also has a SPOT which is a great device for getting emergency help via satellite, and for letting others know when you’ve arrived at your destination safely. Furthermore, I tend to bring bear spray and/or bear bangers, at least in places like Wells Gray where I know there are significant grizzly populations. This tends to generate some eye-rolling, but rather than get into “the great bear debate”, I’ll just say that I’ve heard enough first-hand stories from folks who’ve used it effectively to say that for me, when in grizzly country, it’s worth the added weight.
Cwem Cwem Lake
Trophy Meadows with Raft Mountain in the distance
Me watching Natalee and Todd scramble up a long rock slab. Yep, that’s a bug net on my head. (The sticky rubber soles on my new La Sportiva Bushidos would have been killer on that slab.)
Andy picking his way down to Cwem Cwem Lake
Todd, Natalee and Andy approaching Cwem Cwem Lake
Todd and Natalee scrambling the ridge between Trophy 1 and 2
Me on the ridge between Trophy 1 and 2