Mount Assiniboine (3618 m) is one of the highest (seventh to be precise) mountains in the Canadian Rockies. Nicknamed “The Canadian Matterhorn” and voted one of the most photogenic Canadian peaks, it stars on countless postcards and coffee table book covers. Located in the provincial park of the same name, at the BC-Alberta border, it is renowned for its remoteness and unpredictable weather.

First climbed in 1901 by James Outram and Christian Hasler, the mountain offers a variety of difficulties and challenges and it is a prized trophy for any mountaineer. There are only five climbing routes to the summit so far. They are: North Face II 5.5, North Ridge II 5.5, East Buttress IV 5.7, and two very difficult routes on east face; Cheesmond/Dick V; 5.9 A2, and the similar route Davidson/Simson.

It was getting dark when I finally reached Lake Magog. Totally exhausted after a long and miserable hike (heat, mosquitoes, and heavy backpack), I placed a sleeping pad in the bushes next to a hiking trail and tried to nap. Just in case any smells would attract some neighbourhood bears, I didn’t cook. Bears in Canada are not always very friendly and for a good reason. Urban sprawl, and increasing demand for land, is pushing the poor animals out of their natural habitats. Frustrated and scared, sometimes they fight back. Every year there are a few incidents (sometimes deadly) of bears attacking humans. Unfortunately for those bears, they are usually found by rangers and shot dead. Somehow the park officials still insist that this is the best way to deal with the issue.

The next day, after an interesting and challenging time finding the trail, I reached a tiny and empty hut. I woke up in the middle of the night to the unfortunate sound of rain outside. In the morning, the rain and fog was so thick that I had problems finding the water hole next to the hut. In the afternoon, the rain changed into a heavy snowfall.  Not good. The next morning, the fog was as bad as the day before but the rain was definitely easing up. I was going crazy from anticipation and boredom. Finally, around eight in the evening the clouds suddenly disappeared and I could see the fresh snow covered summit.

The dark sky, covered with countless stars, began to turn slightly red from the east when I reached the base of the ridge. Frozen snow crunched under my crampons. I had a long and busy day ahead of me. Focused on fighting the elements, and my own weaknesses, I lost the sense of time passing. Soon the sun turned the snow into a sticky mess, clinging to my crampons. In places, I fell into this white shit up to my knees. Chimneys covered with snow and ice required self-protection (using a rope and anchors). Snow fields between rock barriers crack dangerously. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It was definitely not a summer climb. The time was passing quickly and I started to worry if I would be able to descend to safety before dark.  A few hours later than planned, I reached the summit. Amazing views, as far as the granite towers of Boogaboos. Breathtaking. Then the descent. Rappelling down from questionable anchors, snow sliding under my feet, fatigue, and knee pain.

A perfect day.