I cannot tell you enough how enlightening and incredible it is to sit on the summit of a mountain. The gratitude you feel for having the opportunity to live on this beautiful planet, and for your body for allowing you to have the physical strength to reach the top. I know, it sounds cheesy, but this was one of the best experiences I've ever had.

Our second day of Banff was completely dedicated to Ha Ling Peak. This intense 4 hour hike is completely up-hill and forces you to scramble as you reach the area of the mountain where the air in thin and there is no vegetation growing. I love hiking. Everywhere I travel I look for a hike. But this hike is not for the faint, or the less physically active. It is tough. We woke up early and met Christina's cousin at the mountain - it was her idea. This hike is not saturated with tourists, but rather avid and experienced hikers. For this hike, you need proper footwear (hiking boots or rubber / metal treads you can slip on your shoes, which is what myself and Christina did.) Bryon had boots. You'll be experiencing all four seasons on this hike during the spring months so you need to have layers. We also brought lots of water and trail snacks. There's no washrooms, so if you gotta go....you gotta go in the woods. It was really strenuous on the way up and we had to take a ton of breaks, but as soon as we were out of the forest area I got so excited when I saw the summit. Scrambling was terrifying, and there was a moment I needed to just sit and get comfortable with the height. As I sat my eyes were completely overwhelmed by what I was seeing. Unfortunately, the photos in this post don't do the experience any justice. It was peaceful, fresh, amazing views and so wonderful to sit above all the craziness in this world.

I know there are a ton of hikes in Banff National Park, and there's still many I want to do. A lot of the hikes had warnings because of avalanches. This time of year is pretty dangerous, and people have died doing common hikes, including the Agnes Teahouse. Two hikers died in an avalanche last year. I was a bit nervous when I got to the top, because there was a full sheet of thick snow on the other side. But there weren't any footprints in the snow, which meant I wasn't the only nervous one. If you look at the photo above, behind me is another peak. I believe it's called Miner's Peak, but there was way too much snow over there and we weren't sure what was under the snow, which is super dangerous. Not to mention, only two people ventured out there while we were at the top, and it looks super risky. If you do go hiking in Banff National Park during the spring it is SO IMPORTANT to check avalanche notifications before you start. They're so serious and can happen at any moment. The park does do maintenance in which they set off explosives to start an avalanche in high-traffic areas so no gets hurt, but there are still areas where hikers venture to that are not regulated.

To get to this hike, you have to go through Canmore and drive up a mountain. It feels like you're not going the correct way, but you are. You'll pass the Nordic Olympic centre, and pass a beautiful blue lake. All the way on the end of the road is a parking lot called Goat Creek Parking Lot. Cross the street and walk up a small gravel hill and follow the trail...up, up, up, up.....

Now, on the way down...lol. Some will say down is more difficult and strenuous. There was still quite a bit of snow and because it was warming up in the afternoon the snow became wet, and the trail muddy. We mostly slid down the snow on our feet and bums hahaha. We laughed the whole way down. (Didn't see any bears or mountain goats on this hike!)

If you have any questions about this hike, please let me know in the comments below

<3 Caitlin

above: just as we started reaching the snow, and the forest started to thin out. We stopped for a break to take in the nearly unobstructed views.

above: where the scrambling started.

above: almost the peak!

above: just a photo of the drop below on the other side. This was some of the snow.

above: my best friend Christina and I

above: Christina and Mik coming off the summit