Fang Mountain - 2 Nights in the Majestic Backcountry
It was winter still when my sister (Kandus) text me to tell me we were going to backpack Fang Mountain with the Adventure Bus in August of 2022. It may have even been December of 2021. So it was probably 9 months in advance and not long after we finished her first ever backpacking trip that just happened to be up...you guessed it! Fang Mountain with the Adventure Bus.
Our first trip up Fang was short but sweet; if you can call anything about that grind with a fully loaded pack sweet. We all had a great time, but it felt short. There felt like an endless possibility of ridges to explore and not enough time to do it, so two nights was going to be perfect for the second time!
One year after the first ascent, almost to the day, we met up with the Adventure Bus Crew. Kandus and I had spent the night before making sure we had everything packed and making it as organized as possible. I swear the sleep the night before a big hike is always poor. Somehow the mix of excitement and wondering if I forgot anything turns into a poor sleep (imagine that). I started the day tired but excited. We arrived way too early. I didn't want to be late and insisted that we had to get going to meet up with Meg. Then we drove.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that a bridge had been installed on the first creek crossing. Nothing worse than wet feet from trying to cross high water as a clumsy person. Our group was small, 7 of us, but amazing. I knew almost everyone from previous hikes, though some I didn't know well. As we climbed we learned about each other, appreciated the views, and took lots of breaks to make the grind bearable with our heavy packs. Our group consisted of Meg (the Adventure Bus Boss Lady!), Rob (co-guide for this trip), Kandus, Harmony and Darleen who I had met on previous hikes, and Lori. We all have different levels or experience, skill, and fitness levels but all that mattered was that we were getting to the top together.
It took us 5 hours to get to camp from the trailhead, about what I expected given the +30 degree weather and the intensity of the trail. We made our way to the second camp and got set up. It was still hot with no sign of it cooling down so a bunch of us decided to swim in the lake. It was pretty amazing. It was as cold as you would expect a mountain top lake to be, but bearable given the heat of the day. One of the women decided to go in in the nude; the temptation to do so swept me up and I joined her. There was something incredibly freeing about swimming naked in a mountain lake. I highly recommend it if you have never tried it before. It actually took me a while after to realize that I was skinny dipping. I had never had the courage to even consider doing it before but I am really glad I did. I don't think I will forget that experience anytime soon. Plus Rob wasn't around so it was just a few of us women, therefore nothing scandalous.
We dried off, had dinner, relaxed and wandered around. Darlene and I went to take photos of plants and the sunset. The sun fading behind the mountain was beautiful. We couldn't as for a better way to end the first day. We had been expecting thunder storms all afternoon so the fact that we got the evening free of them was good enough but the sunset was the icing on the cake. Yup, pretty sure I am getting older now. That's probably not what the cool kids are saying these days haha.
None of us could remember how to play any card games, but I had brought my Basecamp Cards with me and they have questions to ask people on them, so we took turns pulling cards and asking people around the circle questions about them and their lives. To be honest I don't remember a lot of the questions or answers, but I do remember feeling content and connected to this group of people I had slogged up the mountain with. We had a short visit from a guy I only know from IG - Jordan - (leavehimwild) and his dog Nibz. Nibz was sweet and filled the void not having my dog left, even if just for a few minutes. Other than that the only real sign that we weren't alone was someone flying a drone over the area.
The night was interesting. For some reason I still struggled to sleep despite the exertion of the day. The moon came out from behind the mountain ridge and it was so bright you didn't even need a flashlight. It was beautiful but it did disrupt my idea of maybe trying to capture the starry sky on camera. When the moon is that bright it adds a level of complexity I have not even tried to master yet, so I admired it and tried to sleep. Then there was lightning in the distance and thunder. I slept so well when it finally started to rain.
We all got up around the same time, no need to wake up calls for anyone. We took it slow, made breakfast and drank our morning drinks. We settled on a plan for the day - the ridge across from camp first! Meg walked us through the plan and we changed the route once we got to the part where we had to climb. Terrain is deceptive from a distance. What looked even and consistently sloping was more abrupt than we first thought. A switchback route up worked well and soon we were on the ridge and what felt like on top of the world. It was raining a little but nothing that would drive us back to camp before we were ready. We were all so appreciative of the views. They kept changing as we were up there as the clouds moved over the ranges. My favourite part was when Darlene exclaimed "Look at that!" and motioned to the vista we were all enjoying, followed by the statement "I know you all have eyes and can see, but look at that!". The enjoyment and enthusiasm in her voice was contagious and made it even better. We explored more, checked out Fang's southwest peak, and headed back to camp for lunch. We saw Marmots roaming; a family of four bounding across the alpine. We appreciated the beautiful flowers and Rob found a small waterfall system that must be what people try to emulate with waterfalls in gardens.
After lunch we were graced with more rain. We opted for tent time before our ridge hike and I slept like a rock for a solid two hours until the rain stopped. Afterwards we ventured to the saddle where we got an incredible view of the mountain range behind. I'm not exactly sure where the Torpy is, but it is somewhere in that view and I really want to explore it next year. We watched a storm coming in. The clouds were dark, blackening as they got closer but also moving away from us to the west. As we made our way down towards camp the black clouds gave way to white clouds that rolled over the southern ridge and brought moderate winds and fairly heavy rain. Watching the clouds roll in was exciting and beautiful.
The evening was a mix of rain and calm skies. At some point, maybe around 11pm, Kandus and I heard something moving. It was a low sound at first; consistent but varied. It almost sounded like rocks falling but without the clanging. As it got closer I realized it was probably a porcupine based on the chewing and grinding sounds. but I couldn't find my bearspray and Kandus was pretty nervous because we had seen a moderately recent grizzly dig site up on the ridgeline that morning. Eventually I woke Meg and Rob up for peace of mind. It took them a bit to hear it but then we started talking loudly and it went away. Kandus was out within minutes of the rain starting again but I couldn't sleep at all. Between the excitement of the cool looking storm and the need to make sure my sister was safe, I tossed for hours. In the early hours of the morning I heard what I assumed was the resident grizzly moving through camp (nearby, not directly in). Rob confirmed in the morning that he had heard the same thing. Not just paranoia.
We packed up, did a final check to ensure we didn't leave anything behind and then started our slow trek down the mountain. At the first campsite we met some cavers who had been up there for two nights as well. One had seen the grizzly across the creek from where he was washing his dishes that morning. Definitely not just paranoia. On we went. With the rain and the weight of our packs it was a hard descent. It felt like the trail had changed from last yet, like somehow the erosion of the trail from storms had changed the soils making it more slippery and more intense. The shale was slippery and wet and we had to take our time.
The cavers caught up to us a couple times. They would pass us and then stop and we would pass them. We talked a bit about caving and their experience with it. I think I would like to try it, even just once. It would have to be in a place I know there are no monsters though. The idea of being alone in pitch darkness with the monsters that take up space in my imagination is terrifying. That means I have to do it, right?
After a final goodbye to the cavers we navigated the most slippery section. Most of us fell at least once. We were muddy and tired but our hearts were still full and happy. After the boulder fields the hike got easier again and we exchanged stories of our lives and the parents talked about their kids. Turns out some of them go to the same school. The things you learn when you spend time talking to people. We all decided there should be a 2023 Fang Mountain overnight adventure with our group and I am already excited for it.