Sickness in the mountains – Listen to your body

Last August Maelys and I took our boots to Arnica Lake as we stepped into Strathcona Park for the very first time. It was a hike that had it’s ups and downs but we me made it through and we were stronger as a result.

We weren’t supposed to be hiking to Arnica lake on Mount Phillips. We had originally planned to do Mount Arrowsmith however due to the dry weather it was closed for fear of Wild Fires. Undeterred we found another mountain to hike and got up early as we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us.

The drive itself was beautiful as we followed down the eastern side of Buttle lake, with mountains towering each side. It’s always difficult as the driver as I try not to let my eyes wonder.

We know we are nearing the trail head as we come to the mining station that we had read about whilst trip planning. It’s quite the contrast as for most of the ride you feel alone and isolated to then be faced by machinery so large I can hardly explain. The immediate area is bare of trees and greenery. There is the hum of the machinery in the background which is difficult to escape so you don’t have that wilderness feeling we are so used to having.

I am going to circle back a little. Before we left the AirBnB, Maelys was feeling a little queasy. She had put it down to something she ate that didn’t agree with her, so nothing but some safe food and water couldn’t fix. We stopped on the way to get some drugs and some dry and sugary as she wasn’t feeling any better. The heat in the car wasn’t helping much so she had a little rest on the way and kept on taking a sip of her drink in between. Once we got to the trail head we had an hour nap as we thought that could help.

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Car nap and Pringles

Throughout the drive we had discussed whether we should continue with our plan to hike or just camp-up somewhere. There was no pressure to do it but Maelys said that she would be fine.

The hike up wasn’t the most interesting. The buzz of the mine could still be heard, and there was just switchback after switchback without a view. It really felt like that it was more as a means to an end. It was slow going as Maelys began to feel worse. Her head was throbbing and she was still feeling sick. We would stop every 5 minutes and wonder how much further we would have to go. By the time the conversation had turned towards going back, we were closer to the end than the beginning. What should have taken us an hour and a half took us 3 and a half.

“Please – is this over yet?”

We finally got to the lake and we found a beautiful place to pitch up – a perfect lake side view without anyone else around. As I collected water to filter Maelys had crept quietly into the tent. I crawled in to see how she was and she was wrapped up in her sleeping bag, fully clothed along with a touque, shivering inside.

I’m not a medic (Although a newly trained Canadian Red Cross First Aider) but she didn’t look in a good way. Without knowing what the issue was, decision making as to what to do was made more difficult. A few things flashed before my eyes – “Will I really need to call for help? Can we sit this out until tomorrow? HELICOPTERS?”. Once the mild panic was over with, we called it a day (8pm) and we stayed in the tent until morning.

Home for the night. The lake was right behind me
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I couldn’t help but sneak a snap at dusk


Maelys’ status remained the same throughout the night, although some progress seemed to have been made. We lazed around for the better part of the morning, trying to enjoy the beauty of the mountain lake we had painfully hiked to get to. On another day we could have stayed much longer but we couldn’t avoid the need to get down sooner rather than later. I managed to fit most of Maelys’ gear in my pack to make the downward trip that much more bearable for her. It still took us a couple of hours to get down but once we did it was quite the relief.

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Morning Rest

Instead of continuing the plans for the long weekend we decided to head home. We didn’t want to push this any more than we needed to

It looked like that Maelys had a touch of Heat Exhaustion. After a couple days rest she was right as rain and we look back at the hike with fond memories and a story to tell. We weren’t left regretting the decision we made because all was fine in the end however it could have been different.

What this trip taught me is that we need to listen to our bodies before heading out. We also need to be aware of the feelings and health of those around us too. Not only can it be extremely unpleasant for the person that’s sick but it can end up being dangerous. If we were in the same position again we would have either not started or turned back.

Stay Safe!

Cheers, Scott

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