About Us

The Open Road Project exists to spread kindness and meet the needs of strangers. We travel in a 1979 GMC Vanguard named Lily. These are our stories.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vertical Limits

Mom (Sue) if you are reading this, please stop now. I am serious. If you were that unsettled after Running With The Bulls- you do NOT want to read this (because I love you so much of course).

Since the beginning we decided that throughout our trip each of us is allowed to pick one destination, event or thing that everyone would have to do. No questions asked. This weekend we found ourselves in Jasper. I thought that I would use my event. We were going to climb a mountain. Which Mountain? It would naturally fall into place.

On Friday, with high hopes for adventure, we strolled into the Jasper Info Centre, because it seemed like a good place to start.

"Welcome, Bienvenue." said Lisa our info guide.
"Hi Lisa, we would like to climb a mountain." we announced.
"Which Mountain? Lisa asked with a quizzical look.
"A big one." Jer and I responded simultaneously.

We went on to become friends with Lisa, eventually she leaned in close and even divulged a secret lake front location we could use to park our RV for free and clear of any of those scary park rangers. Also because of our new friendship, and gung ho attitude, apparently we were deemed fit for even more high clearance info.

Lisa was able to direct us to an exclusive, almost hidden mountain void of the typical tourist bunches and frequent visits. It was a site that you could say was off the beaten track.
Our camp site was just on the border of British Columbia, with a trail head starting from HWY 16. After a 3.5 hours, the treacherous 14km climb took us about 2100m above sea level and completely disconnected from any other humanity (Jer here. We were not happy with the hike that Jamie took us on. In the pic below we look happy. 10 mins into the trip we were halfway through our water rations) So we set off:

Past switchbacks, pine forest, marsh and rocks, our campsite sat alone one a glacial lake surrounded by walls of kilometer high mountains. This was our base camp.

Sure, we thought. Lets climb one of these mountains. How hard could that be?

** Pause Story **

Seriously Mom, I know you. Please don't read this.

** Resume Story **
So with packs filled with bug spray and peanut butter sandwiches, we set off "prepared".
Eagerly scrambling over rocks and boulders we crawled our way up the mountain slowly but surely. We stopped on occasion to crack a joke or chase a mountain rodent, eventually finding ourselves above the tree line. All the while we had our sights set on "the big one" (the peak in our range that we arbitrarily chose) but as it turns out, with no other humans for miles, nature can be crueler than we like to pretend. As we ascended higher and higher, we came to a stark realization. We stopped for lunch after a particularly steep section of o
ur scramble. After we had eaten, we looked up at the rock face and down from where we came. Suddenly it felt like our situation had changed. The falling rocks were no longer neat and the beautiful mountains now loomed ominously. It honestly got to the point, where we had to admit to ourselves that to continue our assent would place us into more and more legitimate danger. Several times the rocks would slide from beneath our feet only to tumble and fall for about 1800 feet. This threat of vulnerability did not stop us from enjoying some laughs, PB&J and smacking a few golf balls from our peak.

However, when we assessed our descent and began our return, I will admit shamelessly that I was scared. Several times the ground from beneath us would slide away and carry us several feet stopping barely a foot or two from a ridge or cliff. I watched with binoculars as Josh scaled down a straight rock face only to slide 20 ft on the snow patch beneath him. There was even a time when I was left hanging from my hands as the rock I placed my weight on shifted and fell. It is safe to say we entered the situation in rather naive fashion. Reaching the summit of a 3km high mountain is not something you can just jump into, it’s not like picking up a guitar and trying to play. Careful planning, equipment and guidance is crucial in situations like these. The mountain we set out to climb is climbable. We were not attempting the impossible; we just set out over zealously and found ourselves on a route that was far more hazardous than we had anticipated. But that’s the thing about climbing. The difference of a couple hundred feet, from where we were supposed to climb, to where we accidently climbed could have meant the
difference of life or death. We set out unequipped, and we learned that the hard way.

After a few hours we made it to the bottom safely with only a few cuts and bruises. We thank God for that fact. Back at base camp we discussed over the fire the days events and prepared for another freezing night and our journey home in the morning.

We’re now home safe in Jasper for the night planning on heading to Lake Louise tomorrow.

The camping video is now here! Check it out at: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOpenRoadProject Just Click Here!

Cheers,The Boys


  1. Wow, my mom would kill me. I think I should start praying for you guys. You're now on my list.

    Kevin W

  2. that's why we mothers pray always for our boys!

  3. Thanks for the shout out on a previous post, you have inspired me with your climbing photos and video to add 2 more fans to your blog, my 85 year old parents!! We have just spent an hour showing them your blog and videos, and they were in awe that such wonderful and daring/crazy young people are not on the front page of the papers these days, instead it is all war/violence/despair, my dad thinks you guys should be the lead story on the news! You are making us 40-somethings look pretty lame when I am telling all my neighbours that I climbed the ladder to clean out the eaves all by myself! I don't know how you will top yourselves, but I can't wait to see what BC has in store for you, I'll be watching, Blessings, John Maguire