Thursday, November 06, 2014

First Summits: Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Earlier this spring I started doing girls' night out hikes near Calgary as a means of getting myself in shape for summer adventures.  Never in a million years did I think that my son would be repeat-hiking these same trails with me by the end of the summer.  

Our evening training hikes this spring were chosen based on how steep the trails were and how hard our lungs would be burning on the way up.  We didn't choose cute little forest walks.  We wanted height gain and we wanted to get in shape.  And now, my precious 5 year old is doing the same hikes with me!  (except that he's not sore the next day!!)

Prairie Mountain Summit, Kananaskis

The trail up Prairie Mountain in Kananaskis has 700 metres of height gain and goes straight up.  It was our first girls' hike back in May and I actually did it two weeks in a row because it was such good exercise.  After both trips, I had to book myself in for a massage because I could hardly walk.  Sound like a good trip for a bunch of 3-5 year olds?

Hiking up Prairie Mountain with the kids this time
When we decided to try doing Prairie Mt. with the kids in October, we entered with realistic expectations and great flexibility.  If we got half way up, we got half way up.  If we reached the ridge, even better.  And if we reached the summit, yahoo!  We honestly didn't know how far we'd get.

Hiking along the ridge on Prairie Mountain

We had 5 kids ranging in age from three to six and they all made the summit.  We took a slow and steady pace, stopped often, and consumed a lot of candy.  For the most part through, we didn't have to play many games or entertain the children in any way.  They just walked and were eager to reach the top.

Strong but Mighty Hikers

Tips for Bagging Your Own First Peaks with Kids

  1. Tell the kids that they can do it, and believe that they can!

  2. Slow and steady wins the race.

  3. Bring lots of candy, snacks, and other treats.

  4. Stop often but keep the breaks short.  Again, slow but steady.

  5. Sing songs, try story telling, see how high your child can count, play hide-and-seek, take turns being the leader with a special "leader stick," pull the kids with your hiking poles (we call it horse rides...) - whatever it takes to make the trip fun.

  6. Bring friends.  It helps to have moral support.  And this goes for both the kids and the adults.  If your spouse or partner can't come, consider inviting a friend to help you co-parent.

  7.  Start small and work your way up.  We didn't start at zero with no exercise and decide suddenly that we'd climb a mountain.  Our kids have all been biking throughout the summer and have been extremely active.  Climbing a mountain was a good next step for them.
We love summit yoga

Want to Climb Prairie Mountain?

The trailhead starts right beside the winter gate above the Elbow Falls parking lot on Hwy 66 in the Elbow Valley.  You can park at the Beaver Lodge Parking lot when the highway is open past Elbow Falls, or if you do the hike in early spring or late fall, you will park on the road beside the closed highway gate.  Once you find the trailhead, it's straight forward all the way up and you don't really need a hiking description.  The trail is easy to follow and it goes up, up, up to the top.

The long final ridge walk to the summit

For more information, visit the All Trails website

My two strong hikers on Prairie Mountain

Other First Summits We've Done

To read about other first summits we've tackled over the last two summers, check out these stories:

Family Friendly Summits in Jasper National Park (Whistler's Mountain and Old Fort Point)

Go Climb a Mountain - Family Friendly First Summits (Summits in Banff, Jasper, and Waterton)

Spring Energy Shot in Banff (Tunnel Mt., Banff)

Also suggested to read:  Moving on to Big Adventures - and the kids get to come along.   (Parker Ridge, Banff)

Prairie Mt. Summit Shot

Want to join us on more first summits next summer?  Most of our trips are planned through the Calgary Outdoor Playgroup Community on Facebook and we always welcome new members.  

Rare family shot of all three of us on Prairie Mt.

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