By now, I’d say that our group has pretty much reached pro-status when it comes to ridge walking. It started as a kind of frightening experience, but with every ridge I’ve become increasingly more confident with my footing and comfortable with the heights. This ridge in particular, which we summited on July 16th, may have offered the most beautiful panoramic view of them all. In the distance I could see glaciers, lakes, and even Jumbo Mountain.
After studying the topographic map and comparing it to the landscape, it became very clear that the glaciers surrounding us are, in fact, receding. Their outlines on the map were much larger than they are now in the present day. Also, I got to see first hand the mechanical weathering and abrasion that the massive force of the glaciers caused on the land beneath them. The rocks appeared to be rubbed smooth after years and years of the intense pressure from the icy masses above them. The lakes that convene at the base of the glaciers are called tarns. Their water is a spectacular shade of blue that’s caused by glacial flour, or the tossing around of silt and sediment brought down by the glaciers. It’s really an indescribable feeling to learn about these geographical features in a classroom and then to be able to actually experience them first hand in the wild with the rushing sounds of the waterfalls overtaking our attempt at total silence.
During this section of the course, I’ve been learning a lot about the proposed ski resort in Jumbo Valley and how it’s causing major divisions among the people of British Columbia and beyond. I can honestly say that having seen this breathtaking landscape, talking to members of the Ktunaxa Nation and various other locals, I am opposed to the development. The building of this resort heavily infringes upon Ktunaxa tradition and beliefs and goes against the values of a majority of the remaining local population. This area is really divine and the thought of a project of such a massive scale taking place here is truly disheartening. Seeing Jumbo Mountain from that ridge solidified my opinion on the matter, gave me a sense of great appreciation for all those who are fighting to protect this land, and inspired me to want to make a difference in defending my own public lands back home.
While we were sitting up on that ridge, a trifecta of amazing natural things happened. First, we saw a mountain goat about 500 yards away. Then a dust devil (basically a mini tornado of dirt) swirled through our group. And finally, a pika, which is a small mammal that resembles a rabbit and lives high in rocky, mountainous terrain, appeared in front of us! I’d never seen any of these things before, so I asked my instructors, “Is this what happens when you’re quiet in nature?” I’m a pretty loud person see, and I’ve never given myself the opportunity to enjoy the sounds of nature. So I made a deal with myself to really take in and appreciate my surroundings wherever I am.
This notion of observation and respect is based on the principles of TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge). This section we’ve been exploring the history and concepts of local, place-based knowledge. When I leave this course, I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ll take back is our responsibility to the environment as humans. Being able to witness those three respective forces of nature on the ridge made me feel more in touch with my senses and made me wonder how I could thank the world for revealing its natural beauty to me. We could all benefit from listening to and learning from TEK because it teaches us the importance of relationships, respect, and reciprocity.
Sitting on that ridge helped me put my lessons into action and filled me with amazement and appreciation for the world around me; it was a sort of revelation. Mom if you’re reading this, you were right, I don’t want to leave the mountains.