Climbing Mt. Norquay

My brother and I climbed 850 feet to the peak of Mt. Norquay in the Canadian Rockies. Forget drugs—all you need are 4 hours and 2 carabiners to get higher than you’ve ever been.

A via ferrata (“iron way” in Italian) is a climbing route of cables and metal rungs built into a mountain. They began in the Italian Dolomites and spread worldwide; today there are over 1,000 via ferratas across the globe. Our guide Kevin described them as “user-friendly ways to summit the world’s most spectacular peaks.”

We climbed suspension bridges and vertical walls and cliff faces. Every rocky ledge we ascended revealed a new vista, a sweeping expanse of lodgewood pine, alpine streams, and distant jutting peaks. Below us spread the town of Banff. Its tiny homes, shops, rivers, and golf courses were dwarfed by the surrounding rocks of Banff National Park.

You could opt for the easy climb. Plant your feet on snug metal rungs and slowly inch up the cable. Nic and I chose to leave the metal behind and climb the rock itself. The limestone was grippy and full of holds. When hand connects to rock—with adrenaline, bated breath, and scraped-up palms—you realize that you are alive and human.

Anyone can do this climb.  17,000 people have climbed the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata and 0 have fallen.  For my brother and I, who have done some indoor bouldering, it was a great introduction to outdoor climbing. It wasn’t the climb, but the summit that took our breath away. Our future ascents will be more challenging, but I doubt that many will match the view.


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