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How to Become a Mountain Man: What’s Limiting You?

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Becoming a Mountain Man: What's Limiting You?

Read the story of Jacob, how he became a mountain man, and how his experience on a horse pack trip with Wilderness Trails helped him become one.

This is how I came to fully realise that there are no limits, that I can always keep growing stronger. It is also how I became a “mountain-man” and earned the nickname “Grizz”.

While the ranch itself had been a truly unique and clarifying experience to me, I was enticed by the stories I heard from those who came back from their pack trips. The array of stories that detailed the arduous yet exhilarating experience of these said trips made me want to immediately go for it. By making it clear to the ranch staff I was eager to participate in such a trip I found myself enlisted for an upcoming trip to Brett Camp in the mountains. I was told I would be participating in a late season trip yet at the same time informed of the challenges I would face. Rather than deter me, I grasped the opportunity even more tightly! Here at the ranch I’ve seen that challenging oneself is an opportunity to develop so I knew this would be perfect.

I was tasked with collecting the listed supplies that would then be escorted up the mountain by horse to the camp. This itself was a significant responsibility, being entrusted with gathering the essential supplies for camp survival. Once I completed this task I soon found myself being driven towards my destination. I was on my way to the start of an adventure without fully knowing what to expect.

Upon my arrival I was left alone to saddle the horses. Having saddled a horse before I was confident I could do this without guidance. I was unfortunately proven wrong but rather than feel demoralised I instead understood how important it is to be fully acquainted with such procedures. Being prepared was my first lesson on my trip.

Afterwards, while my guide mounted his horse and the pack horse trailed behind I found myself taking the horse by the tail, told I was to walk up. I was initially surprised, knowing the journey would be quite a hike. However, being at the ranch embedded in my mind this approach: there are no limits. I can keep challenging myself and only continue to grow. Limits were not an option. While we made our ascent up the mountain path I was stunned by the surrounding forest as the early afternoon sunlight pierced through the trees. This alongside the sounds of nearby rivers echoing and the wind whistling over the mountainside filled me with a sense of wonder and amazement. I was an experienced hiker prior to my time at the ranch but this itself was unlike anything I’d done before.

Throughout the hike my body began to ache but I kept going, determined not to accept limits. This however was merely a preview of the psychical, mental and spiritual trials I would face on my pack trip.

Brett Camp is a cozy cabin quite literally alone in the mountains. Made entirely of logs and located in the middle of nowhere, I was even more eager to begin my mountain adventure. This small cabin would be my home for the next few days and without any of the “contemporary” essentials such as Wi-Fi or electricity. That fact alone compelled me to dive straight in. This was going to be a unique experience that took me straight out of my comfort zone. This made it a worthy challenge indeed.

After unloading and staking the horses I found myself fascinated by the scenery for the second time that day. However, this was beyond what I had experienced mere moments before. I was treated with a fantastic view of the nearby mountains and forests below, the snow covering their peaks while the evening light began to fade away. I have seen many incredible views in my travels but this was truly marvellous. I was here in the mountains in a small log cabin gazing at mountains. This alone made me grateful to be here, to be allowed to have such an experience. But I knew at the time that views were not the only thing that would amaze me on this pack trip.

After a pleasant night’s sleep I awoke to prepare breakfast, illuminated only by the light of a gaslight. This combined with the fact I was cooking on a wood-burning stove made cooking breakfast an entirely different task. I was slightly unnerved at first, knowing how important breakfast would be and not wanting to ruin it. However, I worked with what I had and surprised myself. Breakfast was a success.

Once the guest was prepared to leave alongside ‘Chilcotin Holiday’s’ two guides, I knew that I would be alone soon. Yes, I was to remain at the cabin in the middle of nowhere alone for two entire days. My survival was well and truly in my hands. I was both terrified and excited by this prospect, this would be one of the biggest challenges of my life. I knew this trip was going to be a challenge but this was truly something. But nevertheless, I was ready for it and determined to embrace the challenge! This was the adventure I came to Canada for.

Left with a list of duties including collecting wood and maintaining the cabin, my peers departed and I was truly alone. I stood outside in the snow for a few moments after that and reflected on the reality of my circumstances. Not a sound could be heard. Pure silence was all there was. Thick snow lay in every direction as did the trees and hillsides. This was remarkable indeed. I was going to survive this and experience something that to me was amazing.

Over the first few hours I immediately set to completing my assigned tasks, knowing from my time at the ranch how important it was to do so. Once this was done I then went to collect water. The water for the Camp comes from the nearby river, itself running through a clearing. While walking to the river I was again taken aback by the scenery and the almost chilling silence. This was amazing indeed. After I collected the water, I returned to camp and found myself working to pass the time.

As time went on I interchanged between maintaining the cabin to exploring my surroundings. The air grew colder and the fire was dwindling. I was left instructions to ration the firewood so I knew I had to be cautious in how much wood I used. This also meant I was colder than I preferred to be, but again this was another challenge. This was not the modern and safe lifestyle I was accustomed to. This was a challenge and an adventure. I saw being cold as a way of knowing this: do something about it and work hard. This is what I was learning, that you make opportunities and it is all a matter of attitude. Taking my trusty knife and a bucket I found the dry spots underneath the trees and began to collect branches and twigs as firewood. I had to survive and that meant being resourceful. Challenge accepted and completed. By the evening as the daylight ebbed away I was warmer than I had been at midday. I had found a way and again passed by my limits.

For dinner, wishing to preserve the supplies for when the guests returned, I chose to instead opt for a simple cheese sandwich and granola bar. This may seem excessive and while not completely satisfying, it was all my body needed. Again, I was tested and had to adapt. Not even a whole day in and this experience was testing me in every aspect of my being. And I could not be more grateful for it. I saw that I was stronger than I knew and could genuinely feel a sense of pride as I grew as a person. Filled with this I retired for the night, slightly apprehensive but excited and far more confident about the next day.

The following day was a similar experience but that is not to dismiss it. On the contrary, it was an equally clarifying, fascinating and empowering experience. Completing my daily duties early again I left the cabin and ventured upwards by following the river. Snowfall during the night had deepened the snow and I was amazed at how deep it was. Being from the midlands of England it was far from anything I’d seen before. It was incredible but became insignificant compared to what I saw seconds later.

Once I came to my destination uphill I turned around and was left speechless and utterly awestruck. Beautiful does not even begin to describe the sight I was treated to. Before me was an array of mountains, their summits standing out clearly against the clear blue sky as clouds drifted over them. I found every detail of this snowy landscape a truly magnificent view. I was in an extraordinary place here at Brett Camp. I stood for what felt like hours entranced by the sight and felt an almost overwhelming sense of peace and awe. This was why I came to Canada. For adventure and to grow and develop as a person. Seeing this view, knowing I’d made it up here and was surviving this land confirmed to me I was right to come to Canada and Chilcotin Holidays.

Afterwards I again retired for the night after supper and survived the next day. But throughout my stay I did indeed feel a sense of loneliness and isolation, I was alone in the mountains after all. But rather than regret the experience, I was pleased to be there. This was an adventure and nothing would make me wish I had not done it.

When my colleagues and the guests returned we remained in the cabin for another night. The next day we finally departed the cabin and although I felt a sense of relief knowing I’d return to the ranch, I felt sad my adventure was seemingly over. How wrong I was. The return journey was no walk in the park. It was a tremendous challenge both physically and mentally for me, pushing me further in both fields than ever before.

Again I was to walk the trail and clung to the horse’s tail all the way along. Further snowfall had made the snow thicker and every step for me was a challenge. While the horses, their riders atop them, ploughed through the snow I trudged through it. Slipping many times either by accident or from the growing numbness in legs I often thought inside my head I was insane for coming here. For the first time this trip I wondered if I’d made the right choice coming up here. However, rather than cry out or give in I instead recalled everything I had learnt and experienced: There are no limits. I had to keep going because I would truly evolve as a person if I did, I would accomplish something special to me. Despite falling many more times I never stayed down, motivated to keep going by my companions. During the hike through fields, up and downhill, across rivers and along steep mountainside paths, I was never told “no you can’t”. Instead I was constantly told “yes you can.” This resonated in me and so I found myself accomplishing what I would have thought impossible for me mere months ago… I made it through the hike.

The descent down the mountain was amazing as I watched the wintery landscape transform into one much more suited to Autumn. At the base of the mountain and on the road again at last, I aided in packing away all the equipment and was soon in the back of a car returning to the ranch. My time and adventure in Brett Camp had come to an end.

I was so proud of myself, having made it back in such conditions and passing every test I came by. Despite the physical onslaught, the trek through snowfall and challenging environments, I had made it. It was true, there are no limits. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride. I had passed every challenge I came by and more. I had seen such incredible things and experienced things unlike anything I’d done before. But rather than jump for joy, not only because I was exhausted, I smiled to myself.

The people here at Chilcotin Holidays always encouraged me to grow and develop. Pushing me and never pulling. The result… I made it through the entire hike and became a mountain man. My lead guide told me my “mountain man name” was Grizz. This made me smile again. I never thought I’d be in such place.

My stay at the ranch has been a unique and powerful experience but the Brett Camp trip was the culmination of all I’d learnt here and more. Focus, conviction and determination, these are three words I live by and the ranch has truly allowed me to put them into practice. But Brett Camp and all it encompassed is what well and truly tested me in these three things and more. I am stronger and feel invincible, a result of never accepting limits and instead going onwards. I will take this lesson with me everywhere I go after the ranch. Brett Camp was an extraordinary experience and I encourage anyone who comes to the ranch to participate in a pack trip like my own.

It won’t be easy, safe, or simple, but it will undoubtedly be an adventure.

Your fellow mountain man,

Jacob, England

If you’re interested in a horse pack trip visit www.wildernesstrails.com for more information and other wilderness opportunities.