Siyeh-Pass, Blood, and Why I am Afraid of Heights, Part One

When we were kids, my parents took my sister and I hiking in the mountains. A lot. One of our favorite places to hike was the Canadian Rockies - Banff to be specific. I secretly hated hiking. OK, maybe it wasn't such a secret. I complained on most (ok, ALL) of the hikes. Sometimes I would just sit down and say I couldn't go any further. I would say "My little legs are TIRED!!!" Sometimes my parents even dragged us up the mountains in umbrella strollers. Yes, I think they were nuts too.

One summer, instead of going to the Canadian Rockies, we went to Glacier National Park, MT - which is really just the US side of the Canadian Rockies.

I remember my dad meeting up with some students of his who told them about this "really great hike".  This hike had only one small hitch. This was not an out and back trail - it was a PASS - through the mountains. You had to have transportation at the end unless you wanted to hike the trail a second time. They told us that they were leaving their car at the end of the trail and hitchhiking to the trail head. Keep in mind - this was the early 80s - hitchhiking was pretty common.

So what do we do? Hitchhike of course! My dad and sister dropped my mom and me off at the trail head. They they drove to the end of the trail, parked, and hitchhiked back. I remember being really angry that I wasn't allowed to be the one hitchhiking... Have I mentioned that my parents were slightly nuts? My sister and I were only about 7 and 9 at the time!

My family and my dad's students at Glacier - before the fall...

My family and my dad's students at Glacier - before the fall...

Anyway, once we are all at the trail head, we started out. It was a beautiful trail. We hiked for HOURS (I am pretty sure I complained the ENTIRE time). My dad and sister hiked together and my mom hung back with me. I remember my mom and I arriving at this incredibly beautiful spot. It was truly the most amazing view I have ever seen. My mom started shouting "WE'RE ON TOP OF THE WORLD!!!!" It was pretty awesome.

My dad and sister however, were further along on the trail than us. They were laughing at us - they had already started hiking up the steepest and hardest part of the trail - and we thought we were done.

They waited for my mom and I and we all hiked together. After a while, we came to this incredibly treacherous spot. The trail was about 3 feet wide. On one side was a wall of rock. On the other was the scariest cliff I had ever seen. EVER. One false step and you'd be dead. But we were fine.

When we got to the other side of the pass, there was a TON of snow. The trail was completely covered. We stood there for a while contemplating what to do. Turn around, hike back, and hitchhike to the car; or, slide down the snow patch like and keep going, like the other hikers were doing? Well, I'm sure you can imagine our decision. Yep. Let's SLIDE, on the snow of a MOUNTAIN, with HUGE CLIFFS! Sure - sounds like FUN!

My dad slid down first. My sister wanted to slide with him, she was pretty frightened, but he was adamant that he would go first to make sure it was safe. Then it was my sisters turn...

She prepared to slide. My dad was waiting for her at the bottom of the snow patch. She began sliding. Then she started tumbling. And tumbling. She smashed her head on two gigantic boulders. She almost slid off of a cliff but, but by some sort of miracle of speed and timing, my dad caught her just in time.

Panic ensued. My mom shoved me into her lap and we were down to my dad and sister in about .3 seconds. My sisters head was bleeding. A LOT. I remember trying to see what was going on, but my mom and dad made me go sit on a boulder nearby. I remember seeing my mom tear off her shirt to tie around my sisters head. My sister was not a happy camper.  Who would be after hitting two giant boulders with one's head and almost falling off a cliff?

Keep in mind, we were at the top of a friggin MOUNTAIN at this point. It's not like we could just get an ambulance. No one had cell phones in the 80s. We had to continue hiking. We hiked down to our car - it seemed to take forever, and we were all pretty scared.

When we finally arrived down at the car we started driving to the hospital - ANY hospital. We had to stop and ask where the nearest one was. As it turned out, the nearest one was in CANADA. So we drove to Canada.

When we got there, there was some kid who's arm was bleeding profusely - apparently he had shoved his arm through a window. It was pretty gruesome - and he screamed a lot. We had to wait a while for the Doctors to deal with this kid until they could help my sister. After what seemed like an eternity, my sisters head was stitched up. She was banged up and, to this day still has the scars (which kind of look like Harry Potter's), from the boulders... but she was OK.

Later on, we found out that the trail had actually be CLOSED due to snow cover. There weren't any signs posted or anything. We only found that out because we asked about it.

Many years later, my sister and I went back to this trail as adults. That's when the fear of heights comes into play... You can read about this in Part Two.