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Travis Smutt

AKA The Pink Sunnies | 

Hey fellow adventure hounds!  The fella’s at Muntanji asked if I would be willing to come up with something for their website.  Obviously I said YES!  So I'm no Earnest Hemingway and I have never claimed to have a skill in the forming of sentences.  Just ask my high school English teacher… she almost failed me!!  What I lack in grammatical correctness and the ability to put words together to make things sound awesome, I make up for in passion for the wild back country.

So let's start off with a little about who I am.  My name is Travis Smutt, otherwise known as “SMUTTY” by my friends.  I know what your thinking, no I did not earn that nick name.  So lets go back to the beginning, to a place called Kamsack, Saskatchewan.  That’s where I was born and raised shooting B ball outside of the school….. hahah just kidding, I'm no Fresh Prince.  I am a farm kid that grew up amongst grain fields, on the flattest landscape you can imagine.  Even from a young age, I knew I needed to be in the mountains.  My aunt can remember me saying as a young boy, “one day I will live in the mountains.”  Well now when I look out my bedroom window, I see the Canadian Rockies.  Fast forward a bunch of years,  by trade I am a professional Firefighter/Paramedic.  This has paid my bills for the last 15yrs and I absolutely love what I do and I wouldn’t do anything else. Like most Firefighters out there, we have second jobs and what not but fire is my passion, the only thing I love more is the mountains.   For me the mountain’s are my GYM, my CHURCH, they are where I find comfort and peace.  Ironically, it’s where I push myself to my limits, it’s where I find my edge, the place where I feel fear, it’s the place that I ultimately find myself. 

So my goal for 2019 was to have as many adventures as possible.  I ended and started the year off by myself on top of a mountain on Dec 31/2018 in -30 Celsius, in a 3 season tent with a -17C sleeping bag.  So yes I was terribly uncomfortable!  I told myself that this year I was going to summit as many mountains as I could.  So far I have gained the summit of roughly 20 or so Mountains this season.  That might sound like a lot, but in my circle of influence that’s not  by any stretch.  There is one summit that stands out from the rest.  This mountain is called Mount Fox, which stands 9,754 ft tall and is located on the Continental Divide that straddles the boarder of Alberta and British Columbia in the Canadian Rockies.

Mount Fox is rated as a difficult scramble for it has 500 meters of continuous scrambling.  It isn’t the angles, the exposure or the level of climbing technicality that make Fox difficult,

It’s the unstable terrain and route length. It’s fairly simple to negotiate, but it is weak and fractured rock that crumbles on the way up, which makes coming down a real treat!  You need TLC when down climbing this beast.  You don’t simply scooch or half ass climb your way down Fox, you carefully lower yourself from hold to hold with finesse. Even at a painfully slow pace you unintentionally and unavoidably shower anyone descending below you with rocks that splash out from shitty holds over and over. 

How to begin this epic adventure!  Well let’s start off with Instagram, the dude I was scrambling with was unknown to me, which is a risk on his part and a risk on my part.  I didn’t know his skill level and he didn’t know mine, but thankfully this ended up being one of my most trusted mountain buddies.  The day we decided to climb fox we both checked weather reports and it didn’t show anything that was supposed pose any real concern.  Sky showed up at my house and we hopped into my X and made our way to the trail head.  It’s about a hour or so drive to get to the trail head.  I was sure glad that Sky didn’t turn out to be cray, this was the first time I had met him.  Yeah I know it might have been a risky move to venture out into the back country and tackle a dicey summit with someone you don’t know but we did and it turned out to be a day I will never forget! So the total length of the route is 17.4 km return trip.  We slogged away all the way up to Hidden lake which we passed through areas that grizzly bears frequent, when hiking out here in the Rockies.

It’s advised to always carry bear spray and be in at least a group of two.  Once at the lake, that’s when all the real fun started (we call it type 2 fun, the kind of fun that’s only fun once you look back on it.  In the moment you question your sanity, you swear at God and ask yourself what neurones in your brain are not working to think this is fun!) From the lake to the summit is the 500 meters of shitty loose rock.  So Sky and I grind away making our way up the spine that ends at the summit.  As we ascended we would stop to take in the views around us because well they are pretty frigging sweet out there.  After working through some of the more technical parts of the climb we finally summited.  My legs had started to get very pissed and were not a big fan of the amount of work I was demanding of them.  On the way up we had noticed some clouds that looked like they held some bad weather but they had passed pretty quickly.  Now looking back that might have been an omen for what was about to hit us. 

We finished our the food we brought which sky brought apples, a bag of apples, who brings a bag of apples on a big ass scramble!  Now I would not recommend dragging around 4 lbs bag of apples on a big day! choose something that is calorie dense that can supply your body with the fuel it needs.  So we finish up our food  I brought extra and gave some to Sky so that he would have more than just some bloody apples.  We finish up and start to explore a ridge that looks like it might link up another peak that looked GARLY AF on the opposite side of us. so we made it as far as we could. From here we turned to look back at some of the views and see were we had left our gear.  In the back round, back behind a mountain range we could see some nasty looking clouds that where moving in hot and heavy and looked like they where bringing some shit.  So we needed to make up some distance and get off this summit.  Being the tallest thing around and being an extremely good conductor of electricity are not things you want to be when a big storm rolls in.  Now it’s a race between us and the storm, Sky was making good time, I was not.  My legs were not working with me, I was swearing at them and they in turn would hammer me with massive waves of muscle spasms that would contract my quads so hard I couldn’t bend my knee.  I had covered about half the distance I needed to have covered by the time the savage winds rolled in.  The winds were strong enough that I didn’t want to be near the edge because it was strong enough to disrupt my balance.

I finally made it to Sky my legs screaming for a break and me screaming at them to get moving.  At this point the thunder was getting stronger, you could literally feel it in your chest. The temperature was dropping rapidly.  It started raining then turned to a mix of sleet and rain and hail, making it difficult to move our way along the spine.  we moved as fast as we could safely, Sky started yelling back to me.  I picked up my pace to hear what he was yelling, he was asking me if I could hear buzzing.  I moved about 5 more meters forward and all the metal on me started buzzing, all the hairs on my body started standing on end.  We had walked into the storms electrical field.  Now this is an extremely dangerous place to be.  when your hair stands up, that’s bad! when the metal starts buzzing you are in extreme and immanent danger of getting struck by lightning.  Sky had his hiking poles on his backpack sticking straight up just begging to get touched by Zeus's lightweight bolts..  Sky was basically a walking lightning rod, i yelled at him to ditch his poles.  So Sky peels off his bag and ditched those poles over the edge of the cliff.  I knew what we were in and that we were in trouble.  It wasn’t until later when I read more on what we experienced and how extremely dangerous it was.  So with thunder booming around us rain and hail and sleet falling. Temps so cold that your hands went numb, scrambling requires the use of your hands to get up and get down.  So racing down shitty rock is dangerous enough now add rain and sleet and numb fingers.  If we slipped once there was no coming back, at least not upright, there was absolutely zero room for even one error.

The spine in spots is too narrow for 2 people to be side by side.  So as one moved as fast as they could through the down climb the other would wait and try to find shelter from the elements.  We moved like this for about 100 meters till the terrain wasn’t so technical.  The rain subsided and the clouds moved on just as fast as they came in.  We stood there over looking the valley below us and right in front of us a double rainbow formed.  We both looked at each other and we knew in that moment that we were extremely lucky to walk out of that one, in that moment our friendship was cemented in for a life time.  I later found out that the storm system that caught us off guard struck 3 people with lightning that day all of whom were on mountains!  It was a miracle that we didn’t get our asses fried.

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