GOLDEN, BRITISH COLUMBIA — My toes perched on a two-inch wide ledge, my fingers clutched a small rock protrusion and my heart beat furiously. I was clinging to a cliff that fell vertically for more than a hundred feet onto a scrabble of moss-covered boulders. But I wasn’t frightened, for I was perfectly safe. Instead I was excited, enthralled by the majestic beauty in which I was immersed. I rested my cheek against the sandstone cliff. In the silence I could feel a connection with the mountain, could sense the mighty forces that created this vast mountain range. It was a spiritual moment.
I was climbing the Via Ferrata at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden in the Dogtooth Range, named for the area’s jagged peaks that bite into the sky, which forms part of British Columbia’s Purcell Range. Via Ferrata, you ask? The words are Italian for “iron road,” the use of emplaced rungs, footholds and, most importantly, a safety cable so amateurs like me can safely climb cliffs otherwise only scalable by experts. Via Ferratas are popular in Europe, but are a recent phenomenon in North America. This one, opened in 2015, is considered by experts to be the best in Canada, and its 2,450-metre (8,040 feet) elevation offers spectacular views, not to mention hair-raising adventure.