Altitude Training in the Downton

The idea was to get into high altitude for Kilimanjaro training and Ryan’s been wanting to take me here for a little while. Aside from a trip or two in the Shulaps, I haven’t spent much time in areas quite like this – lack of vegetation, exposed rock, beautiful ridge walks, and the backcountry in general. Knowing this is one of Ryan’s favourite areas, I expected a lot in terms of terrain and views and I was surprised to see he somewhat understated the area. The views were absolutely breathtaking!

We headed up the Duffey on a Friday night and car-camped at a rec site close to the Downton Creek turn off. The next morning, time flew and we had a later than anticipated start. It was my first time eating freeze-dried food, bacon & eggs, and it really wasn’t that bad. We packed up and headed up the Downton Creek FSR. We parked close to the turn off for our trail and had no problem getting here in terms of road conditions. We started hiking at ~1500m elevation and I didn’t feel much in terms of altitude (keep in mind, I haven’t done very much in high altitude and I thought I might feel the difference at ~1500m).

Early on there were a few creek crossings that were a little tricky for me so we opted to bushwhack in order to avoid the last 1 or 2. We left our snowshoes in the truck, assuming they weren’t needed. We spent a short stretch post-holing and it was well worth not carrying the shoes. We followed the road to it’s end and continued on an ATV track. We eventually peeled off from the track and made our own way up, gaining elevation quickly. By now I felt myself slowing down a bit to catch my breath now and then.

We continued to gain elevation quickly and I gradually felt the effects of altitude, mostly shortness of breath and muscles tightening up quickly. When we first stopped to check my blood sugars, I was surprised with a reading of 3.7mmol. This is generally low for my liking when I’m on a hike and I was alarmed at my lack of sensitivity – normally I can feel a drop that low. I loaded up on shotbloks, gave it a few minutes, and we continued on. It was interesting to see how altitude affects me. As we hit our turn around point, we stopped for an extended picture break.



A look back at the ridge:

In total, we gained a over 1000m, topping out at over 2500m. When I set out to hike Kilimanjaro next month, our first day will consist of starting at an elevation of 1800m and hiking to 2400m. I’m glad to have made it out here to similarly experience day 1 of 7 :).

Google Earth views:

We made our way back and stayed in the area one more night, hoping to explore Blowdown the next day. We drove back to a different rec site for car-camping. I brushed up on my survival skills and worked on starting a fire (idea was to apply what I’ve learned in the Ground Search & Rescue course):

The next day, we packed up and made our way to Blowdown FSR. Not much to say because we hit an avalanche blockage between 6 and 7km. To avoid a long and possibly uneventful day, we checked out the avalanche chute and headed back out.


While we were poking around the avy chute, Ryan came across a set of tracks. They’re definitely bear, possibly grizzly?


All in all, we had an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to get out this Summer to explore more of the area. I feel more confident about Kili and I’m almost ready to make the physical and mental push to the top.

16 more days!!

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