Team name: Climb Coast 2 Coast
Team Climb Coast 2 Coast is a team of four mountaineers starting in Ohio, heading up to easternmost point of North America, then north to Labrador, followed by crossing Canada westward until they reach Pacific Rim National Park.
Gear that got them through
Overland in Canada, By Lizzie Mosier
Rewind back to Spring Semester, I was working and living in Denver, Colorado when Gary called me from Ohio and pitched a crazy idea: drive all of Canada, coast to coast, in his old weathered Jeep Cherokee. While most people would write this off as an impossible feat, I knew this could be an awesome adventure. Most of my friends, knowing the shenanigans I partake in, were not so convinced. After filming a few video clips on my lunch breaks, helping plot an intended route, and acknowledging this was all dependent on plans of a completely re-built “rig”, we were picked as one of the Tepui Endless Adventure teams. The team would be as follows: me (Lizzie) (a turbulent mountaineer and future engineer), Gary (a highpointer and car-obsessed fool), Katie (a government nark and sport climbing queen), and Josh (a photographer who cannot be properly defined because he literally does everything).
Gary knew as soon as he gave me the prompt “Climb Coast 2 Coast”, the wheels in my head would start turning. Naturally, I was given the duty of creating the itinerary. Josh, as a developing photographer and videographer, was put in charge of all our content. Gary would be in charge of everything involving the Jeep and keeping contact with our sponsors. Katie was in charge of planning our food and gathering our shared gear for the trip. Splitting up the duties enabled us to each focus in on part of the trip, in full detail.
The original route involved 12,000 miles of driving, 4-5 weeks on the road, and 6-7+ hours of driving every day in Gary’s rig. Initial route planning involved getting every possible provincial highpoint, camping at some epic locations, and exploring everything Canada has to offer. We would have hit all of the lower provinces, and Katie and I would have skipped two weeks of school. However, the closer we got to our departure date, the more delays we encountered with good ole’ ‘Smokey the XJ’ (Gary’s beloved rig). In addition, Josh’s car was broken into 2 days before departing and his backpack was stolen. Including his laptop, and arguably more important for this trip, his passport. We had to delay our trip by 5 days to finish the build of Smokey, and to figure out how to smuggle Josh into Canada (thankfully, if you have your birth certificate, SSN, and call ahead of time, you do not need to be smuggled into Canada).
With limited time, I realized we needed to change our entire itinerary. The route would have to change to make up for the week lost. So, I went with my gut, and cut out the entire east of Canada, and our first stop would be Glacier NP of the United States. We would still drive 7,500 miles, and we would still be on the road for nearly a month. Plus, we would get to focus more on our most desired destinations and still get back in time for work and school.
Our first stop on the itinerary was Glacier National Park of the United States. With good ole’ Smokey carrying 4 people and a huge payload meant our maximum comfortable speed was 65 mph (or 70+ mph if you don’t mind using all the gas), it took us 2 days to travel from Cincinnati to Montana. Google maps apparently assumes you’ll go around 200mph in Montana, which, thinking about it, makes perfect sense. On the way, Josh convinced Katie and I to buy serapes (think southwest blanket that doubles as everything around camp), we visited multiple ghost towns, and we literally burned cash at every gas station (Jeep Life problems). In Glacier, we hiked both the Grinnell Glacier Trail and the Highline Trail. One of the highlights? Waking up overlooking a rushing river from our the vantage point of our Tepui Kukenam tent both nights! Two days in Glacier meant 27 miles of hiking, 1 grizzly bear, 2 moose, and one of the largest glaciers in the United States.
Our second stop on the itinerary was Banff National Park in Canada. After crossing the US/Canada border (and somehow getting Josh through without a passport), we immediately headed to the closest Tim Hortons. This Tim Hortons would power us through 3 days in the Canadian Rockies, where we took on Cory Pass, Cascade Mountain (must do for the adventurous!), the Plain of Six Glaciers Loop, Moraine Lake Rockpile, and the heavily trafficked Lake Louise (go early or late to avoid the crowds!). Only the questionable nutrition from the mighty Canadian fast-food giant could sustain us through 40 miles of hiking, 4 lakes worth of swimming, a mountain summit, and admitting that we desperately needed a shower.
Our third stop on the itinerary was Jasper National Park in Canada. After our first, and only, shower, we knew we needed to get as dirty as possible to maintain our dirtbag status. In Jasper, we hiked both Sulfur Skyline Trail and Bald Hills Trail. The drive from Banff to Jasper was an unexpected highlight and incredibly beautiful and filled with wild vistas I imagine would impress and amaze during every season just like they did for us in late summer. 2 days in Jasper meant 15 miles of hiking, endless false-summits, 1 real summit, 1 grizzly bear, 1 black bear, and a family of cute mountain goats.
Our fourth stop on the itinerary was Mt. Robson Provincial Park in Canada. Our plan was simply to look at Mt. Robson, in both pure terror and awe. As an amateur mountaineer, I cannot imagine anything closer to looking at the face of God himself, then looking at this hunk of rock, snow, and ice. While its elevation, at a little over 13,000 ft., is dwarfed by Colorado’s 14’ers, its’ prominence is over 10,000 ft., giving this mountain the coveted title of the most prominent peak in the Rocky Mountains! To get more angles of this beautiful yet horrifying mountain, we hiked 9 miles of the Berg Lake Trail, confirming that none of us have the skill just yet to complete this climb. Post hike we broke out our Primus stove and cookware to make Cincinnati Chili 3-ways. Spaghetti noodles, covered in a thin chili, topped in cheddar cheese. I promise it tastes like home even if you’ve never been to Cincinnati! Currently Josh and I are planning our climb of Mt. Robson for 2020. Pray for us.
Our fifth stop (and final for Katie and I), was Vancouver, Canada. I must admit, Vancouver was one of the coolest cities I have ever experienced. Here we hiked almost 5 miles downtown, across a towering bridge, through a beautiful city park and visited 3 bars (where we ordered poutine, of course), including one owned by the former King of Iran’s bodyguard. While the 3 of us explored Gary stayed back to do Jeep maintenance and troubleshoot a new, pesky ringing noise that threatened to sideline our rig. Ultimately Katie and I rolled into the airport sometime after midnight, and slept on airport benches, clutching Tim Hortons and our serape blankets for warmth. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that bad but far cry from the cozy oasis of our roof top Tepui.
Once Katie and I left Canada, Josh and Gary wandered aimlessly for a few thousand miles eventually finding their way back Cincinnati… Just kidding, they hopped a huge ferry bound for Vancouver Island and our original western-most destination of Pacific Rim National Park. (Expect to pay an extra $20 fee if your rig is over 7’ tall!) After driving off the ship into Victoria the trip slowed down to an island lifestyle pace, even if Canada is far from the Florida Keys. They met with another Jeep enthusiast, met through Instagram months earlier who saved the day on one of two unexpected repairs that would’ve kept our team from reaching our end goal of the Pacific Ocean. Ultimately Josh and Gary reached the Pacific Ocean at PRNP, overcoming hurdles detailed in Gary’s adjacent story. They explored the beach on foot and shared travel stories with a Dutch couple who were on a year long trip in their Renault van. A few days later a smaller and shorter ferry ride direct to the Washington State from Victoria carried the rig back to American soil for a journey to Cape Flattery (the western-most point of the contiguous US), Seattle, and the awe inspiring; other-worldly landscape of the Alvord Desert in Oregon. After surviving the washboard roads of arid Oregon and a detour through Utah to visit another Jeep Cherokee enthusiast the other half of our team returned to Ohio where we unloaded our gear from this mobile campsite on wheels we called home for nearly a month.
Overall, my favorite places were Grinnell Glacier in Glacier NP, Cascade Mountain in Banff NP, the small parking lot beside the old firehouse in Jasper where we cooked dinners, the Persian Tea House in Vancouver, the summit of Mt. Robson that I will only ever experience in my dreams, and Tim Hortons.
Recreate our Adventure
For those who want to go on a trip like this: before you go, there are some things to think about.
First, the vehicle (or as Overlanders say: The Rig). Make sure to pack your rig a few days before departure (just don’t fill the cooler yet!). You want to be as organized as possible, so you don’t have to worry about over or under packing. If you question if you’ll use it, it’s probably better left at home. Less is more in most cases. Also, it’s helpful to remember your rigs fuel usage will increase with a full load of gear, people, and tent. With fuel, remember that Canada is not America, and their gas prices will make little sense unless you’re great with the metric system, and the price of fuel can be 20-40% more expensive than in the US.
Second, coordination. We each were assigned different parts of preparing for the trip. Gary tackled building the vehicle, and overall trip framework. Myself the detailed itinerary. Josh, photographer and content creator, and finally Katie as meal planner. This was great, though in hindsight we didn’t coordinate as well as we could’ve.
Katie, Josh, and I didn’t pay enough attention to the details and should’ve talked with Gary about the expectations. As we discovered on the trip, allowing time to capture memories and the itinerary really go hand-in-hand, which Josh and I should’ve discussed more before the trip. If I knew better Josh’s creative vision, and what he needed I could’ve created a more flexible itinerary that gave time for creative work. My mistake! In addition, Gary had places in mind for camping, and as someone who had never overlanded, more knowledge would’ve been handy when locating sustainable overland campsites. In addition, we didn’t really check in how Katie’s meal planning and gear gathering was going. When I arrived in Cincinnati, we were missing gear, and food hadn’t been purchased yet. Helping with grocery shopping and chasing gear made for quite a challenge while tweaking the itinerary last minute. Looking back, being spread across the country added an extra logistical challenge, in the future we’d plan to video conference with each other in the months leading up, even if it was just to check how everyone else was doing. If you plan a trip like this, you truly are a team, and you have to coordinate like a team.
Lastly, outdoor, and even indoor, safety. I cannot express how important it is to be prepared for unsafe circumstances. I don’t just mean bears (although I’m definitely including bears). Rowdy teenagers clubbing in Banff, drastically changing mountain weather, sketchy gas stations in central Montana, people wandering outside the casino you’re camped at, wildlife on the trail and beside your Kukenam tent (although, thankfully a bear would have a tough time climbing into our Tepui tent), and Tim Horton’s limited menu after 9PM. It is all terrifying stuff. Expect to have limited cell service, so arm yourself with bear spray, knife, bear canister, and an extra donut or two. But in all seriousness, research the area you’re going to, and take the necessary steps to keep yourself, and your team, safe. Always bring a paper topographical map as backup to electronic ones and give loved ones a copy of your itinerary for the week (or month in our case) so they have a good idea where you’ll be.
Equip for the Trail
Gear. Sweet, sweet gear. Whelp, you have your route, your team is ready to go, you are officially terrified. What now?
First, you need a rig. I hope you already have that. If not, all you have to do is pour double the amount of your student loans into a vehicle that may or may not consistently betray you. BUT, this vehicle will also make you look like a total badass! Imagine, you pull up to the typical trailhead lot, filled with compact 2WD cars, flip on your off-road lights and drive up mountain goat like terrain to find yourself at the 4WD trailhead with your fellow badasses. You wave hello to a 4Runner before jumping out of your rig and stretching, flashing your sick vintage Jeep keychain. Nothing is more satisfying than everyone knowing you only shower once a week.
Second, you need a tent. Because your rig is so sick, you need a tent that goes with it, and is equally as durable. Gary decided to buy a Tepui Kukenam XL. This tent sleeps 4, is very durable, and has the perfect amount of space to play euchre for 8 hours straight. We also opted for a Tepui Double Boot Bag, so we can store our sandals/boots away from animals and rain while keeping them out of the tent. This is extremely nice when it is 0 degrees you don’t want your bare feet assaulted by the ground. The last tent item we bought was a Tepui Annex, a room that attaches beneath the overhanging side of our tent. This was essential, as we were traveling in the summer and didn’t want to be eaten alive by bugs.
Third, you need your general hiking and living gear. We had trekking poles, Micro-spikes, day packs, water storage for 4+ liters per person, trail snacks, camp food, cooking gear for both backpacking and overland camp, 3-4 changes of clothes, layering for cold hikes, hiking boots, sandals, and sleeping bags. We also brought med kits, sunscreen, and other necessities.
There you have it. Route, gear, intense Overland rig (if only slightly excessive looking), (un)healthy food, and the wide-open road ahead. Goodluck and have a wonderful time duplicating our crazy, memorable, marathon of a trip. Remember, all you really need is a knife, Tim Hortons, and a Tepui tent.