Larissa Arthur Honours Her Late Father with #OneHundredHikesForDad

Larissa Arthur Honours Her Late Father with #OneHundredHikesForDad

Mt Norquay’s Via Ferrata Marks Summit 87

When we invited Larissa Arthur to join us on the Via Ferrata on her journey to complete #onehundredhikesfordad, we weren’t quite sure what she would think of the experience. As someone who grew up in the mountains and now hikes, climbs, and ice climbs regularly, we couldn’t predict what this experience would deliver for her.

Larissa grew up in Calgary in a family that spent most of their free time exploring the Rocky Mountains. Her dad would pack her and her three younger sisters up and take them into the backcountry for days at a time with nothing more than a note marking a general area and an estimated date they’d return. Having often written these notes for her mother saying “we’re going to such and such lake, don’t know when we’ll be back, but don’t worry we have warm clothes” or missing a day of school because of a delayed trip back, Larissa was all too used to living on mountain time.

Her father, Ken Arthur, loved sharing moments in the wilderness with his four girls. To Larissa, “he was like Survivor Man. He lived for it and could live off of anything; we always felt so safe.” Like his trips with his daughters, Ken was accustomed with impromptu ventures into the mountains and often didn’t share his location with others before leaving.

In August of 2017, Ken went on a trip by himself to Turquoise Lake. Relatively unknown because of its long and difficult approach, Ken was determined to conquer the head wall. A missed step or slipping rock resulted in a fatal fall, for which Larissa feels she could have prevented had she chosen to go with him that day.

On her path to healing, she’s begun rediscovering the mountains her dad taught her to appreciate and has refuelled her love for this place.

“I don’t think you appreciate it when you’re a kid, you just want to spend time with your Dad. I don’t think I even equated it to loving the outdoors and the wilderness. Now I reflect on it, I think ‘wow, I loved that.’

There were times where our hiking boots were tied too tight, we were hungry, and sick of eating fish all the time, but you look back on it and cherish that stuff. I talk to my friends and none of them grew up that way,” reflects Larissa.

As she reconnects to the joy her father had for mountains, she set out with a goal of completing 100 hikes in his honour. As of today, she has completed hike number 87.

“I think he would be more stoked that I’m out. I started ice climbing and rock climbing, which has actually slowed down my hikes, but he’d be impressed.

Especially in contrast with where my life was when he died. I had just gone through a break up and I was miserable about it; I was drinking, not eating, I was a mess. It took a few months and I turned it around. I had to do something he would want me to do. All those times he asked me to go and I didn’t, I was going to make up for it,” says Larissa when she thinks about how her dad would feel about her ambitious undertaking.

Starting with smaller hikes, her focus quickly shifted to completing as many summits as possible and pushing her boundaries as a hiker and scrambler. Expanding to climbing and ice climbing has given her another challenge, and although she’s continually facing her fears, it makes her feel alive and connected to her father.

Mt Norquay’s Via Ferrata was no different. Neither a hike nor a climb, the cable-assisted route offered views that are rarely attained any other way.

On a hike or a climb, “you don’t get a chance to have that exposure because it’s not safe. Even multi-pitch rock climbs you’re not always going to get that traverse or even exposure. That’s what’s different about this. Even if you do tonnes of alpine stuff, you don’t get those views or to those spots on the mountain,“ says Larissa.

Having previously reached Mt Norquay’s summit without the use of the Via Ferrata, she appreciates how safe she felt knowing she was strapped in. Joined by another friend, they remarked how incredible experiences like these are because they get to share their love for the mountains with people who are less experienced. And, the more people who get to do things like this, the more people are willing to help them protect these places.

With ascent number 87 under her belt, she’ll continue to complete the 100 hikes and possibly even start 100 climbs. Since the beginning, she’s returned to Turquoise Lakes and completed the mentally and physically challenging scramble, where she placed a plaque to commemorate her father. Having taken an alternate descent route last time, she plans to go back again this summer and rappel down the face, where he fell.

“It’s really unfortunate that it took this for me to rediscover the mountains. I’m really glad he left me that gift. It’s changed my life completely, not to mention that I’ve met a whole new group of mountain people and an entire community I now have.

I’ve met some amazing people, like the climbers I’ve gotten to go out with. It’s changed everything. It all started with hiking to honour him. It’s crazy that it snowballed into that. I think he would be pretty happy to see what I’m doing now,” says Larissa as she beams with pride.

Follow along Larissa’s journey @sandylarissa. If you’re like her and want to get started on your mountain journey, check out the four Via Ferrata routes.

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