From where I’m hanging, on a sheer cliff face some 700 metres above the town of Banff, Alta., it’s clear that my scaling skills are about to be tested like never before.
Conquering Mount Norquay’s three-year-old via ferrata “is like climbing a series of ladders,” the ski resort’s website says. But I’m not scaling the brick walls of my Toronto semi here. Alongside an alpine guide and two other guests, I am making my way up and across 260 vertical metres of Rocky Mountain limestone – that’s half the height of the CN Tower – while tethered to a novice-friendly network of steel cables.
The first and only via ferrata in a Canadian national park is the centrepiece of Norquay’s revamped summer operations. These resumed in 2014 after a 25-year hiatus, with a double chairlift carrying sightseers, diners and climbers to the Cliffhouse Bistro, a Mad Men-era eatery with glorious panoramic windows, a menu of locally sourced cuisine and an avalanche-proof roof.
It may have been delicious, but my charcuterie platter is forgotten as soon as Memorial Slab looms into view. After our thirtysomething guide, Erica Roles, delivers a short tutorial on the carabiner-equipped “leashes” tethering us to the via ferrata – that’s “iron road” in Italian – we trek around the Cliffhouse and apply our new skills to the first of three cliff faces on the four-hour Ridgewalker Route.
“If you’ve made it this far, you know you can do this,” Roles says as I step onto a rocky outcrop on the far side of the precipice…
Read the rest of the story in The Globe and Mail.
WHERE TO STAY
With its full-service Grotto Spa and locally-sourced Evergreen Restaurant – both of which can be enjoyed for free with enough Marriott Rewards points – the luxurious Delta Hotels Banff Royal Canadian Lodge is the ideal place to ease tired muscles and refuel after an afternoon of via ferrata-ing.