You never know the impact something will have on you until you’ve sat with it for a while. When I decided that I wanted to be the youngest person to summit Canada’s tallest mountain, I didn’t know what to expect, or what it meant. I wanted to be challenged and I knew that having a dream would motivate me. I had no clue how much effort would go into just one training trip, or how many hours I would need to practice avalanche and crevasse rescue. But I also didn’t know how much passion someone could have for something.
As I began to learn about mountaineering, I began to love it. Every trip I took with my ACMG mountain guide father, I learned something new – how to prevent and treat blisters, what worked for me, that you can sunburn the inside of your nose, tongue and eyes. Beginning to learn and understand the fundamentals of mountaineering also taught me so much about myself; I know that to make myself happy and clear my mind, I need the mountains. I know I can set my mind to accomplishing something others might call insane and do it, and that is so encouraging. Training to climb Mount Logan set me out on so many incredible adventures that I wouldn’t have done if I weren’t preparing for it.
As my departure for the Yukon grew closer, I became more and more nervous, but more and more excited. And, most importantly, I felt more and more supported. I was being cheered on by my family, friends, friends of friends, total strangers and amazing companies like MEC, Peak Performance, Nomad Nutrition and Mountain Berry Landscaping. Without the people that inspired and helped me, I never would have seen Mount Logan.
On the flight to basecamp, I was so grateful to be where I was. Just seeing Mount Logan was incredible. The size of it is incomparable to any of the mountains I’ve seen before. Landing on the Quintino Sella Glacier, I was so ready to start moving up this beast of a mountain.
With each day in Kluane National Park and Reserve, I was pushed further and further. The days became harder as the nights became colder. For most of the trip, every step uphill was an elevation record for me. The effects of altitude – headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, shortness of breath and overall tiredness – were new to me, but almost everyone experiences it. Most of our camps brought on some altitude sickness, but that was overshadowed by the joy I felt in making it that much further up the mountain.
Every step I took was bringing me closer to realizing my dream. As the climbs between camps grew steadily harder, the views became more rewarding. We had views of the slanting King Peak (Canada’s fourth-highest mountain), an incredible mass that made us feel so small. The sight of Mount Saint Elias, however, was by far the most astonishing of the expedition. Gazing out and seeing nothing but snow, ice and rock was fascinating. We were truly in the middle of nowhere, although this had all been the centre of my thoughts for so long.
I’d thought about Mount Logan every day for two years. I had imagined the route and camps countless times, and memorized maps of the mountain. I thought about the view from the top so much it took away from my GPA. When the time came to actually live out the month I’d spent so long preparing for, it was crazy. I couldn’t believe where I was most of the time. I couldn’t comprehend that I was living my dream or that it wasn’t a dream anymore, it was my reality.
Standing on top of Canada is possibly the hardest moment of my life to describe. I was in such awe and disbelief of where I was, I couldn’t grasp that I wasn’t asleep or just imagining it. I was the highest person in Canada and the youngest person to have ever been there. I was, in that moment, who I had been aspiring to be for 25 months.
After I summited, I didn’t have the sense of completion I had expected. I was still just a girl who wanted to spend as much time as possible in the mountains. Having completed my goal didn’t mean I was finished; it wasn’t just another thing to tick off a list and then move on from, it was something to build on. Our expedition in the Saint Elias range cemented my need for and love of mountaineering.
In the time that has passed since I left the Yukon, I’ve thought about the mountains a lot. I have yearned for the calmness of the ice and the sense of peace in my soul. I have craved the views of surrounding peaks, and looking back to see how far I’ve climbed. I know having goals will push me to become a better mountaineer and a better person, and I get why it seems inspiring. Yet, being able to fully enjoy the company of rock and snow is something much deeper than being the youngest, first or fastest to accomplish something. I know now that I prefer the roaring wind at the top of a peak over four walls and a roof. And I know that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from the mountains if I tried.
Photos by Rich Prohaska.
On May 24, 2017, at the age of 15, Naomi Prohaska became the youngest person to summit Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain. MEC was proud to support Naomi with an expedition grant as well as outfit her with ski boots, the Exped Downmat sleeping pad, Ferrosi climbing pants, hut booties and an MEC Outpost Duffle for her record-setting climb. Way to go Naomi!