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© Hana Brunner

BANFF, CANADIAN ROCKIES 2013-2015

In 2013, when I was 22 years old, I packed my bags and moved to Canada solo. I had fallen in love with a snow town in the middle of the Canadian Rockies called Banff. After spending some time in Vancouver, I got on a 16 hour bus and moved to Banff with hardly any money and no job lined up. Fortunately I found a job and started my life in the snowy mountains. This is exactly where my love for mountains began.

I spent 2 years living the mountain life, spending most of my time hanging out with new friends, snowboarding, hiking and falling in love with nature, and most of all, myself. I was lucky enough to summit many beautiful mountains in Canada but below are a few of my favourite hikes.

VOLCANO ACATENANGO, GUATEMALA 3,976m

In January 2016, my cousin and I spent 2 months backpacking through Central America with no set travel plans, we went with the flow and found ourselves in Antigua, Guatemala where we hiked up Volcano Acatenango with a local guide. I had been bed ridden sick for 7 days but still opted for the challenge as I didn't want to miss out. It was to this day one of the hardest hikes I have ever done, as we were hiking vertical majority of the day to reach our base camp. I was unwell once reaching the base camp and decided to go to sleep whilst the others stayed up around the camp fire talking and some even having an alcoholic beverage. 

In the morning we were woken by our guide and set off for the summit. This push was quite hard, especially as I was still fighting a chest infection. After the sun started rising we could see the summit, I told my cousin to go ahead as I didn't want to hold her back and miss the sunrise. Surprisingly I ended up getting to the top shortly after her and we got to experience the sunrise together.

MT SINAI, EGYPT 2,285m

In August 2016, I went to explore Egypt which also lead to hiking Mt Sinai whilst on my way to Dahab to scuba dive the famous Red Sea. We spent a few hours in the dark with our head torches on to approach the summit to watch the sunrise. The views were breathtaking and the walk down seeing camels and mountains was one that can never be forgotten.

MT KILIMANJARO, AFRICA 5,895m

In August/September 2016, I joined the G Adventures team to attempt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which is one of the Seven Summits. Brandon had always dreamt of attempting the Seven Summits which is how Kilimanjaro quickly became our first high altitude trek together. We chose the machame route as it is known to be more scenic and we also opted for the 6 day climb instead of the 7 day to challenge ourselves. On September 1st, we stood on the roof of Africa at 5,895m altitude after 5 days of uphill trekking and sleeping in a tent with no showers. Mt Kilimanjaro was challenging in more ways than one, there were numerous people suffering from altitude sickness and being rushed down the mountain on oxygen tanks which put the fear into me and reminded me that altitude is no joke. I was so happy to reach the summit and burst into tears on Brandon's shoulder. The final push from Stella Point 5,685m to the summit was extremely hard, I was fatigued and walking slower than I have ever walked before due to the altitude, but all that pain disappeared the minute I could touch the sign. This is the climb that then put the remaining of the Seven Summits on my radar too.

MT ELBRUS, RUSSIA 5,642m

In June 2018, we set off to Russia for the FIFA World Cup and to attempt Mt Elbrus in Russia; the highest mountain in Europe making it also one of the Seven Summits. We were lucky enough to have one of the few female guides in the Caucasus mountains, Dasha from SnowRush take us up the mountain. After 3 acclimatisation climbs, we spent our rest day ice arrest training for our summit push, which began at midnight that evening. After a disturbed nervous sleep, we set off for the summit. Unfortunately the day before my knee had been playing up which began to effect me on our summit push. We spent hours hiking up in the dark wearing our crampons until I reached 5,100m and broke down crying as I was going so slow and Dasha had told us that we wouldn't reach the summit at a safe turn around time moving at my pace. This completely broke me. I sat there miserable and crying to myself feeling completely defeated, even more so for Brandon as he was so strong and would have been able to nail the summit without me. Thankfully it was only us on our trek with Dasha, which gave us the opportunity to stay another night on the mountain and go for the summit again!!! I knew it was going to be hard but I am not a quitter. I hobbled down the mountain and took my boots off to find blisters on both of my shins which had been bleeding in my boots as well as a swollen knee. I rested for the afternoon and got up again for a second back to back summit push. I felt stronger than ever before, my determination got me to the top. I made it to the summit before some people on their first push! I burst into tears on the summit and hugged and cried all over Brandon and Dasha. This was the hardest climb I had ever done and reminded me that climbing mountains isn't always pretty, doesn't always go to plan and can completely break you.

LAUGAVEGUR TRAIL, ICELAND

In July 2018, I was lucky enough to travel to the land of fire and ice and trek across one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. This trek took a total of 5 days which included walking all day and spending the evening sleeping in a tent with no showers, unfortunately this was done after summiting Mt Elbrus and I still couldn't walk properly; therefore I spent these 5 days hobbling at the back of the pack and having to borrow a fellow hikers spare knee brace. It was the most beautiful trek I have ever done and would do it all over again in a heart beat. Our second day hiking to Lake Alftavatn was tough, there were such high winds my backpack was getting lifted off my back and I also got blown over right before approaching a crevasse; the joys of weighing a whopping 52kgs hey?! Everyone needs this trek on their list!