HIKING IN THE MAGNIFICENT CANADIAN ROCKIES

- 2011 - 

JULY 11-15
WATERTON, AB
We stayed at: Dungarvan Creek B&B (Cottage)
* Lodgings in Waterton Lakes National Park

Description

From Calgary, we drove to the Dungarvan B&B via the #2 highway.
Nanton, a little town on the way, has a very interesting little aviation museum: "NANTON LANCASTER SOCIETY AIR MUSEUM"

Waterton Lakes National Park adjoins National Glacier National Park (USA) to the south and together they form Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

For thousands of years this was primarily the territory of the Aboriginal tribes of the Kootnai and Blackfoot. Thomas Blakiston was the first European on record to explore the area back in 1858 and he named the lakes for Charles Waterton, an XVIII century English naturalist.

This past winter and spring, many areas where the Canadian Parks are situated, received more than double the normal accumulation of snow, and lots of rain in the early part of summer.
At the time of our visit, some trails were not reccomended by Parks Canada due to lingering snow accumulation on higher elevation with the possibility of avalanches (e.g., and Carthew-Alderson trails, Lineham Ridge).

CARRY ON

Trails we Hiked While in Waterton

July 11-15
  • TIME: 2 hr 30' return.
  • DISTANCE: 9 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +75 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,337 m.
NOTES:
In the morning we took the first "INTERNATIONAL" boat ride (just short of 1 hr.) to Goat Haunt, situated at the south end of Waterton lake and hike from there.
This end of the lake is in the USA, threfore if you intend to hike in the area you will need a passport.

The american border guards will require one, and will stamp it, before allowing you to wonder any further than the lakeshore.

Very easy hike that allows you to catch the 14:30 boat back to Waterton Lake Village.
The area around the lake is normally a great place to see moose.

Temperatures:   a.m. 140 C / p.m. 220 C
  • TIME: 6 hr return ( 2 hr 50' to lake)
  • DISTANCE: 14.4 Km. return (Red Rock Parkway).
  • ELEVATION: +530 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,025 m.
NOTES:
The first 4.6 kilometers along the Snowshoe trail are rather easy. Then at the junction the trail to Goat Lake climbs steadily, with a few switchbacks, and gains 455 meters in the remaining 2.4 km.

We had to cross four creeks, 2 easily crossed and the other 2 not so easily, and a snow packed gulley with a rather long (100 meters or so) and steep incline and a meter drop off lip at the other end.

The hiking poles were very helpuf in the crossing while kicking in little notches with my boots.
Once we entered the wooded cirque area, there were a few more snow patches and lots of running water, but here the terrain is basically almost all level.

Temperatures:   a.m. 120 C / p.m. 220 C

As a matter of facts ...

1) On the way back, an unfortunate accident happened to a lady while crossing this same snow pack, a couple of minutes ahead of us. She slipped and fell, and luckily for her, she was able to steer to one side of the snow-slide and was able to stop within 30 meters and climb back up to the trail. She was badly scraped and bruised on her arms and legs by the rocks embedded in the snowpack.


2) On the way up, maybe just a couple of kilometers from the trailhead, we saw a black bear wondering along the banks of Bauerman Creek (well below the trail at about 100 meters).
On our way back, notwistanding our loud voices and noise and a few hikers gone by ahead of us, there he was on our left side, within 10 meters of the trail (he had come up from the creek and crossed the trail). He turned around, looked at us. I quickly took a picture (otherwise who would believe me ...), practically without stopping, but just in case, the bear spray canister was at hand ...
In the meanwhile, at the start of the trail, Parks Canada had posted a bear warning sign.
  • TIME: 3 hrs 15' return.
  • DISTANCE: 8.2 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +350 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,960 m.
NOTES:
We hiked only to the Lower Rowe Lake because, at the Park Info office, they informed us that the trail for the Upper Lake was snowy and the Lineham Ridge trail was prone to avalanches from the snowy ledges above it.

Some people we met on the trail were going up anyway.



Temperatures: 9 a.m. 120 C / p.m. 190 C // strong wind all day (gusting to 50Km/h).
  • TIME: 3 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 10.4 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +110 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 1,780 m.
NOTES:
Not far from the lake we noticed bear paw-prints in the mud; they looked farely recent; we proceeded with caution. We didn't stay long at the lake.

Temperatures: 9 a.m. 100 C / p.m. 120 C // even stronger wind during the previous night (gusting to 100 Km/h); still rather windy during the day.
Opabin Plateau

July 16-23

Description

This year we drove to Field via Hwy #22/#40 (Cowboy Trail) (473 Km). Just before the town of Longview we visited the Bar U Ranch Historical Site (Parks Canada).

The village of Field dates from 1884 when the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway reached this point. It was named after Cyrus W. Field, promoter of the Trans-Atlantic cable, who visited the area. The present site was surveyed in 1904 after the north side of the village was destroyed by an avalanche off Mt. Burgess.

Yoho Park was named as such by Deville and it means "wonder, astonishment" in Cree Indian.

:::... A TRAVEL GUIDE TO FIELD

:::... Reservation Day Bus Only to Lake O'Hara (as of 2020)

Trails we Hiked While in Field

July 16-23
  • TIME: 4 hrs circuit.
  • DISTANCE: 7 Km circuit.
  • ELEVATION: +310 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,345 m.
NOTES:
On the trail to Lake McArthur by 9:10.

At Schãffer Lake we took the High Level Cutoff.

The lake was still frozen, with very tiny sections of open water mainly near the shores.

On our way back, always via the High Level Cutoff, we heard a loud noise accross the valley just before McArthur Pass, and observed dust flying and a large boulder rolling down the slopes of Walter Feuz Peak.

At Schãffer Lake we took the Big Larches trail (excellent panorama of Lake O'Hara at the Devils Rock Pile) via Mary Lake and were back at the Relais by 13:45, in time for the 14:30 bus.

Temperatures: in Field 110 C in a.m. to 150C p.m. (quite a change from the previous day!); at Lake O'Hara the temperature was 80 C in a.m., reaching a high of 120 C in p.m.
  • TIME: 4 hr round trip.
  • DISTANCE: 7.7 km. round trip - via Opabin Prospect.
  • ELEVATION: +250 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,285 m.
NOTES:
This is a beautiful hike.

The day started with a thunderstorm. There was a long wait (almost 1/2 hour at the railway crossing in Field (crew change; it seems to take for ever). The alternate route, west of town, was closed due to a landslide. We arrived at the O'Hara bus terminal just in time (8:20).

When we arrived at the Relais, the rain was coming down harder; everybody waited for it to ease up. It did, but the drizzle continued for a while.
It stopped raining just before noon.

We did the hike counterclockwise, following the west Opabin Plateau trail. It includes great vistas (spectacular from the Opabin Prospect). Running creeks and little shallow lakes scattered everywhere. Before reaching Opabin Lake, a section of the trail was covered in snow, but much less then last year. We reached Opabine lake @12:00.

Again this year, the All Souls' Prospect trail was deemed not safe due to heavy snow still hanging above it, with possibilities of avalanches.

The Wiwaxy Gap was clear.

Temperatures at the lake: 100 C a.m.; 150 C p.m.
  • TIME: 6 hrs 45' return (2 hrs 30' to lake).
  • DISTANCE: 15 Km. return.
  • ELEVATION: +550 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,500 m.
NOTES:
Cloudy all day; Dolomite Peak semi-covered by clouds. Muddy trail after the lake on the way to the Summit ridge.
This is also a horse trail.
While on top of Helen Summit, a squall approched with light snow flakes; temperature dropped to 30 C, not counting the strong blasts of wind.

Temperatures: 80 C a.m.; 110 C p.m.
  • TIME: 3 hr 30' return.
  • DISTANCE: 9 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +390 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,277 m.
NOTES:
The noticerboard at thetrailhead reccomended that groups of at least 4 people should venture on the trail due to grizzly bear activities. We tagged along a large group of hikers from Austria.

The last section of the trail to Sentinel Pass was mainly covered with snow, but a lot of people went up to the pass anyway.

Because tomorrow was going to be a very long day, hiking to the Burgess Walcott Quarry, we decided to have lunch at the Minnestimma Lake and backtrack from there.

During that time and our descent, we encountered lots of hikers going up the trail (estimate of 60/80). No sign of bear activities anywhere.

Temperatures: a.m. 100 C; 120 C p.m./ cloudy with light rain on and off all day.
  • TIME: 11 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 22 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +800 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,280 m.
NOTES:
We had booked the guided tour "Senior Steamers" with Geoscience Foundation, well in advance. The group had 12 people, the maximum permitted. Another group, guided by a Parks Canada guide, had left well bofore us; we encountered them coming down while we were still a few kilometers away from destination.

Our group met at 8 a.m. at the gas station parking lot in Field, and consequently drove to Takkakaw Falls. We were on the trail by 9 a.m. Our guide was Mike.
We stopped at Yoho Lake for a morning snack. Later we had lunch while a quick squall was dumping light snow pellets mixed with rain.
We arrived at the Walcott Quarry at 3:50 p.m. The pace was rather slow (7 hours to go up).

The section of trail which branches off the main trail, switches back up to the Quarry, is rather steep and rough (I estimated it to be just over 1 Km. long).

The arrival at the Quarry was somewhat anticlimactic. A large pile of snow covering the "balcony" diminished the full visual impact of the Quarry excavation.
New rules put in place by Parks Canada, specify that visitors must now wear a safety helmet because of the danger of falling rocks from the above ledge. In addition there were signs posted on the wall, coupled with the guide's firm admonition, warning visitors not to get to close to the vertical wall due to the instability of the rocks up above.

Pieces of shale with fossils were scattered on the ground and on the snow pile.

The guide also showed us a few bins full of fossils previously found at the Quarry.
People were free to start down at their own pleasure. The guide would stay up untill the last person left the Quarry.

We started down at 16:30 and arrived at the parking lot at 19:30>br>

Temperatures: 80 C a.m.; 120 C p.m.

:::... Parks Canada Guided Tour to the Burgess Shale Walcott Quarry & to the Mount Stephen Fossil Bed

:::... Geoscience Foundation - Guided Tour to the Burgess Shale Walcott Quarry & to the Mount Stephen Fossil Bed
Opabin Plateau

July 23-25

JASPER, BC

We stayed at: Beckers Chalet
:::.. Where to stay in Jasper

Description

On the day we left Field to drive up to Jasper, a large mudslide (rocks, mud and large trees; six metres deep and 70 metres long tumbled down Cathedral Mountain), had blocked the Trans-Canada Highway near the Spiral Tunnell section of the road (since we arrived, it had rain almost every night).
We had to backtrack to Golden and take an alternate route. The highway was not open until Sunday afternoon. This caused major detour and delays.

Because last year the road to Edith Cavell was closed during our visit, we returned this year just to go up Edith Cavell Meadows.
Temperatures: 80 C a.m.; 220 C p.m.

:::... Jasper National Park

Trails we hiked While in Jasper

July 23-25
  • TIME: 5 hrs return.
  • DISTANCE: 8 Km return.
  • ELEVATION: +523 m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,288 m.
NOTES:
While hiking to the top cairn in the Meadows there was a very strong and cold wind plummeting the temperature close to zero.
  • TIME: 2 hr return.
  • DISTANCE: 5.4 Km return.
    From trail junction to Forum lake 2.2 Km..
  • ELEVATION: +250m.
  • MAXIMUM ELEVATION: 2,235 m.
NOTES:
On the way to Canmore, we took the opportunity of fair weather in the area and hike this rewarding, classic little trail (spectacular view of the Saskatchewan Glacier).

In Canmore July 25
The weather turned dismal in Canmore. Low clouds and heavy rain from early morning were not conducive to go hiking. So we drove to Highwood Pass; here we saw for the first and only time during this trip, a grizzly sow with a cub browsing on the side of the road.

Bibliography
  1. The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide; Brian Patton and Bart Robinson, Summerthought Publication, Banff, Canada - Second edition, 1978
  2. Plants of the Rocky Mountains; L. Kershaw, A. Mac Kinnon, J. Pojar, Lone Pine Pub. Canada & USA - 1998
  3. Tour Book; AAA & CAA, AAA Pub. - 2001
  4. Maps by Gem Trek Publishing; Cochrane, Alberta, Canada
  5. Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies; Graeme Pole, Altitude Publishing Canada Ltd. , Vancouver - 1999
  6. The Wonder of Yoho; Don Beers, Rocky Mountain Books, Calgary - 1994
Page originally created August - 2011
New graphic April 2020
Giorgio Zanetti