Canada - Finding winter at Upper Kananaskis Lake

Date walked: 05/03/2016

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 15.4km

Ascent: 276m

I don't normally put my low level stuff on here as I would be posting 3 times a week, but our favourite place is always worth a look so here's a day out with MrsW ...the best of company :wink:

With Sarah sneaking a free afternoon and fresh snow in the mountains we decided to head out to our favourite place (Upper Kananaskis Lake) and spend the day circumnavigating this wonderful water source, even if it did mean trudging through deep snow very often. On arrival I took the usual shot from the car park looking over the picnic area to the beauty beyond.

We were laughing at each other almost immediately as we waded through thigh deep snow across the boat launch to reach the dam, disappearing occasionally between rocks just made it funnier. There was a good strong wind blowing up spindrift constantly but it was a warm wind. The familiar frame of Mt Indefatigable towers above the forest as we set out across the dam.

The first couple of kilometres are made through fresh, heavy, wet snow which is very unusual here but it did at least firm up underfoot and remain stable.....for the most part.

Even standing directly facing the wind to make this image there was no hint of cold. The sky over Mt Laughty had taken on a slate blue and we could see some snow showers behind them, but that is where they stayed.

Even the fresh snow compacted nicely underfoot along the trail because the trail beneath was solid ice and very firm, the corners on the route had made themselves into long soft folds tempting both of us to poke them with our poles more often than was necessary.

We have soon made the circuit of the isthmus and reached the elevated corner of trail at the northern end where Mt Indefatigable fills the horizon.

We decided to drop off the trail and make our way down to the ice where I could make some images rather than just grabbing a few as we go along, the opportunity was too good to miss....we just needed to work out a route down the broken slopes.

Sarah had a short rest as I messed around trying to make the best of this beautiful scene, standing on the ice was very difficult and the strong wind constantly tried to wobble the camera. Crouching against the ice and rock I made a nice panorama from Mt Sarrail on the left across the lake with a nice hint of ice in the foreground.

I like the image but it wasn't getting what I was after but, while moving around I stood on a large ice block that slithered away underfoot and went crashing down to the lake where some of it broke up and scattered into dozens of pucks that flew off in all directions. Luckily the departure of that lump made a good little spot where I could get in low and hold the camera firmly enough to make a really nice shot with a lovely ice foreground, this was the one I was after.

Turning around and looking east toward the second dam the snow had been swept off the lake by the warm wind and with long rivers of spindrift blowing across it, it looked fantastic. A large lump of ice sat waiting to be used as a foreground object and I told Sarah we'd just have to be a little while longer....and we would have to climb down to the lake.

I found a location with some reasonable amount of broken slabs that we could tackle one at a time and we picked our way down to the clear ice where (though a little daunted by the dark water below) we wandered out into the spindrift where Sarah stopped to get the gloves out.

It's a little unnerving to stand on ice that is so clear but fortunately the cracks in it allow us to see the depth as light is scattered right down the cracks showing it to be well over 2 feet thick, I had Sarah make a 'windswept and interesting' pose before chasing the shot I envisioned.

Just a few adjustments to allow a longer shutter and I was able to catch the spindrift weaving its lines across the surface of the ice, the dark water below makes for wonderful contrast and that foreground lump just provides enough interest. The image actually ended up looking a lot colder than it really was, I love it.

Sarah stood over by the descent route we used to reach the lake to show the ice blocks folded over the shore. This happens repeatedly as the water recedes throughout winter leaving this fantastic scene for several months each year.

After messing around for ages chasing photos I made my apologies to Sarah (for keeping her standing around) and we set off again along the trail through the forest, stopping once for a nice cuppa and a snack. We only stopped for a short time before getting on to the westernmost end of the lake and up the avalanche slopes of Mt Indefatigable.

At the top of the avalanche slope the views are wonderful but the walking...not so much. Deep snow means there is a real risk of injury as legs disappear down between unseen boulders repeatedly.

With any sign of a path gone and both of us dropping through to the waist several times I decided we should get off the slope and go back down to the lake.

Back at the lake Sarah was a bit dubious about stepping off the solid ice and onto the snow covered surface that leads down to the lake itself, fearing another deep sinking experience, luckily the snow was solid enough and we were soon down on the lake.

From the shore we could see some more ice poking up all around another island so thought we would go over there and explore a little more.

The wind was howling across the corner of the small island but remained warm, the spindrift was getting to be a bit of a pain in the butt as it whipped against our faces stinging occasionally when tiny ice pieces joined the fray.

Sarah very quickly lost interest in the island when we came across a large area of open water off to one side of the island, it was very strange as the ice was still 2 feet thick all around the hole, we decided not to get to close to investigate though.

At the southern side of the island the large frame of Mt Sarrail fills the horizon and to the right is the hidden valley which holds more lakes, a huge waterfall and a significant glacier. It's an area I intend to explore more in the summer.
A huge expanse of ice sweeps down from the island back to the lake surface and we decide to cut over to the forest trail at the base of Mt Sarrail which is still just over 2km away.

Even after a good stretch of wandering Mt Sarrail is still some distance away, at this side of the lake there's lots of snow on the surface of the ice and it's a good workout plodding through the biting spindrift to the forest again.

Back in the forest the snow has taken over the trail but it is solid beneath it and the wind is blocked out by the trees. It's actually the first time in hours that we've been out of the wind and it feels nice to have some calm. Just 3 or 4 km to go back along the southern shore trail and we'll be back at the car park.

One final shot across the lake at Mt Indefatigable, the spindrift still whipping up off the summit and reaching toward the clouds. The light is just fading now, we've been walking for 5 hours and it has been another fantastic day in our favourite place.

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User avatar
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada
Occupation: Management Consultant - Semi Retired
Interests: Photography, Walking, Kayaking, Golf, Mountain Biking
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: Sutton Arms
Mountain: Mt Rainier - USA
Place: Loch Muick
Gear: Quality footwear
Member: None
Camera: Canon 5DIII
Ideal day out: A scramble on a high ridge in Kananaskis
Ambition: Lose some more weight!

Munros: 18
Corbetts: 5
Grahams: 3
Sub 2000: 6


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Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Last visited: Apr 30, 2016
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