walkhighlands

This board helps you to share your walking route experiences in England and Wales... or overseas.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!


Postby ChrisW » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:30 pm

Date walked: 19/12/2012

Time taken: 4

Distance: 15.9 km

Ascent: 936m

10 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Back in February Sarah and I had taken a break up at the Château Lake Louise hotel. We had a great weekend but our attempt at the Plain of six Glaciers hike had to be cut short due to Sarah suffering with a mild dose of altitude sickness. In April I decided to return and do the hike myself, only to find the trail closed due to avalanches, I made a different hike and had another good day in the mountains but drove home thinking I would have to return again.


So it was that my final hike of 2012 came to be the Plain of six glaciers route beginning from from the Château lake louise. I rose early and drove out to lake louise village in darkness, I stopped and had a lovely bacon and egg breakfast before continuing to the car park at lake louise. As I arrived I got a text from Sarah saying "I don't think you should go, it's -18 in Calgary" I glanced down at the dashboard where my temperature reading was -26 so I replied "t-shirt weather that, I'll see you later" .


The sun was coming up as I quickly got ready and started away from the car park where I was unsurprisingly alone.
Image
As I passed the head of the lake I could really feel the cold biting into my face and quickly switched from my hat to my balaclava, the sun was beginning to illuminate the mountains along my route, but here by the lake there was only shade.
Image
I stuck to the lake shore trail rather than the lake just because it is very easy going as it is compacted for the horse drawn sleigh that takes tourists on the 4km round trip to the end of the lake. Even with a large flask and snowshoes adding to my load I strode out at a good pace and soon felt warm.
Image
the frozen waterfall at the 2km mark looks spectacular though without the sunshine is lacking in the usual blue of the ice around here, later in the year this is used for ice climbing.
Image
as I round the end of the lake and look back toward the hotel I find it hard to believe that there is liquid water here, it is incredibly cold, colder than the -26 felt back in the car park and any exposed skin is nipped to remind me of it.....it is fantastic.
Image
tucked into a crevice across the lake is another stunning ice fall, this one even has the appearance of 'spray' around the base courtesy of the snow collected there, it gives the impression that it was flash frozen
Image
from here I enter a forested area for a short time and I can really feel the difference in temperature whilst in the trees, unfortunately it didn't last long and I was back into the exposed sections again, but still on a good trail so no need for those snow shoes yet.
Image
up ahead I catch my first glimpse of Mt Lefroy emerging from the low cloud to a bright welcome from the low winter sun. The sun doesn't reach this valley at this time of the year and I can really tell every time I stop to take a few shots and take off my gloves.
Image
The ascent is very gentle along here but the well worn trail has reduced to a few footprints as you reach the points where others have turned back. Whilst taking this shot I heard a huge boom and saw an avalanche pour down the back (sunny side) of Mt Lefroy .....I suddenly felt less comfortable, though I did check the reports this morning which were reassuring.
Image
just a short walk from the ledge in the photo above any sign of a trail has disappeared and I'm plunging to waist deep in the snow.....time for the snow shoes I think, while putting on my snow shoes another 2 avalanches fall both in my valley but distant. My concern is that I am walking across the 'burial grounds' where the avalanches come to rest (so that's where the trail went) After taking stock I decide to carry on but stay close enough to the wall of rock beside me to use it for cover should the need arise.
Image
I pass the burial grounds at a good pace and ascend the next steep rise that warms me up nicely. At this point I am really enjoying the day, wonderful scenery, my first real snow shoeing of the season and a little hint of danger via the avalanche potential. Looking back toward lake louise the ski resort is bathed in sunlight and I can't help but wish I had a bit of that too.
Image
the cloud is still loitering around Mt Lefroy and another grey cloud is moving in above the glaciers in the distance. I see a hint of a trail again and better still I see a trail marker poking out of the snow up ahead.
Image
The ice flows along here are spectacular and though lacking the usual colour (because there is no sunlight here) they remain mesmerising
Image
as I pass the trail marker and ascend a little more the snow cloud moves in over Mt Lefroy but I find the trail again with just a dusting of snow over it. This makes me relax a little as it would suggest I'm out of the avalanche area for now.
Image
a series of switchbacks then climb quickly up the side of the slope turning back toward the lake and then away again, back at the lake there is no sign of the snow cloud I'm facing.
Image
A few more switchbacks and I am watching the snow block out the sun but strangely it is only snowing over at that side of the valley. Unfortunately there is now a breeze with the storm and the temperature is off the charts
Image
finally I turn inward toward the trees again and get a little cover from that wind as I make the final plod through the wonderful snow toward the victorian tea house tucked into the forest.
Image
Though closed for the season the tea house has a welcoming upper deck where I'll have lunch and plan the next stage of the hike. I hope to make a 2km extension to the hike by heading along a glacial moraine to a viewpoint further ahead but the weather and repeated avalanches are putting me off the idea.
Image
I decide to wait out the snow shower on the wooden floor of the tea house, I soon have a number of 'friends' sharing lunch with me as well as going through my bags as soon as my back is turned.
Image
I love to see the whiskey jacks in winter, they are so bold. They take food and fly to the trees and tuck it into tight spots in branches before coming back for more
Image
It is unbelievably cold up here, even under the cover of the tea house. My gloves froze onto the shape they were when I took them off to eat as did my balaclava and I waited as long as I could before deciding the additional stretch would have to wait for another day. The snow wasn't clearing away from that direction and the cold was bordering on unbearable.


Looking to the scene form the viewpoint I could make out a couple of glaciers but they sure weren't worth an additional 4 k in these conditions.
Image
After a flask of tea and a very small amount of beef sandwich that the whiskey jacks didn't get, I set off again down the trail back toward the lake
Image
I kept looking back expecting the old blue sky trick but the clouds hung in there, I think there just wasn't enough sun to burn them away today.
Image
I can see the lovely glow of warm sunshine above me but there is no change to the temperatures down in the valley. The ice falls still leave me saying 'wow' out loud and have made this hike a real stunner even without the final glacier views.
Image
Who could fail to see the beauty in this stunning scene, I think this would be a good hike for Sarah in the summer time and certainly worth a revisit in better conditions.
Image
back at lake louise the sleigh is running beside the lake and people are skiing, snow shoeing, and skating, it is a beautiful winter wonderland and there is plenty to see as I make the last 2k along the lake shore
Image
as I round the head of the lake to go to the car park the snow finally catches up with me and the 'last look back' is white in all directions.
Image
This was a beautiful final hike of the year, a year which has seen me exploring the Canadian Rockies for the first time, it's lakes, mountains, glaciers, rivers and diverse animal life have left me transfixed at times. I had an incredibly lucky escape when I fell down a mountain and an exciting meeting with a grizzly and her cub on an autumn trail. It has been a wonderful experience, I'm not sure how I'll top it next year....but I'll give it a go.
Image
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby sross » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:51 am

Thanks Chris for the great report and accompanying pictures. :clap: :clap: Made me feel very jealous for your brisk winter conditions and snow. Things have been so warm in the South Central part of the country that I haven't even pulled out my Canada Goose coat or boots.
Zeke and I love to picnic on fresh winter days. As long as appropriately dressed, there is no reason not to spend the day outside. Some of the most spectacular days in Canada are sub-20, when the snow squeaks underfoot, the air clears out the sinuses, and when the sun off the snow makes everything look fresh and new.
You are so fortunate to be enjoying some of the best spots our country has to offer and Lake Louise in particular is very other world-like.
If you hang around this place too long, I imagine we'll next hear that you've taken up 'ice-fishing', another Canuk pasttime. :lol:
Too bad we'll have to wait until next year for another one of your 'little adventures'! :lol:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :D
Sparky
User avatar
sross
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 139
Munros:2   Corbetts:2
Grahams:2   
Sub 2000:2   
Joined: Aug 6, 2012
Location: Ontario, Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby Lenore » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:50 am

Wow Chris, another excellent report! Yours always promise a bit more adventure than the others, with bears, rock slides, avalanches. Glad you've kept yourself in one piece this year so you can continue to explore and deliver those lovely reports to us! The ice falls are something special, don't think I've ever seen anything like it, not even when I was in Alaska. That sure is a magical place you live in. Have you moved there for the long term?
User avatar
Lenore
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 586
Munros:13   Corbetts:4
Grahams:1   
Sub 2000:1   
Joined: Apr 22, 2012
Location: the Netherlands

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby Johnny Corbett » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:33 pm

Wonderfull way to end the year Chris, your reports have been superb over the year and all the best to you :thumbup:
User avatar
Johnny Corbett
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 2971
Munros:25   Corbetts:210
Grahams:166   Donalds:74
Sub 2000:296   Hewitts:1
Islands:14
Joined: May 14, 2010
Location: Livingston

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby westcoasthiker » Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:20 am

Awesome photos as usual. It was interesting viewing the trail and scenery with all that snow. We've done the trail several times but always in August. Much warmer then and many more people!! Have a wonderful Christmas.
User avatar
westcoasthiker
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 44
Munros:1   
Sub 2000:1   Hewitts:12
Wainwrights:26   
Joined: Jan 12, 2012
Location: Vancouver BC Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby ChrisW » Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:55 am

sross wrote:Thanks Chris for the great report and accompanying pictures. :clap: :clap: Made me feel very jealous for your brisk winter conditions and snow. Things have been so warm in the South Central part of the country that I haven't even pulled out my Canada Goose coat or boots.
Zeke and I love to picnic on fresh winter days. As long as appropriately dressed, there is no reason not to spend the day outside. Some of the most spectacular days in Canada are sub-20, when the snow squeaks underfoot, the air clears out the sinuses, and when the sun off the snow makes everything look fresh and new.
You are so fortunate to be enjoying some of the best spots our country has to offer and Lake Louise in particular is very other world-like.
If you hang around this place too long, I imagine we'll next hear that you've taken up 'ice-fishing', another Canuk pasttime. :lol:
Too bad we'll have to wait until next year for another one of your 'little adventures'! :lol:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year :D
Sparky

Thanks Sparky, I love the winter here and that 'squeaky snow'. I think the only issue with it is it doesn't freeze due to the dry conditions so you never get that solid frozen white surface to walk on :roll: the skiers love it though :wink: I am absolutely loving Canada so far and have big plans for exploring further (east & west coasts) next year, maybe ice fishing too (I live right by a huge reservoir where it is popular :wink: ) ....Right now I'm sitting on the decking overlooking the beach in Florida and it's 60 degrees, looking back at this report seems like ages ago...it's only been 2 days :lol:

Lenore wrote:Wow Chris, another excellent report! Yours always promise a bit more adventure than the others, with bears, rock slides, avalanches. Glad you've kept yourself in one piece this year so you can continue to explore and deliver those lovely reports to us! The ice falls are something special, don't think I've ever seen anything like it, not even when I was in Alaska. That sure is a magical place you live in. Have you moved there for the long term?

Thanks Lenore, I'm glad I stayed in one piece too. Those ice falls are really beautiful and huge too, I've only ever been to Alaska in July so no chance of ice falls then even up in Denali, but I did spend some time on some of those massive glaciers up there.
As for our time in Canada, we plan/hope to be here for another 5 years at least so plenty of exploring time left....hopefully.
Johnny Corbett wrote:Wonderfull way to end the year Chris, your reports have been superb over the year and all the best to you :thumbup:

Cheers JC, I've been looking back at some of my reports and still have to pinch myself to think I've seen all those wonderful views, I feel so lucky to be here....long may it continue :lol:
westcoasthiker wrote:Awesome photos as usual. It was interesting viewing the trail and scenery with all that snow. We've done the trail several times but always in August. Much warmer then and many more people!! Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thanks WCH, glad to see you are keeping an eye on me over here. I think I'll return to the 'plain of 6' with Sarah in the summer I'm sure she would love it (as long as there is tea and cake :roll: :lol: ) have a great Christmas over on the West Coast....I'm hiding down in Florida for a couple of weeks :wink:
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby gammy leg walker » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:28 am

Brilliant as ever Chris,hope you and all your family have a great Christmas,looking forward to next years TRs already mate,
User avatar
gammy leg walker
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 3387
Munros:272   Corbetts:7
Grahams:4   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:2   
Islands:7
Joined: Jan 30, 2010
Location: Central Region
Walk wish-list

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby ChrisW » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:43 am

gammy leg walker wrote:Brilliant as ever Chris,hope you and all your family have a great Christmas,looking forward to next years TRs already mate,

Cheers Gammy, we're having a warm Christmas this year as our little grandson is only 2 so -25 isn't a lot of fun at that age....so beaches and Disney this year :wink:
Best wishes to you and yours mate, and moreover, a healthy new year too - I look forward to seeing you back out there next year :wink:
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby gman » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:50 am

Great stuff, must have been Baltic when you stopped but at least the sandwich thieves gave you some company :D
User avatar
gman
 
Posts: 765
Munros:250   Corbetts:4
Sub 2000:1   
Joined: Sep 12, 2011

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby morag1 » Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:46 pm

Hi Chris I've enjoyed everyone of your reports from the Rockies but this one is really the icing on the cake, I love these photos of the snow with a touch of blue, also love the Whiskey Jacks :D

Merry Christmas to you and your family ,have a great time in Florida, then hurry back to the Rockies so we can get more of this :thumbup:
morag1
 

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby ChrisW » Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:41 am

RTC wrote:Absolutely wonderful photos. I can't imagine what -25 feels like. It took a bit of courage to do this walk on your own.

Thanks RTC, the cold is not so bad really, in fact when you are moving it is preferable but when you stop for a few minutes...... :shock: ....as for the courage, I think it might be foolishness :lol:
gman wrote:Great stuff, must have been Baltic when you stopped but at least the sandwich thieves gave you some company :D

Cheers gman, if I was a brass monkey I'd have been looking for a welder :lol: I love to see those whiskey jacks, they're so brave when the want food and will walk all over you to get it :D
morag1 wrote:Hi Chris I've enjoyed everyone of your reports from the Rockies but this one is really the icing on the cake, I love these photos of the snow with a touch of blue, also love the Whiskey Jacks :D
Merry Christmas to you and your family ,have a great time in Florida, then hurry back to the Rockies so we can get more of this :thumbup:

Thanks Morag, we're all together in the beach house right now and it's fantastic. Our grandson is in bed after running up and down shouting 'BEACH' at the top of his voice since he got here....I think its going to be a good holiday :wink:
Have a great Christmas and I'll share some more journeys with you next year :D
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:56 pm

Like many I've probably enjoyed your reports more than anybodys this year. Truly spectacular once again looking forward to many more in 2013. :thumbup:
User avatar
johnkaysleftleg
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 3255
Munros:25   Corbetts:11
Grahams:11   Donalds:3
Sub 2000:7   Hewitts:166
Wainwrights:214   Islands:8
Joined: Jan 28, 2009
Location: County Durham

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby ChrisW » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:27 am

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Like many I've probably enjoyed your reports more than anybodys this year. Truly spectacular once again looking forward to many more in 2013. :thumbup:

Thanks JK, its easy to come up with some good stuff out here :wink: though I'm beginning to think I may have set the bar too high....only time will tell :lol:
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby Steve B » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:41 pm

A great report to finish off the year and thanks for all the fun you have shared. Looking forward to next years installments already.
Have a good christmas and new year.
Steve B
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 297
Munros:266   Corbetts:15
Hewitts:59
Wainwrights:34   Islands:9
Joined: Oct 25, 2010
Location: Glasgow

Re: Canada - Plain of 6 glaciers - at last!!

Postby ChrisW » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:19 pm

Steve B wrote:A great report to finish off the year and thanks for all the fun you have shared. Looking forward to next years installments already. Have a good christmas and new year.

Cheers Steve, it's been a fantastic year :crazy: . Have a great christmas and lets be out there doing it all over again next year :wink:
User avatar
ChrisW
Rambler
 
Posts: 4940
Munros:18   Corbetts:5
Grahams:3   
Sub 2000:6   
Joined: Jan 25, 2011
Location: Cochrane- Alberta - Canada

10 people think this report is great.
Register or Login
free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).

Next



Walkhighlands community forum is advert free


Your generosity keeps this site running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and the online community by donating by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Outside Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 14 guests