...... previous day next day ......
Icefields Parkway Banff

4th June 2010

Lake Louise and the Climb to the Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes

    It was a really cold night and I couldn't keep warm, consequently I couldn't sleep. I gave up trying at 6am, arose and shivered off to the shower block. My breath followed me hanging in the cold, still air like smoke signals. All those campsites I had visited so far that had showers offered no temperature control, you took what you got. Now this shower had a temperature of molten lead, and a force equivalent to a jet engine. The shock nearly blew me over, instant defrost. Within seconds I had the colour of a lobster, and I was soon starting to appreciate the fierce heat. I turned to get my shampoo, and the force of the shower blew open the shower curtain, that kept the cubicle changing area allocated to the shower, dry. The shower was now gleefully washing and spinning my clothes at the same time. Who needs a launderette? Fully invigorated by this activity, I made myself double portions of porridge; today would be a strenuous exercise day.
Lake Louise with Mount Victoria in the Background
    I headed off to the lake, Lake Louise that is. It was so early only a smattering of tourists were to be seen. The plan was to hike up to the Plain of Six Glaciers, extend that to the Lookout Point, and then double back over the high trail to Lake Agnes.
Chateau Lake Louise
    Lake Louise was set in a hanging valley, back dropped by the majestic mountains of the Continental Divide. By 1890 a small guesthouse chalet had been built on the shore. By the early 1900s a road had been built to the lake and a large chalet had been constructed as guests were flocking there. In 1925 the Canadian Pacific Railway completed the Chateau Lake Louise. The lake was mirror calm. Towering above it at the head of the lake was Mount Victoria. This great mountain was part of the Continental Divide that separated the Atlantic and Pacific watersheds. Below the summit were located the Upper and Lower Victoria Glaciers
    Without further ado I set off along the lake side, which took on a serene shade of blue, similar to Peyto Lake. At the head of the lake, the trail started to climb. I passed numerous marmots on the way, inquisitive little creatures with the wisdom to bolt when humans got too near. The climb got tougher, and soon I found myself trudging through snow. Judging by the almost eradicated tracks in the snow due to a snowfall the night before, I was the first hiker of the day.
    After an hour and a half I reached the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse, where sustenance could be bought. A dog barked, and a young woman came out to greet me. I said I intended to call in on the way back from the Lookout Point which was about a mile further on. I was curious to know how all the supplies reached the place since there were no roads. She replied that it was by human and mule power, with one huge load delivered once a year by helicopter. Just then a Golden Mantle Mountain Squirrel appeared They too are found everywhere, many being quite fearless when it came to human contact.
    I could hear a jet plane roaring across the skies, and didn't think anything more of it. There were a lot of these planes. It was then that the young woman pointed out through the trees, runnels of snow cascading down the gullies on the surrounding mountains, like mini-avalanches. The sound of the distant cascades matched the sound of high altitude jet engines. She pointed out that when huge chunks of the glaciers calve off, you really know about it.
Golden Mantle Mountain Squirrel
    I headed off to Lookout Point. Often I was up to my knees in snow, and traversing steep snow slopes killed the pace. But I got there, and was rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding peaks and glaciers. I sat on a boulder for quite a while contemplating these wonders. The time came for me to take my leave of this delightful, remote place, and retrace my steps down to the teahouse. I passed a hiker on the way back down. We exchanged greetings; he was up from Philadelphia for a break, had connections in Banbury. Presently another hiker joined us on his way up. We all shared pleasantries, and the two guys followed my footsteps up to discover the beauties to behold from the lookout.
Snow Cascades
    I reached the teahouse and ordered blackcurrant tea and bread. I don't know why I ordered the fruity tea, I could never taste the fruit back in the UK, and I couldn't taste it here either. The couple at an adjacent table were having a laugh about hot ribena. They were an English couple, Charles and Fiona. By chance they lived at Penrith, 50 miles from the town I grew up in. What a small world we live in. They said recent events in Whitehaven, my birth town, were a sad affair. What events? The killings. They went on to explain how on the 2nd June a man had gone on a shooting spree and killed 12 people and injured 25 before turning the gun on himself. I had not been on the internet for five days and had lost touch with the outside world (when I picked up mail from my children later on in the day I got all the details). The town was a close knit community, and I shared the grief of the town's people on this unnecessary sad loss. In the town I lived in now, Ipswich, losing five young women in quick succession had been a tragedy, but the events in Whitehaven were beyond belief.
Victoria Upper and Lower Glaciers
    The pair were well traveled people, it seemed one of their ambitions was to explore all of Canada through several visits, each one involving a train journey. They had also extensively covered a large percentage of my proposed route around the US. They offered advice on places to visit, good hiking areas and worthwhile cultural centres to search out. Charles was particularly fond of Monument Valley; perhaps he had been a cowboy in a previous life. The two had also managed to see one of the dance rituals held by one of the Mesa tribes, the Germination ritual which followed on from a previous Rain ritual. They were extremely fortunate; the 90 dancers were watched by 300 tribe's people and only a handful of pale faces. The air was becoming chilly as the weather was closing in, so we bade each other farewell, and I set off for the high trail that would bring me to Lake Agnes.
Lake Agnes
    The journey involved some tough climbs and more snow, with the trail clinging to the mountainside at times. Lake Agnes, when I reached it, was frozen over. I didn't linger, there was a chilly breeze up there, with the odd snowflake hitting my face. I made the long descent down the mountain towards Lake Louise, again through stretches of snow. It was a steepish descent, and I felt sorry for the folk slogging it up the mountain; there was no respite in the slope. They probably had now idea how much colder it was up there too.
Lake Louise from High Trail
    I got back to the van six hours after I had left it. A short drive to Moraine Lake left me disappointed, the lake was at a low level. I was anxious to move on, so without delay I headed towards Banff on the Trans-Canada Highway; a fenced and divided throughway. Bridges with trees on them periodically spanned this road. They allowed bears, cougars, wolves, elk, deer, moose and other four-legged Banff National Park residents to safely cross the highway. Concealed cameras revealed that the scheme was working.
    Banff was a small town which did have a Starbucks, so I was able to get online and catch up with family and friends back home. My kids relayed the Whitehaven tragedy to me. On my way back to the van, I smelled the unmistakable smell of Indian food. I get withdrawal symptoms if I don't have a curry fix every so often. I couldn't resist it and I needed a break from camp cooking, so I treated myself. It was not as hot as the UK counterpart, but very welcome.
    By now it was getting dark and I hadn't sorted out a campsite for the night. I picked up the details of one I had earmarked earlier, located it and got myself setup for the night. There were a lot more families at this site, many French speaking. I had observed that there was a lot of spoken French in Alberta, and most signs and notices were in both English and French.
    The temperature was plummeting again, nothing for it but to snuggle under the sleeping bag. I would be heading south soon, hopefully to warmer climes.
...... previous day next day ......
Icefields Parkway Banff

Uploaded from Starbucks, Banff Avenue, Banff AB on 05/06/10 at 11:50

Last updated 5.6.2010