Rummel Lake

While summer has departed for another year, shoulder season is upon us so my hiking series will continue! Though I doubt I’ll be getting out to the mountains as often as I did over the summer, I fully intend to do a few hikes during the fall, and then bust out my snowshoes when winter rears its not-traditionally-attractive head.

As far as purely recreational outings go, my shoulder season began earlier this week with a trip up to Rummel Lake, and I’ve gotta say I had a very good time out there.

The trailhead is immediately opposite the turn-off to the Mount Engadine Lodge on the Smith-Dorien Trail, so in all likelihood you’ll wind up parking just off the road nearby. The trail itself is very well defined so once you’re on it you shouldn’t have any issues finding your way along.

Eventually the trail will come to a fork, with signs indicating the hiking trail continues to your right, while a cross-country skiing route crosses a little bridge to your left. Either way will get you to the lake, but I would highly recommend taking the walking path instead of the skiing trail. The hiking route follows the creek much more, which is always nice, and will bring you a lovely little waterfall, pictured below:

The lake itself is fantastic and the view of the mountains behind it is really quite something, particularly with the fog rolling in as it was when I was there.

While I imagine the trail would be significantly busier on a nice summer day, as far as easy and relaxing hikes go, you really can’t go wrong with Rummel Lake

As an aside, it’s always kind of fun doing hikes when there’s snow on the ground and a single person has broken the trail ahead of you. Unless they’re some sort of route-finding guru, they tend to to backtrack a few times, and imagining them in that moment always gets me chuckling (not in a malicious way, I think its hilarious when I finally realize or admit to myself I’m heading in the wrong direction). Gotta enjoy the little things.


Lost Lake

As you may or may not have noticed, the frequency of posts in my hiking series has declined of late. This has been in part due to my not getting out to the mountains as much the past few weeks, and partly because in retrospect I felt the last couple posts were not all that fun to read. I’ve been called a number of things in my day, but I really, really don’t want dry to be added to the list. Hopefully this little hiatus has got the creative juices going.

But on to the important bit, a review of my visit to Lost Lake last Thursday. It’s not an especially well travelled or discussed trail, particularly in comparison to the other hikes in the area, even the mighty Barry only seems to mention it in passing. But, despite a rather embarrassing wrong turn further exacerbated by my own pig-headedness, I can honestly say it was and is a lovely hike.

Initially the hike follows the Galatea trail, which is always a nice little jaunt. After crossing several bridges and travelling 4ish km, the trail diverges onto the Lost Lake trail proper. The trail isn’t terribly well defined in all cases, and you’ll need to be prepared for a hell of a lot of deadfall to go over, around, and in a few cases, possibly under. However, this means that in all likelihood you won’t have to share the path with anyone else, which always makes a day out in the mountains even better.

Upon reaching Lost Lake however we found a truly massive grizzly bear frolicking in the water. It was easily the largest bear I’ve ever seen in my entire life, if I had to guess I’d say he must have weighed in at 1500 lbs. Upon noticing the bathing behemoth, I snapped a single, inevitably inadequate photo and hastily retreated back the way we had come. Despite my short visit, I can say with some confidence that the view of Rummel Pass behind Lost Lake was quite something.

It’s really quite incredible the amount of energy you can dredge up upon seeing a bear, assuming you have the good sense to have your sighting become an encounter. Approaching the lake, I was definitely ready to enjoy a nice sit down on the shore with a bag of GORP. But the moment I saw that fella I felt I could have run a marathon, snacks and sore feet be damned.

I fully intend to take another stab at Lost Lake, hopefully before this season ends.

Happy trails folks!

Sparrowhawk Tarns

Sparrowhawk Tarns is relatively quiet trail that shares a trailhead with Mt. Sparrowhawk and Read’s Tower. The trailhead is more or less opposite the Sparrowhawk day-use area, there’ll be a well-defined path across the Smith-Dorien leading west into the trees. After a gentle start you’ll quickly start experiencing some elevation gain, and part-way through this you’ll come to a three-way junction. For this hike the correct path is the centre one, which continues up the mountain at roughly the same angle. Rather embarrassingly I wasn’t paying attention and took the rightmost path for a little while, which leads to what would be a very nice bike trail, but certainly doesn’t lead to the tarns.

Continuing beyond this fork, you’ll quickly come to another fork, with the NE path leading up towards Mt. Sparrowhawk proper, and the SE path continuing towards Sparrowhawk tarns. Beyond this point you’re just going to continue following the trail, ensuring that you’re travelling in a general SE direction.

Eventually you’ll clear the trees and see you’ve entered a cool little valley with Red Ridge to the SW. The easy part is now over, and you’ll need to go over a great deal of rock and scree. As far as I could tell there isn’t really a trail through the rock field, so you’ll end up just picking your way through wherever you deem to be easiest. You won’t be able to see the tarns for a while, but rest assured they are in fact there, you just need to keep pressing on towards the back of the valley. Upon reaching the top of the final hill you’ll have a very nice view of the tarns below you, as well as of Spray Lake behind you.

The only pieces of advice I have for anyone attempting this hike is make to sure you’ve got a decent pair of boots on as the last stretch provides plenty of opportunities for twisted ankles, and to be mindful of the route you take up to the tarns, as the forested area just after the rock field can be slightly confusing on the way back down.

If you’re fond of spending time by little mountain lakes and aren’t in the mood for dealing with a lot of other people, Sparrowhawk Tarns is definitely a hike for you!

As a parting note, I got a good chuckle out of finding a couple of beers stashed in the snow on the edge of the tarn. Whoever they belong to, I salute your ingenuity 🙂

The Orphan

As far as I can tell, The Orphan is not a very well known hike, I only discovered it myself by looking through my Gem Trek map of the Canmore and Kananaskis Village area. It’s by no means a trivial hike, but the views from the top were truly amazing.

You won’t find any signage or an obvious trailhead for The Orphan. Instead, you’ll be starting at a torn-up creek bed just NW of the Driftwood day use area. If you walk West along the Smith-Dorien from the Driftwood parking lot you won’t be able to miss it. The first portion of the hike is simply following this creek up towards the mountain. The creek was severely damaged by the floods, so be prepared to cross it several times as you work your way up.

You’ll continue following the creek until the path forks into two routes up the mountain. The west route is a fairly steep scree and rock slope that will require some scrambling, but is certainly doable. The east route however is an absolute death trap and I would strongly advise you to avoid it at all costs. It consists of a series of huge, angled stone slabs running up the slope. Combined with water this rock is slicker than ice, and if you slip on it you’ll quickly find yourself hurtling down the mountain.

After the, you’ll find yourself on a really quite nice mountain meadow leading up to a ridge between 2 peaks. Be prepared for some gale strength winds as you push further up the meadow, it will feel like all of the wind in Kananaskis is being funnelled out over this ridge. Upon reaching the ridge you’ll be able to see your goal, a stone outcropping to the north or, if you’re feeling like doing some climbing the peak, itself. Carefully pick your way up the final slope to the outcropping and you’ll be greeted with an awe-inspiring view. The Three Sisters loom up to the NW, to the NE you’ll be able to see as far as Ghost Lake, Rimwall to the SE, and you’ll have a brilliant view of Spray Valley behind you to the SW. There’s a video showing a 360 view from the top on my Instagram if you’re interested.

There are some things you should bear in mind for this hike. Solid boots with good ankle support are a must, there is a lot of difficult and varied terrain you’ll need to cover with lots of potential twisted ankles. Crossing back and forth over the creek won’t pose much of a challenge in the morning, but as the water level rises in the afternoon, you’ll find significantly fewer opportunities to safely cross on your return journey. Take precautions against ticks, this means tucking your shirt in, wearing a hat and gaiters, using bug spray and doing a tick check afterwards. I can confirm there are ticks up there, though I was fortunate enough to avoid getting bit. Gloves will also come in very handy for the scrambling portions of the hike.

The Orphan is a hidden gem, and I would highly recommend tackling it if you’re up for a bit of a challenge.

Bear Spray and Bad Habits

This isn’t a new trend by any means, but lately I’ve noticed a lot people in the backcountry carrying bear spray in the side pouches of their packs. This is really, really foolish and is basically the same as not bringing it at all.

If you’re unfortunate enough to get into a situation where you need to use your bear spray, you’ve got to have it out at a moment’s notice. Bears can run unbelievably fast, and there will not be time to go rooting through your pack.

I’ve seen a few people attach it to the shoulder straps of their packs, and while this is an improvement over the side pouch method, its still not ideal because you could potentially become separated from your pack, and thus from your bear spray. Myself, I like to use a carabiner to clip my bear spray onto one of my belt loops so its always handy, and also easily adjustable if for whatever reason I need to rearrange things.

Bottom line is if you’re going out into the bush, not only should you be carrying non-expired bear spray that you know how to use, it should be within reach at all times. Better safe than mauled folks.

Mount Lady MacDonald

I had the excellent fortune of hiking Mount Lady MacDonald in Canmore yesterday, and really can’t believe I hadn’t done this one sooner!

Mount Lady MacDonald is located just NW of Canmore with the trailhead being right at Cougar Creek, so you’ll be looking at a much shorter drive than you would for pretty much anything on the other side of Canmore. Near the top of the mountain there is a (hopefully given its state) disused helipad that can serve as a nice spot to eat your lunch with a great view of Canmore below. Apparently there’s also an abandoned tea house somewhere around this same spot but I didn’t spend any time looking for it. If you go beyond the helipad, you’ll have to ascend a pretty steep scree slope to reach the summit, but the reward is well worth the struggle up. At the top you’ll have an amazing view of the valley and mountain ranges behind Mount Lady MacDonald, as well as even better view of Canmore to your SE.

We started the hike at about half 9, which was early enough to beat the majority of the traffic but not so early as to have the mountain to ourselves. This being said, yesterday was a national holiday so the mountain was almost certainly busier than usual. We reached the summit at about half 12, and spent a bit of time slowly working our way across the ridge itself, but didn’t end up going further than 100m. The ridge isn’t all that wide to begin with and becomes narrower and narrower as you move along it, so needless to say it gets pretty spicy pretty quickly. I wouldn’t attempt it unless you really know what you’re doing.

I would highly recommend this hike, but I have a few suggestions for anyone who is going to make the attempt. Firstly, there’s a lot of altitude gain and not very much shelter from the sun, so you’re gonna want to pick a day that isn’t going to get devilishly hot and make sure you start nice and early. Hiking poles will be very useful, I didn’t bring mine and my knees were really not enjoying the trip back down. Gaiters will also serve you very well on the scree slope before the summit. I found coming down the scree slope much easier than getting up it, it’s deep enough that you can step and slide down without too much bother.

All in all an absolutely fantastic hike!

Old Goat Glacier

Old Goat Glacier – Early Spring

Well I made it out to the mountains for my first hike of the season today. We ended up doing Old Goat Glacier, and holy shit was there quite a bit of snow still left up there. No one had attempted the hike since the last snowfall, so we got to break the trail ourselves. Unfortunately, the combination of 4-5 feet of snow and our own lack of snowshoes made the normally quite gentle first half an absolute slog. And as you may or may not be able to tell from the photo, the approach up to the glacier itself looked pretty sketchy avalanche wise, so we didn’t end up making the attempt.

Despite all that, it was a lovely day out! The weather was more or less perfect for it, and of course there’s nothing quite like the incredible stillness and quiet of the mountains in winter and early spring. Having gone out the once, I’m even more excited about hiking through the rest of the season. Some hikes in the same general area I’d love to tackle this year are the Three Sisters Pass Route, Boulder Pass up to The Orphan, and then past Red Ridge to the Sparrowhawk Tarns.

Old Goat Glacier is a really nice hike though, I’d just recommend going a bit later in the season. When it’s not blanketed by snow, the first half or so is this very mellow walk along a creek that eventually leads to great view of a waterfall coming from the glacier. Then, if you so choose, you can climb up a scree slope and work your way up to the glacier itself, which is very cool indeed. It’s a really quiet hike as well, I’ve done it a few times now and very rarely have I had to share.

Hiking Series Opener

With decent weather more or less already here, I’m planning to do a hell of a lot of hiking and camping over the spring and summer. Along with this, I’ll be doing a little write up, or review if you’d like, of each new hike I do and posting it in this category. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but for whatever reason never got around to, but that’s going to change this year.

The tentative plan is to begin with Mount Lady MacDonald sometime next week with more to follow, so stay tuned!