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Mt. Edith Cavell (Glacier Loop) – Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada
This hike offered spectacular close up views of three glaciers - Angel Glacier, Cavell Glacier and Ghost Glacier. It is a popular trail rated easy but inaccessible by tour buses.
Getting to the trailhead requires a teeth rattling drive up Mt. Edith. We jounced and swayed around switchbacks with an AWD rental. At times it was easy to forget a skid could translate to a quick decent off the side of the mountain; on our way up Mary tapped my shoulder multiple times to ask me to slow down, but I was going like 5 miles per hour. :) By the time we arrived at the trailhead, other than the mountains 'in our face', what I noticed the most was the generous number of restroom stalls, but not many people. Aparently this must be a popular trail but the wet weather & steep drive must have kept lots of people off the trail. It had snowed the night before and a light dusting of snow over the grey mountain tops created some dramatic scenery.
With traction aids and gaiters in my daypacks, we set off on an interpretive trail running parallel to the mountain. The Angel Glacier hardly left our sight during the entire trek. This short, interpretive trek offered a steady climb about a mile until the pavement ended. The paved section of the trail was dotted with signs about the recolonization of plants and animals in the region. At the end of the pavement we chose a route to the left and started a steeper climb up a switchback; from here we headed toward the Cavell Meadows Loop. Rocky surrounding suddenly gave away to pines, junipers and deep snow covers. We slipped on some traction aids onto our boots and continued. After a short climb we found a sign (Climber’s Route) pointed straight at the glacier. The climber's route seems improbable but the route could be covered by snow. We met a couple of professional photographers at the ridge top and joined them for lunch. Sitting on the boulders off the ridge top with a 40 degree slope dangling underneath our feet created an exhilarating spot for lunch. Our senses were heightened but relaxed at the same time. I drifted off to a dreamy state closed my eyes and concentrated on the sound of ice cascading down the glaciers into the 'lake' below. As I took a deep breath of crystal clear mountain air, I was awakened abruptly by a whack on my shoulder from Mary. She warmed me not to fall asleep and fall but the slap was so strong that it almost knocked me off the ridge top. We continued the climb along the forest and completed the loop. On the way down, we stopped by the ‘lake’ created by the melting glacier. The photo op at this location was out of this world. Too bad the sky was cloudy or the sun reflected off the glacier blocks would have created some incredible images.
Tips: bring traction aids/gaiters if snowy or icy conditions are expected. Take the appropriate vehicle up the mountain especially if foul weather is expected.
Total Distance: ~4 miles
Elevation: ~7000 Feet
Gain/Loss: ~400 feet
Rating: 8 out of 10
Plain of Six Glacier Teahouse – Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
The "Plain of Six" is probably the most famous Lake Louise hike; the well-graded trail follows the shoreline and offers a closer view of the source of the emerald colored water of Lake Louise.
We started the hike early. The trail was extremely easy to follow; we stayed close to the shoreline and was never lost. As we progressed, the valley narrowed and gave away to illusions of the opposing mountains cliff grew higher. There were some sections of the hike littered with rocks with chains bolted into the rocks to help hikers to get a grip. The elevation gain was evident here. As we started it was sunny, and then it rained followed by sleet bounced off our hard-shells. By the time we were half way up the mountain, with Lake Louise just a speck of blue in the distance, we were caught in the middle of a full blown blizzard. Unfettered by the weather, we pressed on and reached the Tea House (at about 4+ miles away from the trailhead). We were greeted by the only person at the teahouse, and wondered if we were the only ones made it. We held onto the hot tea cups as if they were life savers (and in some respect they were). My old rain jacket failed and water penetrated my outer shell.
Slowly, more people came and filled the teahouse. Snow had subsided a bit so we decided to continue. We pressed on as far as we could until the trail became unrecognizable. At times, I think we were walking on the side of cliffs off the trail. We turned around when I caught a glimpse of the V shaped glacier valley in the distance; the trail at this point was unrecognizable. During descent, we could hear roars of the fallen glaciers nearly, but this could have been an avalanche... Yikes! Overall, a nice hike and we’ll do it again if we are lucky to see the sun next time.
Tips: layer appropriately & bring waterproof tops and bottoms.
Distance: ~8 miles round trip
Elevation: ~ 5400 feet
Gain/Loss: ~1200 feet
Rating: 8 Out of 10 (-1 point for not able to see the glaciers clearly on the day of our visit)
Side Trips (Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper). Attached below are few examples to match the photos:
1) Banff: On top of the gondola at the town of Banff. There is a short hike on summit; take the hike to get a way from the crowds by the gondola.
2) Banff: There is a dead-end dirt road that runs parallel to the 2 lakes and Route #1 at Banff; the views are good along the stops.
3) Banff/Calgary: Spray Valley Provincial Park (Spray Lake) off Route 40 - if you are traveling to Banff from Calgary, try to take a detour to Route 40 from 216 (Rt 40 re-enters Route 1). The scenery along this highway was stunning. Stop anywhere; 1st stop at the Kananaskis Country headquarter for detail before venturing out on your own.
4) Yoho: Emerald Lake at Yoho National Park has canoe rentals and a woodsy (5mi one way) hike to Hamilton Lake - this trail is a prime habitat for bear so bring your bear spray. Hiking in the woods besides a stream, clustered berries and noisy waterfalls forces you push your senses to the limit, I had my hands on the bear spray throughout most of the hike expecting something large around the bend. It was a feeling I will never forget!
5) Lake Louise/Jasper: Columbia Icefield tour between Lake Louise and Jasper; just look for a large gathering of tour buses and cars.
6) Lake Louise/Jasper: Mistaya Canyon is along the Ice Fields Parkway, on your left hand side traveling Northbound. This is a short but hardly an exciting hike.
7) Banff: Lake Minnewanka; the lake offers boat/fishing tours.