Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hiking and Teahouses at Lake Louise

Andrew’s father was never one for hiking. Our fascination with mountain climbing was a mystery to him and he claimed the only good mountain was one with a gondola and a teahouse.

He might have thought the 20 + km hike I did on Sunday a bit of craziness but he would have liked both Lake Agnes and Plain of Six Glaciers teahouses.

Andrew had left Saskatoon last Monday to attend an environmental conference in Wells Gray Park in BC. I left Friday and took the bus to Lake Louise Village, with an overnight in Calgary. In between rain showers it was great to get out for a quick 5 km hike on Saturday afternoon.

Without a vehicle to get me anywhere else (and due to lack of anything remotely resembling planning on my part) I took the easy way out on Sunday and did a tourist trek, first starting up to Lake Agnes.

In the clouds at Lake Agnes Teahouse
What else do you have at a teahouse besides tea and scones?!?
(Well, actually they have a huge menu so there's lots to choose from.)
Teas galore! Over 100 on this list.
Although it’s a wide and well established path with well-marked signage at every turn and hardly a “wilderness experience” with a bazillion people around, having gotten involved in Saskatoon Search and Rescue the past few months (and following several Facebook and blog sites that post and review SAR rescues and the reasons behind them) I carried somewhat more gear than I normally would for this hike. I had all the 10 essentials, including a compass, a GPS and a newly purchased topo map (and actually used the map and marked a few waypoints on my GPS for practice). Perhaps a bit of overkill but I figure if I’m going to talk the talk I better walk the walk!

But amongst all this gear, I forgot my camera! Grrrrr! Luckily I had my iPhone with me so all was not lost. 

As fabulous as the scenery is (despite being a cloudy and a little bit rainy day) this hike reminded me why I much prefer to get away from people. It’s a sad state of affairs when you’re barely 20 minutes out and someone asks how much farther it is. And on the Six Glaciers part of the hike. . . Lady, that bright pink fashion purse? Really? On a hike? And Mr., what DID you have in that briefcase???
On the Highline Trail, looking down to Lake Louise and the Chateau.
On the Highline Trail
On the other hand, it’s great to see so many people enjoying the outdoors. A half-kilometer from Lake Agnes an older gentleman was huffing and puffing. He informed me he was 72 years old and this was a struggle for him. I told him, “You’re doing great! Almost there!” I’ve struggled lots over the years too – hiking/climbing steep terrain, heavy pack, high altitude. And many times have repeated one of the mantras: “Slowly, slowly”, “Poley, poley”, or “Bistari, bistari.” (English, Swahili and Nepalese respectively)
First cloudy views of Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria
Icefall and spindrift off Mt. Lefroy

As I hiked up towards Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria there were several loud thunderous cracks from ice movement and a huge icefall came crashing down from the top of Mt. Lefroy. Many years ago, Andrew and I, along with friends Ian and Lori, were in this area and got heavily blasted by spindrift from an avalanche and icefall coming from Mt. Victoria.

I hiked far enough to see around Mt. Lefroy to the glacier leading up to Abbot Pass and the Abbot Pass Hut. I’ve been camp manager for a couple of ACC national camps that included nights at this hut. On one of them, we summited Mt. Victoria and didn't even attempt Mt. Lefroy due to rock fall. On the other, we descended from the hut via the Fuhrmann Ledges on Mt. Lefroy which, if you know what to look for, are clearly visible from the teahouse area. I never thought of it from a viewer’s perspective but it would be quite spectacular to see a group of climbers coming around the ledges.

Mt. Lefroy -- the Fuhrmann Ledges run horizontally, midway across the photo where
 the light-coloured scree changes to the darker rock below.
Glacier between Mt. Lefroy and Mt. Victoria.
The Abbot Hut is the little speck at the top of the pass.
The front side of Mt. Lefroy. The Fuhrmann Ledges exit onto the scree slope at the centre of the photo. 

Descending from the Six Glaciers teahouse there were a couple short bursts of hard rain so I tried out my sil-poncho tarp for the first time. I’m sure I looked like a dork but at least I was a dry dork.

Despite the soggy weather there were a few climbers at Back of the Lake. I was impressed with this guy who finally made it over this big overhang.

Canoe on the Lake
Lovely Lake Louise
Beautiful flowers outside the Chateau Lake Louise.
My last amusement for the day was seeing a Mountie in his red serge. I’m sure when he joined the RCMP he didn’t imagine his good looks would earn him a spot as the Lake Louise tourist attraction. Poor guy. Gotta give him credit for being very gracious to everyone who wanted their photo taken with him.
RCMP officer on public relations duty.
From the Lake I hiked back to the Village via the Louise Falls Creek Trail. This quiet trail, beautiful moss and trees, and listening to the rushing water was a great way to end the day.


  1. So nice to read your post about this great walk, even if it is popular. I remember doing this on July 1st when I think you (Andrew, anyway) led a bunch of people up Mt. Victoria but they didn't summit. I hiked with Gerry and Stacey to Lake Agnes and then on to the Six Glaciers where we met up with the climbers. It was a brilliantly blue sky day. Dave and I hiked to the Six Glaciers last September when we had my parents' 70ieth wedding anniversary celebration in Lake Louise. Another gorgeous day. Glad you're having some good hikes!

  2. Yes, I was on that Mt. Victoria trip too! We turned back due to potential avalanche conditions. Fun times!