September 18, 2012
Today we did not see that much, but we had a great day nevertheless. We started with breakfast at the same place we had dinner the night before, that was a first. Then we drove up to Lake Louise, which was just a 5-minute drive from the hostel we were staying at. Although it was still cold (10am) and the lake was still in the shades, there were already dozens of tourists running around, trying to snap a shot of the scenery with their iPads extended at arms length.
As usual at these tourist hotspots, you only have to pass the 100m radius to have some space to yourself. The same was true of Lake Louise, and after a few more hundreds of meters we saw even fewer people along the shoreline. Either way, we were going to hike up to the Plain of Six Glaciers, a 14km trail through the valley feeding Lake Louise with meltwater from the numerous glaciers. With every kilometer we saw fewer people, and the hike (and the weather) was really enjoyable. What was different to the hikes we had done before was that this one did not go through any dense forest, nor did it repeatedly dip behind ridges. That meant we had a straight line of view back towards Lake Louise at any point of the hike to assess our progress, which was really encouraging.
On our way towards the Plain of Six Glaciers
At the teahouse on the trail (where most people stopped, and most of them also returned) we pushed on for the last stretch. Soon we crossed the treeline, and the trail got a little bit more demanding after that. The very final stretch was barren rock, and we had to search for the actual trail a few times. About 300m before the dead end we talked to a hiker coming back down and he warned of us the ridge we were about to cross (heavy winds and steep drops on both sides). So we finished a mere 100m from the furthest point we could have hiked, not too shabby.
The views along the route were spectacular, and it was interesting to get this close to actual glaciers. On the way up we heard and saw multiple avalanches coming down the mountain ahead of us, which sounded like canon fire from the distance. Very impressive. In terms of wildlife it was just chipmunks, squirrels and other similar rodents, although we saw dozens of signs warning about Grizzly mothers with cubs.
Lake Louise, back down at ground level
After Lake Louise we drove up to Moraine Lake for a quick visit. The lake was equally beautiful, but by now we were too tired (and a little sunburnt) to do more than to look at it. As we had booked a room in Banff, we left the Lake Louise area on the Bow Valley Parkway (now 1A, formerly TCH), and saw very few other cars. We drove the 55km to Banff through beautiful fir and birch forests at sunset. In Banff we only strolled down main street once, but we’ll have plenty of time to see more tomorrow.