Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Backpacking in the Canadian Rockies (3)

Day Three - July 7, 2010

Having retired early the night before, I was awake early at around 4:00 am, but stayed in my warm sleeping bag for while listening to Berg Glacier rumbling and complaining in the distance.  Finally got up at around 5:00 and went with Nancy to the shelter (we were the only ones there) for a quick breakfast of granola and blueberries.

Amazing how quickly such breakfasts pale in interest.  Granola anyway is almost impossible to get down - even after having been chewed on forever it still doesn't swallow well, and with powdered milk is even more intolerable.  I didn't try hot sauce on it.

We'd decided the night before that we would do the Snowbird Pass Trail, but only as far as we felt like going since the hike to the pass is a twenty-one kilometer round trip and an elevation gain of 1500 feet, and the day looked to be very hot.  We were on the trail by 6:30 am.

We photographed some of the wildflowers in the floodplain north of camp, including the ubiquitous Green Bog Orchid, Platanthera huronensis.  These were growing in every wet spot, but perhaps because of the elevation were very short, some only 4-5 cm and the tallest only about 15 cm.

We were very thankful to be out so early since the sun was very hot and very strong.  We were able to get in over two hours of hiking before the sun came up over the ridge above us.

The trail followed the Robson River across the floodplain below Robson Glacier, winding through old moraines and took us around the corner of Wall Mountain, past the lake at the foot of the glacier, then toward the glacier and up the steep side of the huge glacial moraine that lies on the east side of the glacier and along the moraine to tundra above.

The climb up the moraine was very steep and the trail was covered with loose stone and shale.  One part near the top was a bit hair-raising - it brought us over a partially snow-covered path to a catwalk hanging out over the valley.

Having already ascended nearly 1000 feet, we came out on the top of the moraine, far above the glacier below, with amazing views behind us of Wall Mountain and Robson River Valley, with the north face of Mount Robson looming above us across the glacier.

It was amazing how much the glacier had changed in a year.  It had visibly retreated and the front of the glacier was now blocked by a huge new moraine.  The ice caves we had visited last year looked nearly inaccessible this year.

The trail followed the narrow top of the moraine to which we had climbed, the edge of which dropped off precipitously to the glacier some five or six hundred feet below.  At the far end of the moraine our way was blocked by a waterfall tumbling over the cliff above, and the trail switchbacked up the ridge emerging onto the tundra.

At the stream which formed the falls we rested and refilled our water bottles and enjoyed the amazing view of the surrounding mountains.  We had been told that Mount Robson has its own weather system and that certainly seemed to be true, since there were often clouds at the peak when the rest of the sky was cloudless.

The tundra is one of my favorite places and we stopped often to take pictures of the miniature flowers that were blooming at those high altitudes.  The Pasque Flowers were blooming everywhere and they were as beautiful and more so than I remembered.

  Western Pasque Flower

Mountain Heather

Juniper Berries

Woolly-pod Milkvetch

Alpine Phlox

Alpine Goldenrod and Snowpatch Buttercup

Alpine Draba


Unidentified Fungus

The view back across the tundra to Mount Robson was amazing.  We could not see the glacier anymore, but Robson loomed above everything and the play of shadow and sunlight made it difficult to stop taking pictures.  The day went from clear to cloudy to clear again and so we saw the many faces of the mountain.

The marmots were everywhere and completely unafraid.  One even came over and tried to lick my wife's leg when she sat down to rest.  The marmots were usually in pairs and often playing together and it was clearly the mating season.

There were many small butterflies about, but it was difficult to get photos since none of them were willing to pose.  Did have opportunity to photograph a tiny grasshopper and we saw a mountain goat, but the goat very quickly disappeared and we did not get any pictures.

Common Checkered Skipper

White-crowned Sparrow

We decided to turn back at the foot of the pass and were glad we did so, since we were exhausted and sunburned (in spite of lavish applications of sunscreen) when we arrived back at camp around 3:30 pm.  On the way back there was some cloud cover, a welcome relief from the sun and Mount Robson was not completely visible, but was still spectacular.

After soaking our feet and filling our waterbottles we lazed around camp for the rest of the afternoon, had a late evening meal of freeze-dried Pad Thai and Kathmandu Curry and then read for a while, first at the shelter and then in our tent before tucking in for the night.


  1. I have an excellent hot couscous cereal recipe for you that is a little easier to take. It does have dried milk in it , however

    I think it is yummy

    You trip, such a wild lonesome place

  2. I'd like that recipe, Marti. The dried milk is not the main difficulty with the granola and is tolerable.


I have had to increase the security on this blog because of the flood of spam that has been coming through recently. I apologize for the extra burden this puts on those who visit the blog but am sure they will understand.