Mt Robson 3-day trek
By Szilvia Paradi
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July 22, 2020:
This would be a big trekking day. We made our way to the Mount Robson Provincial Park Visitation Centre to check-in to the Berg Lake Trail. The park ranger explains the trail conditions to us – a bit muddy due to all the rainfall, but hike-able nonetheless. She also tells us about a grizzly bear sighting;
however, we are not to worry, as it was sighted far away from the campsites and the trail in a closed off area of the park.
Breakfast this morning was oatmeal with dried fruits, nuts, and Splenda/brown sugar to taste, all accompanied by black instant coffee. This was to be my breakfast for the next week. It’s a good thing I adore oatmeal (it is my go-to daily breakfast) and already drink my coffee black – perhaps I was made for this lifestyle!
We then make our way to the trailhead and take our “trail start” photo.
16km Hike, 850m elevation gain
Route: From Trailhead to Emperor Falls Campsite. Detour: to Emperor Falls.
Off we go on the Berg Lake Trail!
The first 11km of the trail is an easy 350m total elevation gain – “flat” by my standards. Still, the 30+ pound bag on my back completely changes the game. About 7km in, we reach the first campsite – Kinney Lake. This was the first of many stunning viewpoints – a mesmerizing glacial colour that can be described perhaps as a milky azure blue, thanks to the lightweight silt that is suspended in the melted glacier water.
In the next 4km, we hit a big metaphorical roadblock. One of my friends, who has inconsistent asthmatic problems, had been struggling with the hike thus far. She made the difficult decision to turn around before we commenced the hikes’ first steep ascent. She chose well; the terrain ahead was to become very challenging. We said our goodbyes – knowing very well that we wouldn’t have contact with her over the next few days. A fearful thought, as we weren’t able to follow up with her on her condition. We made loose plans to meet back at the trailhead in two days.
Let this be a lesson – if you are having health issues right before a larger hike, it is important not to let optimism, pride, or trail-ambition win over. There are no healthcare services up in the mountains. Emergency services are slow and difficult to contact in the backcountry. While a good physical challenge part of the fun – it is not worth over-doing it and putting your life at risk.
About 1 km after we said our farewells, I realized she was still carrying my phone… my heart just about dropped! I was relying on my phone to take all my photos. The following photos you see in this blog are taken by my friend B, used with her permission.
Making your way up the mountain, we enter the Valley of a Thousand Falls – appropriately named. Waterfalls, water trickles, cascading down the mountain, as far as the eyes could see. I was almost reminded of the viewpoints in Iceland; a country that is carved out by travelling glacial formations, creating unique landscapes and viewpoints that stretch out as far as the eyes could see. With the 30+ pound backpack… this area of the hike was a true challenge for me.
We finally reached Emperor Falls campsite by 5PM, and set-up our tent. I’ve never before camped in such a spectacular campsite. Our tent bordered Robson River – literally a foot away from the milky blue rapids, and opened up to the full peak of Mount Robson in front of us in all its glory.
We were exhausted at this point, but we needed to see Emperor Falls. So we ate dinner (my vegan Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai left behind from my friend – yummm!) and went back down the trail – about another 1km, to circle around to see it in all its magnificence. And magnificent it was – a towering wall of water, unlike anything I have ever seen in such a rugged proximity. The water strikes a cliff just under halfway down, which causes a wide, misty waterfall formation with a lot of spray. Being in front of these Falls was the highlight of my whole hiking trip.
July 23, 2020:
~11km Hike, ~500m elevation gain
Route: From Emperor Falls Campsite to Berg Lake Campsite. Detour: The Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Lake Route
We ate our standard oatmeal breakfast and made our way on the trail. This day was to be our “rest” day, as it was only 5km to the finale of the trail; the Berg Lake Campsite, with very little elevation gain left. Sure enough, it was a quick stroll over to Berg Lake, despite being in the rain.
The Berg Lake campsite was heavenly. We had a full view of the two glaciers, Berg Glacier and Mist Glacier, which fed into the turquoise Berg Lake. Occasionally, you would hear colossal pieces of glacier breaking off and falling into the lake – a loud rumble that resembles the sound of thunder. The campsite itself had a cozy shelter built complete with a fireplace and tables for hikers to dine, play cards at, and socialize. It made for a very hostel-like setting, and we even met and befriended a few travelers, exchanging tips and hiking stories.
After basking in the views and setting up our site, we decided we needed MORE. We embarked on the side route up to Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Lake, another 6.3km with a healthy amount of elevation gain from the campsite.
With that, we retired for the day with another Backpacker’s Pantry (this time, their Katmandu Curry), tea, and many layers (for it was -1 C that night; and still raining of course).
July 24, 2020:
~21km downhill Hike
Route: Berg Lake Campsite to Trailhead
Our 21 km back was filled with weather frustration. It went from being cold and rainy, to hot and sunny on an hourly basis – stopping to shed rain layers, just to put them back on an hour later was slightly annoying. I think I made the mistake of not drinking enough, as I started to feel very weak and dizzy towards the end. There was a large dose of anticipation mixed in, thinking about our friend at the trailbase that we would hopefully reunite with, hopefully safe and sound, hopefully with her own adventurous stories to share. Hopefully.
….and you know what, that’s exactly what had happened. We arrived at the trailhead and there M was, waiting for us! As for her own unanticipated adventures - she had taken off to Alberta! She checked herself into the cheapest hotel and spent the night resting… then explored Lake Louise, Lake Morraine, and Jasper as much as time allowed her to (Jasper is about a 1 hour drive from Mount Robson).
We looked and felt slightly malnourished at this point, but had been so ecstatic knowing that we had just completed such a challenging and rewarding hike. We drove to A&W and ate burgers with lettuce wraps (I was somehow more excited for the fresh, crunchy lettuce) as our finale meal and commenced the trip back to the mainland, our hearts full and our phones full of otherworldly documented memories.
I’M GLAD I PACKED:
- instant coffee
- Mio (for electrolytes!)
- dried apples and bananas!! These made for a light, affordable, and delicious snack. Dried apricots and dates were nice too, but sat a bit heavier.
- a separate rain poncho for my bag (note: a rain cover would have been more efficient)
- the tiny bottle of hand sanitizer- camp shoes
- A Buff. Very versatile piece of clothing.
- Extra socks.
I WISH I PACKED:
- rain pants. Do not ever brush off owning rain pants.
- bear spray (my friend had some, but I will never do a hike again without this)
- a travel pillow – personal preference, but I sleep with 4 large pillows at home. To go from that, to 0 pillows, was a terrible adjustment. I’m a pillow girl.
- A lighter set of warm-clothes. I had packed a heavy and bulky sweater and sweatpants, and could have been more efficient.
- dry shampoo potentially, to combat the day 5 hair!
Are you inspired by Szilvia's journey? For your own Mount Robson challenge (that can be customized for any level or ability!), be sure to check out Tours of Exploration's 3-day long Mount Robson itinerary, inspired by her travels.