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Flashpacking

Alberta

CANADA | Tuesday, 16 September 2008 | Views [619]

After Mount Robson we cross broders into Alberta the home of Jasper and Banff the best known resort towns in the Rockies. Our first day in Jasper started out at Maligne Canyon, we followed the river down the canyon which was easy enough going down, slightly more taxing on the way back up to get back to the car park.

We got back in the car and headed to Maligne Lake passing Medicine Lake which was scenic but half empty. Once at the lake we walked around half of it and then went inland a kilometer to Moose Lake which wasn't as impressive as Maligne so we headed back and continued to walk more of the main lake.

After a whole morning of walking which started about 8am to avoid other people I was ready for a rest and went to Jasper town for lunch and watched Champions League which was nice.

After lunch we went on the “Jasper Tramway Experience” which is a 3,000 foot ride followed by a steep walk from the tramway drop-off terminal to the summit of the Whistlers Mountain. Along the way, it is clear why the Jasper tourism bureau’s slogan for the park is “Wonderful By Nature”. As you ride the gonola and then hike to the top of the summit, the panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies are spectacular. We had just under two hours before the last gondola went back down and was told it took 45 mins each way to get to the summit. Thinking we were pushed for time it took 25 minutes and nearly my life, it's pretty tough going anyway but at speed its a killer. It was well worth it and we were lucky to have supurb weather.

Everywhere we went we were told it was unseasonably warm and sunny and these are the occasions it really pays dividends. We got to see Mount Robson from Whistlers which on average is only visiable 5 days a year.

The following day it continued and made the Athabasca Glacier Icewalk an unforgetable experience. On the way we saw for the first and last time some Elk on the side of the road.

The Columbia Icefield is the largest mass of ice in the Rocky Mountains. Straddling the boundaries of Alberta and British Columbia as well as Banff and Jasper national parks, the icefield stretches for more than 25 kilometres across the Continental Divide. From its melting snows and many glaciers, waters flow across North America to the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Pacific oceans.The most accessible part of the icefield is the Athabasca Glacier, a six kilometre tongue of ice flowing to within a kilometre of the Icefields Parkway. Daily during the summer, our guides lead adventurous people from around the world onto this slowly moving river of ice. It's a world few people ever see, let alone experience firsthand.

That blurb sums the day up, they offer two walks a three hour or a six hour walk which is only offered a couple of times a week. I wanted to make the most of it after missing out in New Zealand so booked up for the six hour hike, we covered about 10k but at a much easier pace than we had been doing other walks at, with constant stops and explanations of the different contours and causes for them. It was incredible and the photos speak for themselves.

That was the last day in Jasper, the following day we drove to Banff stopping of at the Valley of the five lakes for yet another walk, and then Athabasca falls.

We stopped off a Bow Lake which looks a stunning blue due to the glacial water which Lake Louise is also well known for, which was our final stop before reaching Banff town. We had already decided to get up early and go to Lake Louise the following day to beat the crowds and get some photos while its still and has the un behind it. However since we were passing we decided to stop and check out how busy it was and what was there before returning the following day.

We walked up the steep hill to Fairmount lookout which was a bit disappointing since it pointed in the direction of the huge hotel next to the lake rather than the mountains the oposite end and was also obscured by trees. There were other hikes on the otherside of the lake which we decided to do the following day hoping it would be better.

We got there about 7.45am and started to go on the 4k hike to Big Beehive lookout. It started off steep and looked to get worse. I decided I didn't want to exhaust myself again so I went back down to walk around the base of the lake. There was another walk which started the far end of the lake which I initially had no intention of taking since it was 6k one way. However, it was a gradual climb up the far mountain which could be seen in the distance from the hotel side of the lake.

The walk was called Plain of Six Glaciers Lookout so sounded like the odds were good that at least 1 out of 6 glaciers had to be worth the walk. It took about two and a half hours to get to the lookout and I only saw 4 other people. It was early but the best time to hike uphill, it was about 2 degrees when I started but mid twenties by the time I got back to the car just under 4 hours later, it took a lot less time to get back down. On the way I was constantly looking out for bears but fortunately didn't come accross one. Whilst at the top I took some photos and just as I went to leave I heard this sound like thunder, since its was a sunny day I though it was a jet plane, but when I turned around I saw it was an avalance.

There wasn't too much snow on the peaks so it was only a small avalance but it was cool to see and I managed to get a photo of it, which really just looks like a waterfall of snow. When your not used to seeing that kind of thing it's pretty cool and nice and safe since it was on another mountain.

On the way back down there were about 4 or 5 more, but I only saw one the rest were on other peaks that I couldn't see. I also passed far more people coming up while I was coming down which made me think I was not only glad not to be walking uphill in the heat but I also had the mountain virtually to myself apart from 2 other walkers infront of me and another couple who were coming down as I was going up.

After nearly 4 hours of walking just what you need next is a 3 mile walk uphill to Johnston Canyon upper falls, but we did it. It was worth it and at the lower falls there was a walk through a cave to a veiwing point of the lower falls.

To cap the afternoon off was a trip up the Banff Gondola, not quite as good as Jasper although at this point I was all walked out. There is an old weather station that you can walk to on the top of the mountain but it didn't offer too much in terms to better veiws so the trip down was the last activity of Banff and Alberta.

The next day was a welcome days drive in the car back to Kamloops.

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