Another one of those iconic hikes, this adventure took us through the Valley of the Ten Peaks, those towering beauties that used to stand in a line across the face of our Canadian $20 bill, past startling blue and green lakes and on up a mountain pass, perched on the edge of a vast wilderness.It was spectacularly beautiful and an incredibly fun day!
[In an effort to build up a resource library, of sorts, for those wanting to visit this area of the world next hiking season, I thought I’d revisit another one of our favourite hikes from last season.]
This hike started out from the shores of Moraine Lake, one of those picture-perfect, startling blue lakes in the Lake Louise area. Even arriving at 9am, it was touch and go whether or not we could get up there by car as the place was packed and they start closing off the access road, only letting one car at a time up as others leave. As it was we had to park far down the road from the popular parking lot.
***Please note though, that 90% of people who crowd that parking lot and visit this lake stay right beside the parking lot, snapping photos & climbing a pile of rocks, and do not venture up the trails. 10% venture up the trail, but of that only about 2% do the trail to Eiffel Lake and Wenkchemna Pass, our goal for that day.
So this is still a trail that is most definitely needs to be on your hit list if you have time for a full day’s adventure! If you’re in the area, get an early start (8am at the trailhead), lace up those boots, bring along coffee to make the early start bearable, and pack a great lunch and plenty of water. You won’t be disappointed!
The trail quickly turned away from the hoards at the lake shore and headed up a series of switchbacks which we did at what our friend called a “blistering pace” to dodge the numerous other hikers on that main trail. After 45 minutes or so of switchbacking (a slog, to be sure), we turned left off the main trail and onto the one for Eiffel Lake. That’s when things got very, very good. We relaxed into a leisurely pace as the trail broke out onto the slope, far above Moraine Lake, across the valley from those majestic ten peaks. From that moment on, and for the remaining 6 hours or so of our hike, we were “in the views” the entire time! (And in relative solitude.)
One of our first view points had us counting those iconic 10 peaks as they splayed out across the valley on the landscape before us. They were beauties! With glaciers tucked up in between their peaks, towering moraine piles of rock debris and colourful lakes at their feet, they were an incredible sight to behold.
We were heading to the low spot between those mountains… Wenkchemna Pass (Wenkchemna is the indigenous word for the number 10), on the right side of the tenth mountain in that incredible lineup of peaks.
At the edge of this scree field, we came across a VERY tame marmot. A marmot looks a little like a beaver without the tail and the watery habitat & the wood chewing teeth. It has the strangest high pitched whistle that warns others in its colony of approaching predators, so you hear them frequently on trails when you hike in the mountains. They live a little like prairie dogs, but in the scree rock debris or moraine piles left behind by the glaciers.
The weird thing about the encounter was that our dog, Seamus, hardly paid this big, pot-bellied marmot any attention, and it was completely unafraid of Seamus. We stopped and watched and it eventually waddled across the trail in front of us and went up into the scree rocks.
It never ceases to amaze me that flowers like these can grow in such harsh environments!
According to our map, peering over this side of the mountain shoulder was a glimpse over the edge of a vast expanse of wilderness with no hiking trails or backcountry or warden cabins at all for a tremendous distance. It was so neat to be perched on the edge of it.
Such a spectacular hike. All told, getting back down the road to where our car was parked, we hiked 20km this day… and every step was worth it! 20km… rather fitting for the scene on a $20!