“The philosopher William James believed addiction expresses a yearning for the divine. It’s an illuminating insight into why many of us crave mountain adventure and pursue it with unflagging zeal. We ascend thirstily, at every opportunity, not just for the vistas or the sense of accomplishment, but for the bliss, the rapture, the ineffable ecstasy that well up within us during intimate communion with mountain wilderness. Often those feelings are hard won, requiring an exhaustive effort.”
Though they didn’t write this about Eiffel Peak, they very well could have. The effort it takes to hike and scramble to its summit, the vistas and views that you gain on its flanks of the scenery far below, and the way it delivers you from the clutches of the Moraine Lake & Sentinel Pass hoards is most certainly worthy of a good dose of awe and reverence, a healthy dose of accomplishment, and a shot of adrenaline from pushing the limits.
That being said, this is the first hike/scramble of which I did not make it to the top. And for me, that was a difficult thing to come to terms with. I know I made what was the right call for me at the time, but it added self doubt to the equation… something I haven’t experienced on my mountain hikes before. I now know more about myself. And I know, in hindsight, that I could have easily done it. But I know, too, that your head just has to be in the game, when the stakes are high.
Until this point, the hikes we’ve done, even when they have had scrambling in them (where your hands and feet are on the rock, your hiking poles are safely tucked away, and where there is some “exposure…” where if you slip or fall, there can be serious consequences), have not been “scrambling” in the true mountain sense. [Just look at what some people on the Scrambling In The Canadian Rockies Facebook page are doing!]
Come along and see what our day was like… Eiffel Peak was a hike that stretched our scrambling ability and our taste for adventurous summits.
We set off with good friends of ours who have a lot of Rocky Mountain hiking experience. The trail went up a series of easy switchbacks through the forest from the shores of the lake… about 2.5km worth of no-views, but mercifully shaded, steep hiking.
A little trail beta: the guidebooks say that you go to the benches in the open meadow, before taking a rough trail to the left, that crosses the stream and heads up the talus slope. Don’t take this route. Instead, veer left on the first track you see, as soon as you hear the creek rushing through the trees trailside (once you’re over this bridge). This track takes you up a far gentler, much easier ascent.
What you don’t see at this point, because we needed all hands and feet & concentration on climbing the couloir, was the section we climbed to get to above this point.
Pat said to me, “Now Sheri, if you are feeling at all unsure, remember that going down is always harder. Always think, can you come back down this?” Coming up that couloir was tough. The hand holds were good, but the footing left me feeling a bit shaky & uncertain. I was a bit sketched out, I have to say. I struggled with wrapping my head around what it would be like to come down, with no ropes, and more tired after ascending the peak.
Not knowing what was ahead on the rest of the ascent, I called this as my turn around spot.
Here’s a time lapsed video of their descent down to me. You can see how picking your route can be a bit challenging…
(The couloir was far easier than I anticipated to come down… perhaps it was because I was well rested, perhaps it was because I had extra energy left from not summiting… or perhaps it was because it wasn’t hard to come down, darn it!)
Elevation Gain: 1225m
The loop in the map below shows coming in, via the guidebook trail description, and coming out via the new track that follows the ridge crest down through the forested slope.
A little trail beta: The hike begins at the Moraine Lake parking lot. In July, this is the problem because the tourists, and the sunrise photographers, descend on it in droves. By 8am the parking lot is full, on a week day. By 9am, when the parks parking staff arrive for the day, the 12km access road is closed off and they begin letting in cars one at a time, as others descend.
The Moraine Lake parking lot is host to 7 very substantial, exceptionally beautiful and breathtaking hit-list hikes and scrambles: Sentinel Pass, Wenkchemna Pass/Eiffel Lake, Consolation Lakes, the Eiffel Peak and Temple Peak Scrambles, the Tower of Babel Scramble, and access to the Paradise Valley. It is also the perfect place for tourists to park, view a lake that is even more beautiful than the nearby popular Lake Louise, take their photos from the edge of the parking lot, and move on. The parking lot is not nearly big enough to Accommodate the demand for this special place.
Arriving just before 8am this season, we had to park far down the road. I can’t emphasize this enough: GET THERE EARLY. Or take your chances on daylight & afternoon weather building into thunderstorms, and arrive around 3pm.
Trekking up a mountain’s shoulder, hiking through a flowering alpine meadow, snowshoeing through a dense pine forest, or taking in the 360 degree views from a ridge top vantage point make me feel alive. The experiences in these places give me a profound sense of space and place.
Travel does a similar thing, pushing me out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new experiences, new people and new ways of thinking; it also gives me that sense of space and place in this world.
I believe that life is lived in the contrasts: when you experience simplicity and complexity and life's ups and downs, whether they be physically in this world or mentally in your own personal inner landscape, you know that you are truly living.
The bigger they are, the more there is to explore!