Un-Peaked Eiffel Peak

I have to confess that I find terrific inspiration from the humour, the evocative descriptions, the language and the sensibilities of the Copelands, authors of some of our favourite hiking guide books (Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, and Where The Locals Hike). They have written,

“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.

After the switchbacks were (mercifully) over, we emerged into the relatively flat larch forest. The needles on the trees were soft and they were still their “new” green colour (larches look like pine trees, but are deciduous, and lose their needles every fall). The forest floor was covered in a carpet of wild flowers.
You emerge into a beautiful, wide open, alpine meadow. Straight ahead, with the spectacular coloured bands, to the right of Seamus’ head, is Eiffel Peak… our destination for the day.
There’s a little stream to cross (great for the dogs to catch a drink after the uphill switchback climb).

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.

There is a beautiful stream at the edge of the larch meadow, and a lake up ahead, out of sight. Even if you don’t attain the ridge and the peak, poke about here. It’s really beautiful. If you follow the beta above, you will cross this stream not here, but further downstream.
Looking back downstream… this is high alpine beautiful country!
Here I’m crossing the stream, with my sights set on picking a route up the talus slope to gain the ridge above.
Looking back from the talus slope, you can see Sentinel Pass (that low lying piece of mountain shoulder between the two peaks: Pinnacle & Temple), one of the popular hikes & destinations in this area.
Once we were on the peak, the ridge trail was easy to find. We were heading up the peak in the left of this photo. From left to right you have Eiffel, Pinnacle & Temple Mountains.
The ridge trail was an easy climb and had terrific views. We would be heading up that scree slope straight ahead. Looks easy, right?
Looking back from the ridge line that extends from the base of the scree ramp, you can see the green larch-filled valley we’d ascended. That’s Mount Temple across the way… one of the highest peaks in the area that many experienced scramblers put on their bucket lists.
We began heading up the scree slope… those little, thin fragments sounded like shards of glass breaking underfoot as they knocked together. It’s such a unique sound!
Then the pieces began getting bigger. Bigger and grippier. So it was steep, but not that challenging to pick your way up, following the rock cairns.
Most times the trail was very distinct.
Looking back down the scree ramp and ridge from about 1/4 of the way up the slope.
We watered the dogs and gave ourselves an energy boosting snack behind the shelter of some huge rock slabs.
A perfect rest/re-fueling spot with tremendous views.
Then it was time to head up the slope again.
Sometimes we used poles, sometimes we used rocks… whatever it took to get us up that slope.
Scramble spots like this were really fun, where the rocks had broken off in perfect steps.
And at times it felt like you were climbing up to the ramparts of an ancient tower, curving around pinnacles of stubbornly-not-eroding rock.
But when your trail looks like this, it is truly incredible!
Up and ever up. The rock was changing colour now.
Looking back, we’d come a long way.
We came to another rest ledge, where we could see into the valley below, see the hidden lake at the headwaters of the stream we’d crossed, and far away, to the startlingly blue waters of famous Moraine Lake.
Even from up high on this ledge, the mountains were still imposing, dramatic… spectacular!
Then it was time to push through the next part.
This was another fun scramble section.
The blocks were grippy and chunky. And (dare I say it) beautiful!
There were a few easy climb sections… and somehow the dogs found a way up on their own!
There was a steep couloir to climb. (The angle is off in this photo… it is much steeper.)

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.

Bill, at the start of the couloir.

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.

I’d made it to 3000m.
And what a spot it was, with spectacular views of Moraine Lake, a cliff to protect me from the winds, and a whining Seamus at my side (who wanted to be with the rest of his pack!)
The pano view from my turn around spot.
The colour of Moraine Lake below was startling! Gotta love that glacial rock flour and what it does to the colour of mountain lakes!
And there was this view, around the corner!
So, decision to stay made, I sat & took in the views with Seamus. I ate my veggies. And tried to stay in the moment as I waited an hour for the others to summit, eat their lunches, and come back down to us.
Bill says, it’s not summiting that matters. It’s the journey getting there, it’s the experience of the landscape and the scenery and the day with friends. And there was nothing more difficult ahead than what we came up.
So Bill & Heidi & Pat continued around the cliff, and up the scree slope to the summit.
Bill at the Eiffel Peak summit (3086m).
They saw this over the other side… spectacular!
And an even deeper colour, looking back over Moraine Lake.
Bill told me the story of two men they met up top, in their seventies. Not only did they hike & scramble up top, but they hauled up beer, and glasses! They stuck their beer in the snow up top (like the drift in this pic) to chill it, broke out the glasses, and toasted their success. (I saw them, a little unsteady on their feet, on their way down. They chatted with me for a while and seemed in such great spirits!)
Bill took this photo on the way back down to meet me. I’m just under the rocky outcrop to the left. I had only 80m or so to go. Darn it.

Here’s a time lapsed video of their descent down to me. You can see how picking your route can be a bit challenging…


After reuniting, we headed back down the slope, climbing down through the scramble sections….

(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!)

… taking in the phenomenal views…
… seeing the clouds arch like a rainbow over the Valley of the Ten Peaks ahead…
… and coming back down into the flower filled larch meadow below.
Followed by much needed (as I, for one, was out of water!), ice cold drink at the car.

Distance: 11.6km

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.Eiffel Peak Map.PNG

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.

19 Comments on “Un-Peaked Eiffel Peak

  1. What I really love about your posts is that you take the reader step by step with every part of the hike, and you’re generous with detailed narrative and wonderful photos.

    I do think you’re brave too, some of that scrambling looked steep!

    And as for the colour of Moraine Lake, what a deserved reward.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Loons! I struggle with it a bit… on the one hand, I want there to be enough step by step detail in there to inspire someone to try out a particular trail, with the detail giving them the confidence to know what they’re in for.

      And on the other hand, I don’t want each post to seem the same and to bore the reader who will never come here to the Canadian Rockies to hike. Finding a hook, or a way to make a hiking post interesting for that reader can be challenging.

      But in that front, we’ll soon be off to Italy! So that will change things up a bit. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you returned safely. Since there was no way to tell how tired you might be if you ascended to the summit, it’s always wise to be cautious, I think. As usual, I enjoyed my virtual hike through your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another fantastic climb with exceptional photos… just beautiful. And I can tell, it was work! 😉 I’ve been known to carry a small flask on backpacking trips, but I only sip a bit after calling it a day. I’d never waste energy carrying beer up such a climb and drinking it before descending. You meet all kinds!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Hiking the Paradise Valley to Sentinel Pass & Moraine Lake – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

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