On the evening of July 25th, I met up with Yamnuska guide Grant Meekins and guest Carl Granrud from Colorado, to spend the next 3 days on the last days of the Lake Louise Classics. Our objective was to reach the Neil Colgan Hut, Canada’s highest habitable structure at 2957m. Grant outlined our route from Moraine Lake, pointing out the towering 10 Peaks, as we started out with our heavy packs. We were carrying 3 days of meals, plus our mountaineering gear (crampons, axes, helmets, harnesses, rope) and of course our sleeping bags and clothing. To say my pack was challenging is a bit of an understatement – at just a smidgeon under 5′ tall, I struggled with its weight and bulk throughout our trip. However, happy alpinists are not easily discouraged, so we gamely met our first challenge of crossing the slippery log “bridge” spanning the back of the lake, clinging to a dubious thin wire cable that acted to help balance us. Whew – no river “baths” on the first morning.
Our ascent took us up the Schiesser Ledges route which is the “standard” route to the hut. Throughout our 8 hour ascent, Mother Nature playfully threw snow, rain, sleet and even the occasional ray of sunshine our way, so numerous stops were required to layer, de-layer and suit up with Gore-tex. On arrival at the hut, we found we were the only party in residence, so we had plenty of space to dry out wet gear and clothing, and claim a generous amount of territory on the sleeping foamies. Mt. Fay was looking rather dubious, and as Grant ran through possible options for the following day’s climb, we decided that rather than spend an entire day weather bound in Canada’s highest hut, we’d climb a modest peak like Bowlen (Peak #2 in the 10 Peaks), and descend to the valley to attempt another mountain.
So on the morning of July 27th, we leisurely scrambled up Mt. Bowlen (3,602m), took the requisite summit pics, and descended the Fay Glacier to the Perren route and back out to Moraine Lake. On our final day, we decided on Mt. Niblock (2,976m) as our objective, a popular climb above the Lake Agnes Tea House in the Lake Louise area. Once we were up and past the Lake Agnes Tea House, we began to work our way up to the Mt. Whyte/Niblock col, through boulder fields and thankfully snowfields that facilitated our ascent (easy on the knees!). Although it was late July, the summit felt more like early winter, as we were buffeted by strong winds and sleet.
Happily for Carl, his week included ascents on LeFroy, Bowlen and Niblock, with an attempt of Victoria (cut short by incredibly snowly conditions on the Victoria ridge). For me, these objectives had already been accomplished in previous years, but one can never get enough of the mountains. Even if a route is repeated, the climbers are different, the guides might be different, and there is a unique energy and memory that comes with every climb.
Thanks to Grant Meekins for his professional and safe guiding skills; to Carl for his good spirit and warm smile (even though he claims to be a shy Norwegian) and to Brian, from Yamnuska’s kitchen, for the delicious and interesting meals. This Yamnuska trip is definitely a “classic” and should be included in any alpinist’s checklist for the Canadian Rockies.
Written by Yamnuska guest, Margaret Imai-Compton