(Most of the photographs in this post were taken by a friend, Chantal, and she has given her permission allowing me to use them in the post. If you like any of the photos or want more information I can provide contacts details for her.)
After enduring weeks of non-stop rain and the disruption of the flood, The Canada Day long weekend was made very welcome in the Bow Valley. As residents and visitors began to gear up for the festivities to come we decided to make like real life Banffites and fill our day with the essential ingredients needed to make the most out of living in the Rockies, nature, excercise, and a sense of adventure. A super cute, red convertable rental car can also be thrown into the mix for that ultimate, wind-in-the-hair experience. The shopping for our metaphorical cake complete, we arrived at our destination and began our first proper hike of the summer, Sentinel Pass and Larch Valley.
The trail begins by the crystal clear, glacially fed waters of Lake Morraine which boasts of a beautiful, distinctive blue colour made by light reflecting off the rock flour deposited by the glacier.
When the obligatory ten minute stare-googly-eyed-at-the-water-while-exclaiming is over, navigate through the gaggle of tourists and arrive at the base of what seems like an endless amount of switch backs.The trail from the lake to Larch Valley is 2.6miles (4.2km) and considered moderate, but with an elevation gain of 1800ft (550m) it can be quite hard going and if you’re not acclimatised to the altitude you’ll find yourself gasping for air like a fish on the deck, like yours truly. Light gear, good shoes, snacks and plently of water are essential as well as wind and waterproof clothing as the weather around mountains can be unpredictable. After an hour or so, the landscape opens up to reveal the valley and the loss of breath will seem a small sacrifice to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The valley is given its name by the rare, desidious larch trees that are found here, larches being the only pine trees to shed their needles. Autumn is the more popular time on the trail with the trees turning a bright shade of yellow before the needles fall off but you are not missing out with a June visit.
Looking back on the trail from the valley gives spectacular views of Ten Peaks and looking forward you are greeted with Sentinel Pass, Pinnacle Mountain to the left and Mount Temple to the right. This is a great spot to have an extended lunch, which we did and were joined by some very animated ground squirrels scavenging for crumbs.
We had only planned to walk to the valley but all came to the mutual decision to carry on up Sentinel Pass which is the part directly in the centre of this photograph. The path begins out of view to the right, winding its way through the snow patches and if you look closely at the photo you will see the switch backs winding up the mountain. It is quite hard to tell the scale until you get close and start climbing and we were only small specs on the side of this mountain.
We made our way over the snow patches and up the switch backs to the top left of the picture. This part wasn’t too steep but the fact we were on slippery snow made the going a bit slow and tedious.
And finally we were at the top, looking over the pass to Paradise Valley and back at Larch Valley the views were simply amazing!
To give a sense of scale, the photo below has two of our group in amongst the rocks, to the left.
When the time came to go back down the mountain, the snow that made it difficult to get up became the easiest way down, why walk when you can toboggan, in June?