I’m back in my second home, Jasper, and the mountains are a calling. I’ve sorted myself a job until mid October and right now summer is in full swing. There’s no time to waste! Let me explain…
Summer in the Canadian Rockies is oh so short when compared to seven months of snowy winter. Snow snow go away come again another day.
For people like me who want to walk along ridges and stand in places looking down on mountains, summer only lasts two and a half months. That’s it. Mid July until late September.
Let’s break it down. That’s 75 days. Factor in working five days a week and I’m left with 21 days off. Furthermore consider that one in three days are likely to have some form of precipitation that leaves just 14 days.
14 days of work free and snow free summer days. 14 days…
I’ve made a list of adventures for the summer and one of the big ticket items was a three day backpacking trip to Berg Lake. It’s a hidden gem behind Mount Robson – the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies by a long shot at 3954m, a whopping 3100m above the visitor centre.
Ben and I started our adventure hitch hiking from Jasper. We waited an hour which wasn’t too bad and arrived fresh at the visitor centre at midday.
Our destination was Adolphus campground, still a whopping 28km away with a heavy pack.
The 21km trail to Berg Lake is the most popular in the Rockies, so when we started out we were pleasantly surprised. We only saw a dozen others on the trail all day. We figured as it was the day after a long weekend we hit the jackpot. Ding ding ding.
The first 10km was nothing too exciting. Kinney Lake was the highlight, but pressing on and up the first part of the 800m days elevation gain we were engulfed inside the Valley of a Thousand Falls.
It’s an impressive place. A big wide valley with mountain peaks protruding in the distance and a fair few giant waterfalls cascading down the vertical walls. It reminded me of Yosemite even, and that’s saying something cause that place rocks.
The most awesome part though was witnessing a bizarre stream junction. One stream flowing with brown water and the other blue water. After intersecting there was a definite line separating the two shades for hundreds of metres.
Stretching the legs again the trail turned evil, presenting a steep grade that just spelled out lactic acid. This must have been round about kilometre 12 and over the following 3.5km we gained 450m. But it was worth it.
Up here we glimpsed a rather ferocious looking waterfall – Emperor Falls. I didn’t think too much of it until we branched off the main trail to check it out. Woahhhh!!!
The endless power in this fall was tremendous. Constant, unrelently, loud. I have to say the most impressive waterfall I’ve experienced. It is a showcase of the extreme forces of nature.
What contributed to it’s impact was we could walk right up beside where the water was crashing down. On our hike out we even braved the tame looking mist (which is actually painfully strong) and stood beneath the edge of the fall. It was like being hailed on!
We reached Berg Lake near sunset and it’s just like the postcard. Bliss.
Camping out in Canada is different than in Australia.
Over here it’s all about securing your food away from a hungry bear’s grasp and definitely not keeping food inside your tent. Unless you want an uninvited guest at night. I slept within reach of bear spray to let my mind rest easy.
We cooked our three course meal of pasta, pasta, and rice well away from our tents and hoisted our food bag up a tree. Even at this height it’s a bit low but it’s the best we could do.
It’s off putting to think a mighty bear might be roaming around me while I sleep but I was fine. Slept great after such an exhausting eight hour grind.
The second day we lightened our loads and hiked up another 800m higher and 25km round trip to Snowbird pass. It was really worth it.
This trail takes you right beside Robson glacier. It’s so close and gave me such an appreciation of the size of it, especially when compared to the tiny dots that were people.
On top of that you are presented with a 180 degree view of the Reef icefield upon reaching Snowbird Pass. It’s a great tough day hike, but take note that it’s only open from 1 July onwards.
The last day we spent hiking back out with a good dose of time allocated to swimming in Berg Lake and Emperor Falls. We were so so grateful that the sun appeared after we awoke to mist.
There was no way I was jumping in a biting cold Berg Lake with the sun hiding, or the Falls for that matter.
I said to Ben as we were pacing along the shore feeling refreshed after our swim, “This is just how hiking in the Canadian Rockies looks in guidebooks”.
The sun was out, the glaciers shining, and the water was vivid.
There’s no doubt this is a premier trail and it’s popular for a reason. It presents the most glaciers I’ve seen in such close proximity, plus blue lakes, waterfalls, tall mountains and provides plenty of camping space. Just try to go mid week.