Last night is cold, really cold under Mount Robson. Even though I am all bundled up in my mummy bag my nose is freezing and I have to turtle my head right in. We leave relatively early, we look up to see the hanging glacier above us bathed in sunlight as if a lighting tech has trained a spot on it just for us.
Today we test our metal. About a km from the Whitehorn campground the trail tips up. Steep; really steep. We climb over 500M in 4 km. It would be a good climb in the Tour de France. Trudging our way up we make the inevitable comparisons with the West Coast Trail. This climb is far more extreme than anything on the WCT but the footing is so much better. There is no ‘green stuff’, there are roots to contend with but they are intermittent with long spaces between allowing for some respite, and the rocks are for the most part solid and provide good footing rather than a rolling surface. The trail maintenance is very good, there are no ladders so there are no missing rungs, and there are some very neat stone bridges spanning some of the rills we must cross.
When we reach Emperor Falls there is a group of girl guides dawning their rain gear intending to make good use of the natural shower provided by the falls. The overspray is as dense as any modern shower and for those willing, it is an experience to get close to the falls and get soaked. We on the other hand prefer to stay reasonably dry and find a spot out of the spray to observe this landmark.
Part way along the trail we get glimpses of Mount Robson. The peak is completely visible, not a cloud to be seen. At one point the sun is directly behind the very top of the mountain. It provides a glowing backdrop; a stunning sight.
Being away from all the sensual overload of modern living we notice that we observe things a little more closely. Although the constant loud booming caused by the shifting of the glaciers is hard to miss we do take note of every instance and look to see if we can see an avalanche of ice headed for the valley floor. The glaciers themselves are bright white. There has not been a cloud in the sky all day and the bright light really accents the snowy brilliance of the top layer of snow. Visible in the cracks and crevasses is the transparent blue hue of the ice. As we come out of the forest, Mist Glacier is a very impressive sight, a short while later we round a headland and Berg Glacier is added to our panorama. We arrive at Marmot campground and Berg Lake with these two glaciers and the north face of Mount Robson is our view. A condo on the same site would sell for multiple millions of dollars. It is ours for a mere 20 bucks and a bit of effort.
Another comparison to the WCT is the number of people on the trail. I did not realize how popular this trail is but be do not walk 20 minutes without running into another group of hikers. Most stop to chat. We meet people from all over the world. Mostly Canadian of course, but there are many from the US and Europe and we meet one fellow from Israel. The mix of ages is from about 6 to over 70 and there are a lot more women on this trail than on the WCT. Not necessarily traveling with their spouses but in groups of 3 or 4 ladies without male companions.
We make good time and even with the extreme uphill section walk the 8km in 2 hrs and 50 mins. Lunch is at our new home for 2 days. We decide to make good use of time and the excellent weather and do the day hike along Snowbird Pass in the afternoon and not chance rain in the morning. It is a flat trail and easy to navigate. We only walk to the toe of the Robson Glacier as after that the trail becomes much more arduous and we do not have the time or the reserves to venture farther so we are happy with where we get to. There is an awful lot of snow and what I see is a whack of good skiing. I guess I’m a winter guy at heart.
After such a cold night, this day prove to be a perfect day in the mountains. The weather in the Rockies can be very fickle but today it is outstanding.