Backpacking in Canadian Rockies

I had mentioned in another blog entry that I am not big on camping/backpacking, but yet I went again the past week to Canada. This marks my 2nd backpacking trip in a span of just 2 weeks? I figured I could still do this while I am young (well, below 30 is young, right?), before I regret it later on.

This time, we headed over to Mount Assiniboine with a short side trip to Banff National Park. The first day we were at Banff, the weather wasn't too cooperative, as clouds enshrouded the sky and it rained all day. We covered most of the major Banff landmarks (or rather, lake-marks) in a day – did a ho hum sunrise at Lake Louise, followed by Moraine Lake, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Herbert Lake, Banff Viewpoint and ended off the day at Two Jack Lake with a very unmemorable sunset. The next morning, I drove over to Moraine Lake for sunrise from Canmore, and while it was totally foggy, I suppose I needed to see it for myself. So that rounded up my short stay at Banff National Park. Here are some photos of 2 of my favorite places in Banff National Park.

If you Google “Moraine Lake”, you’d get a ton of photos that are breathtakingly beautiful, to say the least. I’ve seen photos of Moraine Lake so many times I thought I’d be desensitized when I finally see it in person. But what did I know? It had me in awe, nonetheless; imagine 10 giant peaks towering over an emerald lake, with layers of pine trees skirting the lake. I could probably just sit around the lake and do nothing but admire it all day, but the rain pelted down on us and we had to move on.

Peyto Lake is yet another postcard-perfect place and the lake’s captivating turquoise color can be attributed to the sediments of the melting glacier. The lake’s milky-blue color varies, depending on season and time of day. The intense color of the lake is incredibly charming, and I reckon I should have taken a telephoto abstract shot of a small part of the lake. Ah well, next time maybe.

And off we headed to backpack at Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park. When we got there, the skies were overcast again and we hiked towards the campsite in the rain. After we’d pitched our tents, we went out to scout for a sunset spot. We didn't get a decent sunset but instead got a ton of wind to chill our bones. However, the saving grace was definitely our meals. We had pretty amazing Thai food for dinner made by our Thai chef, Por (she's a real chef at a Thai restaurant), who’d flew in from Brisbane for this trip.

The next morning we did sunrise at Lake Magog, where we met Justin Renzik and his friends. First light at Lake Magog was pretty awesome and it was probably the only day we saw some clouds. Mt Assiniboine rises above Lake Magog and because of its pyramidal shape, Mt Assiniboine is often known as the “Matterhorn” of North America. I have yet to see the real Matterhorn, but after seeing Mt Assiniboine, I am itching to see the real deal.

We then scouted a couple more lakes for the night’s milkyway photos before going heading back for lunch. After a re-energizing lunch, we started our hike up to Nub Peak. The trail is segmented into various levels of elevation that have rather endearing names: Nub, Niblet, Nublet and Nub Peak (in ascending order). The hike was relatively easy with moderate elevation gain all the way to Nublet, but things got choppy thereafter. From Nublet to Nub Peak, it gets pretty sketchy when you hike past a ridge and start hugging the Nub from the left. Some parts of the trail are basically narrow paths that drop vertically on the left – lose your footing and that’s it. Though Nub Peak is the highest point on the trail, most people get their sunset shots from either Niblet or Nublet. I have seen a shot by Kevin McNeal taken from Nub Peak and decided to check it out myself. After ruffling my nerves quite a bit, I made it up to Nub Peak unscathed. I only took a couple of shots before sunset and rushed back to Nublet for sunset. I made it just in time for sunset and met everyone else at Nublet. It was a clear, cloudless sunset at Nublet, but in my opinion, Nublet offers the best views of the 4 lakes (Lake Magog, Sunburst Lake, Cerulean Lake, and Elizabeth Lake) and Mt Assiniboine, so I enjoyed shooting there.

After sunset, we rushed down to one of the smaller lakes that we had scouted earlier for milkyway shots. It was a really jam-packed and productive day, before we headed back to base to rest for the night. The next morning, we did sunrise at a few of the smaller lakes that we’d found the previous day. It was a fine day for crystal clear reflections from the lack of wind but the caveat was that the sky was also crystal clear (read: cloudless). We hung out around the lakes for a bit before heading back to pack up. As they always say, all good things come to an end, and this was it. I am back in transit to PDX and yes, I am going back to work tomorrow. It was a short trip but nevertheless, a memorable one. Yet another one of nature’s gems checked! :)