20150802: Long Weekend Lakes Tour 60k (Redearth, Banff)

We had so much fun doing Tonquin Valley 40k in one day (Portal Creek/ Marmot Basin to Mt. Edith Cavell) last week – despite the rain and mud and bog and foggy views – that I decided to take advantage of the super weather this weekend, and try for another big day.

Tonquin Valley (Jasper). Rain. We took no photos after the first 20k as the humidity didn’t agree with the camera. So you will just have to imagine the gorgeous hanging glaciers and meadows of the Edith Cavell end:

Wilcox Pass, our warm-up the day before and an excuse to stretch our legs on the way to Jasper.
Wilcox Pass, our warm-up the day before and an excuse to stretch our legs on the way to Jasper.

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Tonquin panorama
Tonquin panorama

So, Tonquin, done! Where to go next? My most useful hiking reference, Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies, rates Whistling Pass from Redearth trailhead as a to-do, so I charted myself a 60k loop in the area, incorporating the pass, and hitting up the lakes and passes between the Massive and Ball mountain ranges of the Great Divide. Redearth is pretty close to Banff, so it’s a much quicker drive than accessing Whistling Pass from the B.C. Kootenay side, although Redearth is, essentially, a boring dirt road.

Actually I was originally thinking to do 80k but ended up cutting it down by eliminating a few out-and-back sections due to time limitations and fatigue… Didn’t really want to be out there in the dark.

  • Redearth Creek -> Shadow Lake -> Gibbon Pass -> Ball Pass (eliminated) -> Haiduk Lake -> Whistling Pass/ Great Divide trail -> Scarab Lake -> Mummy Lake -> Egypt Lake -> Redearth Pass (eliminated) -> Pharaoh Lake, Black Rock Lake and Sphinx Lake (eliminated) -> Pharaoh Creek -> return via Redearth Creek

As you can tell, water is abundant, a life saver during 30C + temperatures. And it’s always special to get to play a bit in the snow on the pass, in the middle of summer. The little animals were also in a playful mood and the wildflowers still blooming in profusion. Surprisingly, there were so few mosquitoes I didn’t even have to use bug spray.

Despite it being the long weekend, campsites along the way seemed to have empty spots and the few people I encountered were mostly around Shadow Lake (where there is a lodge) and Egypt Lake (where there is a Parks Canada shelter). The section linking the two was deliciously solitary… Plus, to climb to Whistling Pass would be a bit of a grind with a full pack.  But the trail is incredible.  I truly believe it rivals some of the more well known backpacking trails out there in terms of pleasantness and scenery.

If you have time a great trip would be to continue on to Healey Pass. Especially in the fall, when the larches are turning colour. Disclaimer: I’m biased, probably, as Healey to Egypt was my first backpack trip in Alberta! Seeing the Egypt Lake shelter brought back some memories.

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Holiday monday I decided to head back to the same mountain range, but take a look at the other (British Columbia, Kootenay National Park) side with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Nice easy half day hike to Stanley glacier falls. You can take Ball pass from Kootenay into Banff.

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And to end with a summery moment from Sunshine Meadows a couple weekends ago.

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