20170702-3: Hidden lakes (Warrior Mountain, Interlakes Kananaskis)

  • Interlakes to Aster Lake: 5.5hrs, 12k, 575m elevation gain
  • Warrior Mountain: 4.5hrs, 8.6k, 1200m elevation gain

During my first compass navigation course we used a map of Kananaskis; one of the exercises was to use the map to describe the bearings and route from the Interlakes trailhead to Aster Lake. The instructor (Andy, Slow and Steady Hikers) asked me if I’d ever been there. No, I replied. I hadn’t.

But now I have. It seems a bit of a trudge, but when you pop out of the trees at the end of Hidden Lake and see what’s ahead in the open terrain, all you’ll want to do is keep going up, up, up.

That giant Fossil Falls waterfall, visible from the parking lot, glistening hard in the sun nearly 10km away? Yes, you’ll get a privileged view of it. Plus a couple other tall waterfalls you’ll have to cross, possibly on snow bridges, even in July. Incredible! When you head back out to Upper Kananaskis Lake Circuit path and the mass of people committed to the main trail, you’ll be able to look waaay back waaay up and say, Yeah, I was there.

You’ll feel pretty special.

If you continue on over the headwall, you’ll pass Foch Pond, cross a few more creeks and waterfalls, and finally arrive at Aster Lake. Here’s what Yamnuska Mountain Adventures has to say about the area:

Some of the most stunning scenery that the Canadian Rockies has to offer! Mt Joffre dominates the skyline in Kananaskis Country, a wilderness area less visited than the Mountain National Parks, but considered a hidden treasure to those of us who live and explore the Canadian Rockies… Challenging days, alpine glow on early morning summit starts, stunning panoramas…

…Enjoy a warm up hike around the Upper Lake for 5.5 km before striking into the forest towards Hidden Lake and the high country surrounding it. This is a grind with your full pack. Working around Hidden Lake we reach the trail that climbs high above Foch Creek to take us into the high alpine basins above. We camp just below Aster Lake, one of the prettiest alpine lakes in the region.

Looking back at Hidden Lake
Looking back at Hidden Lake. It’s an intermittent lake that flows underground to Upper Kananaskis Lake in the background.
Snow patches make for convenient hydration stops...
Snow makes for convenient hydration stops…
Foch pond. Only 2km to Aster Lake!
Foch pond. Only 2km to Aster Lake!
Golden hour in the mountains
Golden hour in the mountains

It was hard enough to secure a backcountry reservation at Aster Lake. I won’t comment on the slightly archaic process but we did score a permit for one night.

Due to snow and conditions and general laziness and lack of sleep (we’re on vacation…), we decided to head from Aster Lake to Warrior Mountain. That was enough for us. Did I mention we’re on vacation ;), but vacation was ending and we didn’t want to be wrecked for work the next day! We took our time, took lots of photos, drank ice cold melt from the waterfalls and snow patches, bagged the summit, and “skiied” down the snow slopes to end a super Canada Day long weekend.

Since Bert whined mightily on the way up that his pack was heavy – it’s not my fault he doesn’t know how to ultralight! – I took the tent on the way down. When I started whining mightily – I’m injured, don’t you know! – he patiently took it back, along with my crampons and harness (we’d originally been planning to do Mount Joffre). What a sweetie. Then I took off my mountaineering boots and finished up the last 6k in flip flops. Don’t judge! Haha.

Campground at Aster Lake, Warrior Mountaintop starting to glow.
Campsite at Aster Lake, Warrior Mountaintop starting to glow as dusk starts to settle.
Starting up the snow patches the next morning
Next morning, crossing the rubble where the toe of the Mangin Glacier used to be (retreated further up the valley now), and starting up the snow. Lots of beetles coming out of hibernation and stretching and warming their wings. Lots of fat spiders, too.
View from Warrior summit
View from Warrior summit on the Great Continental Divide, looking west into British Columbia (Height of the Rockies Provincial Park).




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