21st September - "The Iceline" trail

Takakkaw Falls - the startpoint of the walk

Friday 21st September 2012 - The Ice Line trail from Takakkaw Falls

Our walk around the Ice Line trail started from the car park at the foot of the amazing Takakkaw falls.  Getting there from our campsite in Lake Louise was fairly simple, taking Highway 1 up to Field and then following the Yoho Valley Road (around 3km past Field) for another 12km or so until you reach the Takakkaw Falls carpark - you'll know it when you get there as the road stops!

The falls themselves are stunning (you can read more about our trip to the falls and Lake Louise on an earlier post - CLICK HERE) but the aim of today's walk was to head over to the other side of the valley and walk along the high level "Ice Line" trail which passes to the East of the President mountain range (topping out with "The President" at 3,138m above sea level) and skirts the icy edges of the massive Emerald Glacier - hence the "Ice line" moniker. 

I've added in a map (which is cobbled together from various topo maps) showing the entire walk and various paths and I've added some labels from the route that we took;

As you can see from the map there are a number of different paths that can be taken and there is no one "correct" route - it's basically a case of picking the trail that's right for you on the day based on your ability, the weather and how far you want to walk!

As the walk is fairly long I'll break it down into sections because a step-by-step account of the whole day would be both boring to read and tedious to write, so here we go;

Takakkaw Falls car park to Whiskey Jack Hostel & zig-zags
This is the first stage of the walk and from our starting point at the falls car park we headed off across the road and onto the dusty path that leads to the Whiskey Jack Hostel - passing Whiskey Jack falls and then following the Whiskey Jack creek up the steep zig-zags - the Canadian trails love zig-zags and even though I know they're a great way of getting up steep terrain they are bloody boring to walk on!

The trail splits here and you have a two options available - you can continue following the creek on a (fairly steep) North Westerly heading or head southwards passing Hidden Lake and then on to Yoho lake (and campsite) before swinging back to the north again and after a few km will bring you back to the trail split at the top of the zig-zags - we went for the latter option and followed the trail around the lakes and then back round to the start of the Ice Line trail.

Leaving the sub-alpine below
The Ice Line and the start of the glaciers
Up until this point the walking is pretty much exclusively through the sub-alpine with the pine trees offering decent shade from the sun that was starting to beat down on us but as you leave the protection and shade of the trees and venture out into the moraine fields at the foot of the glacier the path become much more faint and rocky and we (as it was a very hot, clear, day) had to make a few stops to remove layers of clothing.

Glacial streams, perfect for cooling hot feet!
After a few more kilometers or so we were so hot that we had to stop, remove our boots, and rest for a while with our feet in one of the small glacial run off streams - the ice cold water was the perfect way to revive tired, hot feet!

Looking back to the glacier
A close up of the glacier edge
Continuing along the path the winds its way through the rocky slopes below the glacier you come to some huge moraine ridges which, as they're there, have to be walked up and offer unbelievable views across the valley and up to the huge mountains of the President range;

Standing "on top of the world"

The Skyline Trail to Yoho River
Shortly after the mounds you have another route option to make - you can either head ENE and join the Highline trail which passes Lake Celeste and then joins up with the Little Yoho Valley Trail or, as we did, you can continue NW joining the Skyline trail which passes two small lakes before dropping back into the sub-alpine and heading down towards the Little Yoho River and the start of the Little Yoho Valley Trail.

Lakes on the Skyline Trail 

The shade of the pine trees was very welcome after the searing heat of higher up and the lath drops down gently towards the Little Yoho river and the Stanley Mitchell hut at around 2060m.

We decided to stop in the Alpine meadow and have some lunch courtesy of the Jet Boil stove and some interesting (and cheap) pot noodles - the food aside it was an idyllic setting for lunch and quite possibly the nicest place that we've stopped to eat on any walks before or since!

Falls near the Apline Club huts on the Little Yoho Valley trail

The best spot for lunch that we've ever found!
Little Yoho Valley trail to Laughter Falls
From the Alpine huts the path stays in the wooded sub-alpine and, passing the northerly forks to the Whaleback Trail and then the Marpole Lake Trail, drops gently down towards the Laughter falls and the T-junction with the Yoho Valley trail where we turned right on a southerly heading back towards the car.

The path from here stays fairly level and flat (around 1700m) and passes the fairly large expanse of Duchasnay Lake before the woods open out around the Yoho river and you follow this back along its banks, past the remote campsite at Takakkaw to the car park.

Aside from the heat (which with no cloud cover and no shade while walking along the glacier edges was a good 30C) this is a stunning walk but it is long and fairly demanding - the terrain itself isn't that hard going but there is a fair bit of ascent over the length of the walk and a good 7 hours or so is needed to navigate around the full route that we took.

All in all this has to rank up there as one of the best day walks that I've done and although its unlikely that we'll ever get the chance to go back there, if we did, I'd walk it again in a heartbeat!


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