Last summer, I spent a little time in the Canadian Rockies with my dear housemate from London, Loz. We had already taken in a couple of smaller hikes that would take a morning or an afternoon but now it was time for an all dayer. So we took on the Iceline trail via Little Yoho.
It was a 20.8 k route which by no means unmanageable, but also not a walk in the park either, such as with Emerald Lake. Although we already had at least 3 hikes in as many days under out belts, the general strain of living in each others pockets as well as the longest hike we would have done together was going to take patience.
As you may recall from Emerald Lake, Loz likes to set a fast pace. Wanting to get the blood pumping, Loz marched out of the car park at Takakkaw Falls full steam ahead. I was trailing behind already but I had an idea of what lay ahead of us so I was more than happy to pace myself. Of course she turned and gave me that look of ‘hurry up’ as if I was taking my time idly looking at the beer section in the supermarket.
“Why can’t you go faster?” she asks.
“I can, but I don’t want to” I say. “Relax, we have all day, there’s no need to rush”.
Not quite the answer she continued ahead until we reach the trail head. We decided to go clockwise around the loop, starting at the Whisky Jack Hostel. We had actually started going the other way until we came across a nice lady who recommended that it was probably a better way to do the route. We took her advice, retraced our steps and started on the ‘better’ direction.
It all starts with a pretty epic 2.5k climb through the treeline. It was slow going and full of switchbacks. I am sure that we would have both benefit from a better warm-up than our stroll from the car park. We weren’t going fast but Loz certainly got her wish of raising her heart rate. I was in front by now, and was probably going at a similar rate to the flats (I don’t know if that makes my flat pace slow, or my hill pace fast?!).
“Scottie! Wait for me” shouted Loz from behind.
Inside I couldn’t help but smile at how the boot was now on the other foot. I by no means was trail blazing 50 metres ahead, I was actually always just around the next switchback, but she didn’t like it much at all.
“Don’t go so far ahead, slow down”
With a soft smile, I did remind her that this is exactly what she was doing earlier at the car park and on the other hikes, but they were different, apparently. We came to a natural resting point when we joined an old couple taking a breather and trying to peek through the trees. We took on some water and it was at this point that we switched and Loz took the lead. She set the pace and we continued up through the trees. On a number of occasions she told me to go on ahead but I felt if I knew what was good for me I’d stay behind and let her lead, so I declined. After maybe 90 minutes we had broken through the tree line and making our way along the ridge line. As we came out of the trees we felt the nip in the air. We soon covered up our T-shirts with our fleeces to stop the chill from all that sweat that was hanging to our clothes.
Having not seen anyone apart from the old couple so far, we started to come across more hikers. We met a Japanese couple who kindly stopped for us to take a photo. It was a welcome break for us as much as it was for them. We reciprocated and took one of them as well.
When we are this high, we could look over to the set of mountains on the other side. We could see Daly Glacier and Takakkaw Falls which looked so big when close up, now seemed nothing but a trickle.
We carried along the ridge. It was difficult to see where this part of the trail would end, it seemed to keep going. There would be little inclines which would hid the trail beyond it so we had no concept of how long this part of the trail would be, despite having the map. What we could see however was this nice little peak ahead of us. We saw some silhouette figures at the top and there was no question that we weren’t going to join them. It was an opportune time to get some pretty cool photos and stop for some snacks and drink. Luckily the people that we saw from 1k away had already gone so we had it to ourselves for a while.
The tail was pretty clear as it was rather well trodden, which made things much easier as the trail markers (ribbons) were not too easy to spot, wrapped around rocks by our feet. This was the first hike that I had done that was this high up. So the views were absolutely incredible – I was amazed at how far we could see. For me, the immediate were not so interesting, as it was like being on the moon, but one could not help but ogle over the snow-capped peaks that could be seen for miles.
By now we had found a pace that worked for us both. So once we had gotten over the hurdle of pace we were all good, apart from my farting, which was not much appreciated. I of course found this hilarious. Here we were, on top of a mountain with all the fresh-air and space we could ever need, and my guffs would float down wind and find a way straight up Loz’ nostrils. I was never going to win this one. We swapped positions. It must have been the jerky.
To the north we could see the sky getting darker. The dense cloud seemed to be coming our way and we felt spots of rain hit our face. The spots turned to splatters and we soon got the rain jackets out and the rain pants on. The wind had picked up now as well and we were very much hoping that the heavens didn’t open whilst we were up here. There would have been nowhere really to take shelter and so we were exposed to whatever the sky had to offer. The outlook was even less promising when we heard the rumble of thunder somewhere in the distance. There was no lightning however so it turned out to be a rather benign grumble from the Gods.
It must have rained for a good hour. Over this time we had left the ridge and made out way down through the treeline again. We followed an avalanche shoots for a while before the trail started to run parallel with the ridge. The flowers and fauna here was beautiful. The colours were out in full and the rain had brought out the smell of the grasses and earth. There was a freshness flowing in the air.
Lunch couldn’t have really come a better time. My waterproofs were very much in the need for some re-treatment so the shelter of the ACC Hut was a pleasant sight. There was a family there already taking shelter and we managed to find some room in the porch area to settle in and hope for the rain to pass. It was a pretty young family, with the oldest of 2 kids maybe around 15. They were on their final day of back country hiking / camping which I always find impressive about these people (Canadians). We had some nice chats but didn’t really get to know each other for too long. Although we were happy to have stopped we got cold pretty quickly. It wasn’t long after we (I) wolfed down our lunch to decide to push on. By now the rain had halted so it was a perfect time to get going.
The remainder of the hike was pretty flat. And although I’m not adverse to some nice hills, it was certainly welcomed. It was nice to have a change in terrain as well. The first half being at glacial level and extremely bare, where as now we were back with the trees, meadows that we both loved.
The closer we got to the end the more people we started to see again. The trail was easier by now, a well marked and flat gravel path, and we started to come across more of the designated camping areas. One of the best spots we stopped at was Laughing Falls. It had pretty much come out of nowhere. We couldn’t see it on the trail so we only really noticed it when we saw a break from the forest to the side. There were a couple of camping spots here and thought it would be a great place to spend after all that hiking. Alas this wasn’t the case.
Despite the beauty, it was a little torture. My water had run out a couple of hours ago. For some reason I hadn’t brought my water filter with me. I am always cautious about the water I drink from streams so I wasn’t so sure about drinking direct from the river. The smell of the water wafting up my nostrils and the cooling spray resting on my face reminded me of how thirsty I was (obviously not seriously thirsty).
After a couple of good snaps we both decided it was time to head back. Despite this being a perfect spot to stay, we still had a few hours drive back to the house. I was willing just for a drink.
Not too much longer we were back to the beginning. We were back to where we had initially started off on our hike in the opposite direction. Thirst quenched, I looked at Loz. I think we both agreed that we had our thirst for hiking adventures quenched as well. It was our first all-dayer and it had been testing – the distance, weather and general tiredness all contributed but it a spectacular way to spend one of our last days in the Rockies together.