Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Paradise Valley (Lake Louise Area, Alberta)

Last week's plan was to go up Wasatch Mountain in Lake Louise area and for that reason I woke up early Sun. to beat the morning heat and rush. It is a damn long drive to Moraine Lake where the trail-head is located. I guess it was around 08:15 or so when I reach there. I my way to the lake I realized an old Toyota sedan behind me with two passengers, one, the driver, was smoking and exhaling the smoke out of the window every now and then. I thought to myself what kind of jerk he was. After parking and checking into the washroom I saw the same guys getting their hiking gear out of the vehicle! Realized they were hikes/scramblers! As surprised as I was I asked them if they know where the trail to Wasatch Mountain would be. They were no familiar with the mountain and its whereabouts. 
I, then, grabbed my gear and walk toward the major path besides the lake. That apparently was the trail-head. The guys, I later learnt, Ryan ans Scott, caught up with me soon and I realized that they were heading for Tower Mountain. Couple of young fellas one Caucasian and the other one looked like Natives but I didn't ask him. They were nice fellas but apparently their stimulant was Weed Cigarette! When then ran to a couple a young Caucasian guy with his Korean girlfriend and we all went all the way to Sentinel Pass and went up. Ryan believed if I intended to go up Wasatch Mountain, I had to take the trail to Eiffel Lake but my printed information did say something else. 
What I had forgotten to check that morning before leaving the parking lot was my water. So when we all reach the top of the pass I told them that I had forgotten the most important asset in a hike! Ryan and Scott were going up to reach the summit of Tower Mountain and the couple were heading back. So they both offered me some of their water! Thanks to them and I hope they read that one day. I then started going down the valley at the other side of the pass and through a scree.
You can see the climbers on the snow patch in the center of the picture. This is on your left (west) when you are going down the valley after the switchbacks of Sentinel Pass.
The more I went down, the more I realized I could be wrong. then when I reached forest again I truly understood that I had been trapped! There was no way out. Front were just high mountains partially covered with snow and rumbling now and again from the avalanche sound! I admitted that I had screwed up the hike but I had no choice but to carry on. I check a few available signs and I realized that I either had to go all the way to Lake Louise or as far as Paradise Valley and turn back. Going to Lake Louise would have been a disaster because then I had to walk all the way back to Moraine Lake to get the car. So I just decided to go to Paradise Valley Campground and turn back from there. 
Surprisingly that campground was nothing but a few flat spots for tents, a few picnic benches and food lockers! I always though a campground should have had more than that:  An attendant, gate, walls and most importantly a roof but I was wrong! 
The river and falls in Paradise Valley are beautiful and unique
I spent a few minutes around and took photographs. The area is beautiful but requires so much time to discover it. The river and fall continues to Paradise Creek which further down reaches the Moraine Lake Road. I looked at my watch it was around 13:30 hours and I decided it was the time to go back. A few small groups were coming towards the campground when I was leaving. On the way back when I again started going up the valley I saw a small group going up to the pillar-like rocks at the west side of the valley! It looked so crazy! One mistake and they could fall to their death or a sever injury at least 100 m. below. Reaching the parking lot is not hard after Sentinel Pass
It was only then I realized how big of a mistake is hiking in a Sun. of July close to a popular lookout of Alberta! It was crazy! People were in line to rent Canoes or were climbing up the nearby rocks to get a shot of the lake or struggling to find a spot to park! 
Overall it is a nice hike but give yourself to be able to discover as much as possible in the valley. Start early if you are going in a weekend so you can beat the crowd. I had read that bear are very frequent in the area and the advisory was not to hike in groups less than 4 or 6, I guess and that was why we got together on our way up to the valley but I saw nothing! I had purchased a Bear Spray and kept it in my pocket. It was not very irritating and I can keep it for the next three years. I hope it never comes to the point that I have to apply that but I will, If I have it and only if I'm not frozen the minute I see the bear!
(Photo, top: This map taken from Google maps shows Moraine Lake area and the surrounding. The red line shows my route until I reach Sentinel Pass and climbed down to Paradise Valley from there. The blue line shows the route I should have taken to first see Eiffel Lake and then climb up Wasatch Mountain. Bad mistake! But at least I saw this other nice side and maybe I get another chance one day to do this route) 

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