Our most memorable day in the Canadian Rockies is the day we hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. It led us from the terrace of the chic Chateau Lake Louise all the way up into the unforgiving world of snow and glaciers.
Among a steady stream of tourists, we started by walking the length of Lake Louise. At the far end we left most of them behind and started climbing. The trail rises nearly 400 metres over 3km to a quaint mountain teahouse.
Beyond it, an out-and-back trail takes you onto the steep moraine of the Victoria Glacier into a world of snow-clad mountaintops, glaciers, wind, unyielding harshness and spectacular views. We walked the knife-edge of the moraine path in a sudden blizzard that covered the surrounding scenery and us with sticky early snow.
The gale-force wind coming off the glacier field was fierce and relentless, stinging our faces with snow and hail. I felt that it would blow me right off that narrow trail if I wasn’t careful. I shifted my weight down and stepped cautiously, thankful for my trekking poles.
We made it all the way to the edge of a loose scree slope at the very base of a stone wall of a mountain on the north side of the valley. The wind battered us as we gazed upon the surrounding peaks. Towering above us were the glaciers, at times shining in the sun that suddenly chased away the hail and snow, at times wrapped in cloud and ice fog. This is a glimpse into the wild backcountry of the Rocky Mountains. It was dramatic and wonderful.
We stopped to warm our tummies and our hands with hot chocolate at the little teahouse. It’s only open from June to October and as one of the workers told us, up here it’s winter when it opens and winter when it closes.
On the way down the mountain, we opted to go the “long way” via Agnes Lake and the second teahouse on the north side of Lake Louise. We began climbing again to the pristine alpine lake and then to a stone promontory called the Big Beehive. We had planned to bypass that side trail but an older woman we met on the trail told us with the authority of a proper British accent that we simply must do it. We obeyed. We were glad we did. We were rewarded with sunshine that opened up an endless panorama of mountains all around us. At 2,253 metres, looking down on Lake Louise, we were enchanted. The lake glowed like a precious jewel set in its protective snow-capped mountains. It was a glorious sight.
Our day ended with a long descent back to the Chateau Lake Louise and it’s crowds of tourists enjoying the scenery. Our heads were full of our wild mountain trek and we couldn’t have been happier. We had logged over 19km with nearly 1000 metres of elevation gain. A very rewarding day.