Sunday, 4 April 2010

Hiking Trails - Plain of Six Glaciers

[1 - Lake Louise in morning light - click to enlarge]

The Plain of Six Glaciers is located near Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta.

This hike is 14 km in distance, taking about 7 hours to complete depending on the hiker's level of fitness.

The trail begins outside the Chateau Lake Louise parking lot and goes along the north shore of the lake. From here it is about 5.5 km (one way) to the Plain of Six Glaciers tea house.

Elevation gain 340m (1,115 ft)
Max elevation: 2070m (6,800 ft)
Maps: Lake Louise and Yoho (Gem Trek)

[2 - Lake Louise and Mt. Victoria - click to enlarge]

The first 2.5 km of the trail are flat.


The trail goes through a subalpine forest, past the turn-off to the trail to Lake Agnes, then up a steep ridge crossing several avalanche paths.

[4- Ground Squirrel aka Chipmunk- click to enlarge]

These can be found almost everywhere in the Rockies, especially where there are tourists. (An eastern Canadian variety have spots between the stripes.)


[6 - Western end of Lake Louise where the trail meets the delta formed by silt from the glacial meltwater - click to enlarge]

[7 - Glacial silt entering the still water of the lake]

[8 - Looking back to Lake Victoria]

Here the trail continues in a moderate climb toward Mt. Victoria along a glacial moraine.

[9 - click to enlarge]

The trail hugs the ridge beside the moraine from Mt. Lefroy (left) and Mt. Victoria.

[10 - click to enlarge]

[11 - Lake Louise as seen from the glacial moraine of Mt. Victoria]


[13 - Western-most end of trail - click to enlarge]

Looking at Victoria Glacier on Mt. Victoria.

[14 - Death Trap to Abbot Pass - click to enlarge]

[15 - Avalanches are preceded by a big boom - click to enlarge]

[16 - Glacier calving from Mt. Victoria - click to enlarge]

This photo reveals the potential dangers of accessing the Death Trap to reach the alpine hut at the top of Abbot Pass.


The trail climbs toward the Plain of Six Glaciers and the tea house.

[18 - Pika]

These are usually very timid, and give shrill squeaks when spotting intruders to their territory.

[19 - click to enlarge]

[20 - Stream crossing on way to Tea House - click to enlarge]

At the bottom of the Shortcut Switchbacks there is a junction (elevation 1800m) leading to the Highline trail to the Big Beehive and Lake Agnes. Keep left. Here the trail stays level for some distance and passes along a narrow ledge before it begins a steady climb in the trough behind the north lateral moraine of the Lower Victoria Glacier.

[21 - click to enlarge]

[22 - click to enlarge]

[23 - click to enlarge]

[24 - part of the Plain of Six Glaciers - click to enlarge]

There used to be six glaciers, but now there are only three.

[25 - Avalanche chute on flank of Mt. Whyte near the Plain of Six Glaciers - click to enlarge]

[26 - View near Tea House of Six Glaciers - click to enlarge]

[27 - click to enlarge]

[28 - Hoary marmot]

These rodents live near the meadows along the avalanche chutes where it is common to hear them 'whistle' at intruders who come too close to their burrows.

There are several switchbacks on the trail with the fourth being about 300 m from the tea house.

[29 - Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House - click to enlarge]

The Tea House is at an elevation of 2100m.

Supplies to the tea house are packed in by horses during the summer months. The tea house was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1920s to accommodate mountaineers.

[30 - View from balcony on second floor]

[31 - Tea and chocolate cake - click to enlarge]

[32 - view from the Tea House - click to enlarge]

Close to the Tea House mountain goats can be seen among the rocky crags.

Beyond the Tea House the trail splits: a faint trail to the right climbs for 305m in 1.6km to a breathtaking view Mt. Victoria and the six glaciers. Here the wind can be quite strong and the trail slippery when wet. The main trail continues for another 0.4km up to the edge of the Victoria Glacier.

The trail continues upward along the valley cresting a lateral moraine which provides a viewpoint of the Victoria glacier below and Abbott Pass where on a clear sunny day the alpine hut built by the CPR for mountaineers to stay overnight, can be seen. It is Canada’s highest location for a national historic site. This is a rather precarious spot though it is the best place for a view to Abbott Pass between Mts. Victoria and Lefroy.

[33 - Map of trails to Plain of Six Glaciers (left) and Lake Agnes (right)]

Photo Credits: [1]-meironke CC=nc-flickr, [2][7][19][20][21][26][27][29][31][32]-Fred Hsu CC=flickr, [3]-saeahkim CC=nc-nd-flickr, [4][5]-, [6][17][24]-Cleavers CC=nd-flickr, [8][9][10]-isurusen CC=nc-nd-flickr, [11][14][22][23]-Maggie T CC=nc-flickr, [12]-totten photos CC=nc-nd-flickr, [13][15]-Soul of Beer CC=nc-nd-flickr, [16]-jackrutherford CC=sa-flickr, [18][28]listentoreason CC=nc-sa-flickr, [33]-subindle CC=nc-nd-flickr.


Barrie said...

I can't get over the turquoise colour of the lake! Gorgeous photos!

David Cranmer said...

Cinematic photos all. I would have to get a pic of myself on the balcony. That's a view and a half.

Plain of Six Glaciers sounds like a great title for a western.

Yolanda said...

I've done this hike. One of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Your photographs are incredible.

Gary's third pottery blog said...

HEAVENLY Barbara! happy Easter :)

Leah J. Utas said...

What a wonderful hike. Thanks.

Charles Gramlich said...

Beatiful. I'd like to be getting some of that fresh air right now. Might clear out my lungs.

Barbara Martin said...

Barrie, the mountain lakes change colour from a deep blue to this turquoise colour depending on how much glacial silt is in the water.

David, perhaps a hideout for gold smugglers.

Yolanda, the Lake Louise area is filled with incredible hikes, although this one is my favourite.

Barbara Martin said...

Gary, thanks, and perhaps incentive for you to travel to western Canada to see the sights.

Leah, although the trail is grulling in places there are many locations to take a breather and see the different awesome views.

Charles, the current air in Lake Louise is a bit crisp at -13C and there are good snow conditions for those who like to ski. Hiking weather doesn't start until June as often the trails are snowbound in late May.

Hilary said...

What a beautiful place. Your photos are just incredible. I feel like I've been on a wonderful hike and have earned a piece of that chocolate cake. ;)

Barbara Martin said...

Hilary, be grateful your knees aren't complaining of the climb to the tea house, as I'm sure mine would do now if I attempted the hike. It's actually easier to reach the tea house via the Lake Agnes route, although the climb to the observation tower is very steep.

Steve Malley said...

I miss squirrels... that photo was precious!

BaysideLife said...

These are beautiful photos. I've been to Lake Louise and did some hiking in the area. Western Canada is a gorgeous part of your country. Your first photo is absolutely stunning.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Barbara, and thanks for including the fascinating creatures, some of which are entirely new to me. The scenery is stunning.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Barbara,
Oh how I yearn for high country! Just focusing on getting fit right now, but always good to come here and dream. Kia kaha.

Barbara Martin said...

Robb, I hope your surgery went well and I expect by next year you'll be back in the mountains of New Zealand.

Mike Wood said...

When I visited in early June 2007, the Tea House was still not accessible due to snow still on the trail and you couldn't get to it. I tried to, hiking several hundred meters into the snow were the trail should be but had to turn back.

Awesome images.

Barbara Martin said...

Mike, welcome. The tea house is quite high up on a ridge where the snow drifts in during the winter. If the weather has been cool up to June then the snow doesn't always melt, or there are fresh batches.