Thursday, 24 June 2010

Hiking Trails - Lake of the Hanging Glacier

[1-Purcell Mountains from Radium Hot Springs]

Lake of the Hanging Glacier is an alpine lake at 7,000 feet in a cirque below the Jumbo Glacier and Commander Glacier in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The Purcell Mountains are located in one of the last pristine wilderness areas in Canada. This is not a hike for the beginning hiker, but one for those who are seasoned and comfortable with being in a remote area without the comforts or relative safety of civilization. It is a good idea to be in a group of six or more people as the hiker will be entering wilderness that is prime grizzly territory. ParksCanada has a webpage regarding bears and your safety.

Rated: Moderate to strenuous hike
Distance: 18km (11mi) round trip
Elevation gain: 720m (2,362 ft)
Location: Rocky Mountain Forest District, B.C. - Purcell Mountains
Map: 1:50,000 scale - Duncan Lake 82K7 available at Government Agents office in Invermere.
Best Time: July to September only, with the trail being driest in September. The B.C. Ministry of Forests recommends waiting until July for the bridges to be put in place.

The trailhead is located at the end of a logging road about 52km from Radium Hot Springs. From the Junction of Highways 93/95 turn west onto Forsters Landing Road and cross the bridge. Here the road will angle to the right. After reaching the fork turn left onto Horsethief Creek Forest Service Road (a gravel logging road, stay to the right and watch out for the logging trucks!). Ignore any of the other turns. Go straight through the 4-way intersection with the Westside Road. At 39km there is a footbridge at a camping site at the Stockdale Creek FS Recreation Site (not large enough for motorhomes or trailers). A little farther on park at the 50k sign where there is room for 10 vehicles.

The trail begins by following an old roadway for 2km to the trail registration box. There is no charge for the use of this trail or the campsite near the lake. The hiker/camper is expected to pack out whatever they bring in.

[2-View of glacier from trailhead]

Here the trail narrows and begins to climb toward the first bridge over Hell Roaring Creek.

[3- Hell Roaring Creek]

[4 - Bull Elk with velvet antlers]

[5 - Hell Roaring Creek]


[7 - Waterfalls along the trail]

[8 - Steep sides of Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]

[9 - Crossing Hell Roaring Creek - click to enlarge]

The bridge is removed during the off season, and crossing the creek without a bridge is not recommended due to the treacherous current and the slick sides.

[10 - Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]

[11 - Golden Eagle]

[12 - Steep sides above Horsethief Creek - click to enlarge]

[13 - Waterfall from icefield above - click to enlarge]

From the creek the trail climbs up into thicker forest and a junction. Stay left (the right trail leads to a horse crossing) to cross a metal bridge over Horsethief Creek.

[14 - View through the trees on the way up]

[15 - Another view through the trees - click to enlarge]

[16 - Waterfall]

From the second bridge the trail goes along the creek for 1 km or so through mature forest to reach the start of the switchbacks. There are 13 of them, and the grade is moderate. Those hikers unaccustomed to the altitude should take it slower to avoid respiratory problems.

[17 - Waterfall farther up]

Once above the switchbacks, the trail goes through the valley until alpine meadows are reached. This is where the camping area and pit toilet is. Use a gas stove in sub-alpine areas like this.

[18 - Wildflowers enroute]

[19 - Alpine Cinqfoil]

From here an 800 m hike past a beautiful cascading waterfall brings you to the head of the lake. To this point in the trail there has been no glimpse of the lake.

[20 - Cascading waterfall below Lake of the Hanging Glacier - click to enlarge]

[21 - Marmot]

[22 - Ice floes in the Lake of the Hanging Glacier - click to enlarge]

The Lake of the Hanging Glacier is over one mile in length, and often has small icebergs floating in the water.

[23 - click to enlarge]

[24 - click to enlarge]

Access to the vicinity of the glacier is possible along the east shore over rocky terrain with no trails. Do not attempt to travel on glaciers without experience and proper equipment.

After the hike there are several places to take a hot dip in a mineral pool to ease those aching muscles. Try Radium Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs or Lussier Hot Springs just south of Canal Flats.

Research: Research: B.C. Ministry of Forests

Photo Credits: [1]-outofsocks CC=flickr, [2][3][5][6][7][8][9][10][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][20][22][23][24]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [4]-mike wood photography CC=nc-nd-flickr, [11]-Chris & Lara Pawluk CC=nc-flickr, [19]-anselm CC=flickr, [21]-brewbooks CC=nc-sa-flickr.


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow. These photos are beautiful. Now I want to go to BC!

Barbara Martin said...

Trish and Rob, there are a multitude of gorgeous places to visit in B.C. The hard part is choosing where to go.

Teresa said...

Hi Barbara, this hike is amazing. I loved all the pictures. My favorite picture was the eagle with the sun shining through its wings. Great post.

Leah J. Utas said...

Beautiful trail. I love the name Hell Roaring Creek.

Charles Gramlich said...

I saw a very hilarious video of a marmot today where gave the camera the evil eye. It was hilarious. This one looks like a pretty big fellow. Loved all the pics though.

RuneE said...

Nature at its best. Your presentation of this trail made me once more wish I was younger and in better health than I am.

Reader Wil said...

You are aperfect guide, Barbara! You must be a seasoned hiker, yourself! The photos are stunning!
I wish you a great weekend, Barbara!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Barbara. This post is wonderful. The word that comes to mind is 'majesty'. The scenery, the golden eagle soaring high. You provide such a fascinating insight into this beautiful part of the world. I guess a marmot is as foreign to me, as a wombat would be to you.Regarding Australian creatures, how is your thylacine research coming along? The fact that they are now considered extinct upsets me very much. Again, thanks for all these wonderful photos.

Gabriele Goldstone said...

I almost felt like I was hiking along with you - could smell that mountain air - and was so relieved it was only a cute marmot mammal that you photographed. What would do if there'd been a grizzly? Play dead or make lots of noise? BC is a real treasure! Thanks, very much enjoyed this.

Rick said...

Have you ever pitched a travel series to a television group? With your encyclopedic mind and gift for artistic presentation of the environment, you would be a huge hit, in my opinion.

Also, would you mind some time giving us a bit of a bio on yourself? I was telling a friend about you and they said, "Wow, she should write an autobiography." It would be really great to read a little more about you.

Yolanda said...

I will be back in Golden, BC in a few weeks! I can't wait to visit some of these trails and hikes you've described. Good chance I will be passing through Radium as well if I come that route :) Thank you for your beautiful photographic descriptions of this wonderful wilderness.

Adele said...

Stunning, absolutely gorgeous.

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, mountain visits always have great scenes.

Leah, it's one of those waterways that you can hear before reaching it.

Charles, marmots tend to get rather fat toward the end of summer. Nice tasty treats for grizzly bears who will dig them out of their burrows if determined and hungry enough.

RuneE, I would like this hike better if the access route was closer to save the legs. This is pretty remote even for me unless I'm on horseback. There are other wilderness hikes I am researching that have piqued my interest.

Barbara Martin said...

Wil, I have done many small hikes, longer trails on horseback (which I prefer over walking).

Pam, I try to provide photos of the animals and birds that live in the environment of the hiking trails.

As far as I am concerned about the thylacines: they still exist if only in limited numbers. Unfortunately if a government official hasn't seen one in person then these creatures are extinct. They are not paying attention to any of the common people seeing them. There are many animals, birds and aquatic creatures that have been presumed extinct but are not.

Gabriele, welcome. I have never seen a grizzly in the wild, though I have seen them at game farms and in zoos. To answer your question about hikers who come face to face with an encounter I have updated the post to include a link to ParksCanada's webpage on BEAR MANAGEMENT. There is a link on the sidebar CONSERVATION AND NATURE CONNECTIONS that will provide more information about Canada's mountain areas.

It is best for humans and bears to ensure that the bears hear you coming to enable them to avoid you. It is the surprise appearance of humans on the trail that sets the bears off. The link to ParksCanada shows a pair of photos of a hiker using the same trail as a couple of grizzlies taken with a remote camera. It pays to stay alert in wilderness locations.

Barbara Martin said...

Rick, never pitched any idea before anyone. I hope to one day pitch my story idea to an editor at a writing conference.

An autobiography? I don't think I've done anything particularly worthy in my life to warrant such an undertaking. Some of my posts have provided a little insight on my childhood trips into the Canadian Rockies and how I feel about the environment.

The posts about the different trails available to hikers and environment issues are just a particular interest I have. One day there isn't going to be any nature worth visiting if the money grubbing and guzzling corporations have their way. The Gulf Oil Disaster should be enough of a "heads-up". The ecological damage to the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean is horrific, and there is nothing anyone can do to fix it. Pouring more toxic chemicals into the mix is not the answer. ALL the oil rigs should be SHUT DOWN immediately.

I don't rant too much on my blog about anything political, but if people are concerned about this Gulf Oil Spill situation they should speak up now and make a strong impact with the governments involved. Canada has oil rigs in the Atlantic off Newfoundland that should be shut down. We need an alternative energy source that isn't toxic to the environment.

How many people are willing to give up their gas guzzling vehicles today? Not many, I bet.

I post these articles about the hiking trails and the beautiful spots in the mountains to remind people that they exist--and ought to be visited now before they're gone. These environment and nature articles are also a basis for my fiction fantasy series providing a little insight into what happens to a creature who might become extinct at any moment given the designs of a certain government.

Barbara Martin said...

Yolanda, I try to keep most of the information about the hiking trails as accurate as I can with detailed research before posting. Some of the photos in Flickr do not provide exact locations only an approximate, so I look at topographic maps produced by the Mines and Minerals department of the Canadian federal government for elevations, names of mountains and where the trails are marked. I also check Google Maps to see the lay of the land the trail is traversing. Most times the trail is visible in the satellite photo. If something doesn't look quite right I double check its accuracy. Often has exactly what I need to name a mountain properly.

A good fiction writer is expected to check their facts about situations or locations in their writing. Preparing these posts is part of my ongoing experience to keep the truth behind the words.

Gabriele's comment "I almost felt like I was hiking along with you - could smell that mountain air" tells me I've done my job properly. The visualization from the photographs and the narrative has provided the appropriate reader response and involvement.

Hiking in the mountains and any wilderness area requires a person to use their common sense. I make no assertions about the safety of venturing onto any trail as dangers are always inherent.

Hagelrat, BC has that effect on everyone who visits or lives there. There is an unlimitled amount of beautiful scenery to be experienced.

Steve Malley said...

Wow. Just... wow.

Barbara Martin said...

Steve, the photos do not do proper justice to the area or the lake. It is being there, standing on the lip of the lake while looking at the expanse of frigid water with an awesome background of glacier covered crags. It is possible to climb (with great care) up another thousand feet on the left side of the lake to take a look out over the mass of glacier on top.

Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

I like the cool look of the waterfalls but #22 is my favourite of these photos.

Cloudia said...

O Elk!
O Marmot!
O Eagle!
O cataract!


Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Barbara,
I have come to realize that had I somehow stumbled across the BC before I arrived in New Zealand I would have found a home there as well. I am always in awe when I see these places and they make my heart sing. Kia kaha.

Barbara Martin said...

Gerald, I like to see icebergs too.

Cloudia, indeed.

Robb, BC is a grand place filled with forests, mountains, lakes, glaciers and ocean front. I love the province too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara,

Just wondering about how long is the drive from Radium to where you start the hike and then how long does it take to hike to the glacier? Wondering if it's possible to do this in a day.

Thanks for the wonderful post!

Barbara Martin said...

Anonymous, approximately 1.5 hours depending on how fast one wants to drive on a logging road. Best to get a map from the government office in Invermere for more detailed directions. Enjoy your hike.

Anonymous said...

Just hiked this wonderful awesome trail to the Lake of the Hanging Glacier! Wow!