Helen Lake and Cirque Peak

P1000161_FotorFollowing: what I wrote yesterday after an awesome hike to Helen Lake and Cirque Peak. Today – an insane travel day past Jasper (no room at any inn anywhere) but with subsequent solving of problems and booking a backpacking trip to Berg Lake etc. etc. In other words – life is on track. Plan A may not have worked out – but boy, have we ever become good at Plan B. More (hopefully) when we once again have Internet access. Maybe tomorrow?

Today, after another restless night of looking after Shanara, we got up early anyway and headed for Helen Lake and Cirque Peak.

We had a bluebird sky and even though the day started off cold to say the least (can you say 6 degrees with no furnace all night due to a generator problem – but hey – just another SIGmobile malfunction), the sun warmed us up fast. I started off on the trail with a tank top layered under a hoody under a fleece. In my pack I had a down jacket and a light rain jacket. You can’t say I wasn’t prepared for any calamity.

No calamities – just warm sun. Within an hour or so I was down to a tank top and shorts. And, let me tell you, given this summer’s weather, that was enough to get me pretty excited.

Our plan had been to leave both dogs at home – Cirque Peak is a formidable mountain. But we couldn’t. She has to have access to the outdoors (toilet) at least every three hours. Poor baby. So we left Abby on her own. Needless to say, Shanara was delighted to come despite a roiling tummy.

Helen Lake lived up to its reputation – and surpassed it. What an amazing lake in the most glorious of settings. It has been brought to my attention that I use the word “stunning” a great deal. Maybe ten times every ten minutes. So let me state here unequivocally, Helen Lake is stunning!

But that wasn’t our end point. We had decided to go to the top of Cirque Peak (rated moderate) just an hour or so up from the lake (supposedly).

We hiked up to the ridge line – the views were mind blowing. Then we continued through a landscape that could have been on another planet – forbidding and utterly inviting at the same time. Every step we took delivered more and more beauty. Off in the distance (120 kilometres away_ Assiniboine reared its majestic head. To think we were there – at this mountain’s base – just one week ago!

Lake after lake and tarn after tarn showed up below us. Every couple of metres, we had to pause and stare. The hike up Cirque was anything but moderate. One hour to the top? Are you mad? First came the shifting sand. Then the scree. But we persevered. Then, with about 250 metres to go, we came to a large boulder giving shelter from the cool wind. IN fact, one of a party hiking to the top had decided to stop here. The rest of the way was becoming more and more difficult – or, as she put it – “ugly.” The last bit was undoubtedly an interesting scramble.

Simon decided to stay there and encouraged me to continue. Up I went, with the promise that I would turn back at some point – at the top or before, all depending on how I was finding the going. After about 50 metres or so, I hit the “ugly” part: the shale gave way to rock – most of it sharp. Here the trail also steepened enough to require the use of hands in quite a few places.

That’s when I made my decision to go back. I knew I could make it – but slowly – and I had no intention of leaving Simon cooling his heels for another 40 minutes or more – probably up to an hour. When I looked around, I saw Simon had begun to follow me with Shanara. There was no way she was going to do this and tear the pads of her paws. Nope – my decision – we either all go or none of us goes. We are a team.

“I’m turning back,” I shouted to Simon.

And so we did. And I did miss the sense of achievement of reaching the peak – this is something that feeds me. More important than that though, we did a ton, cared about each one of us and took care of each one of us. And we loved the day.

The entire trip took about seven hours. Moderate? Not a chance. WE saw the struggles the other hikers had at the top.

Simon says we’re going back one day to summit. And we will – without dogs in tow, that’s entirely do-able.

The day was glorious. One more alpine hike to add to my list of “favourites,” which continues to grow and grow.

What an amazing trip! And I’ve just come out of a hot shower and have dressed in clean clothes. I don’t’ need anything more to make this a perfect day. Maybe some cuddles from Simon, but then I’ve already been getting a lot of those so, yes, the day has been perfect.

Tomorrow we pull up stakes and head farther up the Icefields to Wilcox Pass. More fun!
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About goodyniosi

Writer, avid(!!!) hiker - living life to the fullest. Love, life, bliss - getting high on getting high (in the alpine that is)
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