Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Aug 8 – Great Glacier Trail

Today we drove about 60 km east to the Canadian version of Glacier National Park, to hike the Great Glacier Trail.

When we got up and looked outside the haze was much thicker than yesterday. We could barely see the mountains around Revelstoke. It made me have second thoughts about doing this hike because it is mainly about the views. We decided that it may only get worse so we headed out.

Along the highway we saw signs about limited visibility due to smoke so now we are sure of the cause. On the way home we even passed by a small fire that was burning only a couple of hundred meters up the mountainside from the highway. We could only see the thick smoke but no flames.

As we got nearer Glacier National Park the smoke cleared a lot. There is still a haze in front of the far off mountains in today’s pictures but they turned out far better than I expected this morning.

The Great Glacier Trail is a 7 km return trip hike out to what used to be the toe of the Great Glacier, which is now called Illecillewaet Glacier. The glacier has long since receded from the end of the trail but we get to see a small one across the valley and a large waterfall coming from the melt water of the big glacier.

At 7 km with a 360 m (1200 foot) elevation gain, this hike seems to be about our limit this year. Other than the short boardwalks along the highway, it is the only hike that we are even close to being capable of doing in this park. For instance, the hike to overlook the new crest of the glacier is 12 km and 960 m (3200 feet) in elevation gain.

The first half of the trail is a nice walk in the woods next to the meltwater Illecillewaet River. There is a gentle steady climb and it lulled us into thinking, “Hmm this might not be too bad.” In this section we climbed about 100 meters in elevation.


There was a narrow section of the river where it really got going.



The photosphere.

At one of the wider sections we could walk out onto the flood plain.


We could see the waterfall on the cliff face at the end of the valley.


Another photosphere.

I am not sure what the rudimentary carving of this stump was supposed to be.


This log looked like it was yelling.


Someone worked hard to create the stone walkway.


And some nice stairs.


We went by this spot that looked like an avalanche of giant boulders.


Some pictures from the way back.



At about the halfway point the real climbing began. First up a steep cliff on some easy wide switchbacks.


From then on the trail just went up. In a while we broke out of the trees and could see the falls in the distance again.


On the far side of the valley we saw a couple that were doing the trail that eventually leads up to those peaks on the left in the picture above.


It looked like they might be re-evaluating their plan.


Near the end it got really steep in the last switchbacks.


Up to now we had not seen many people of the trail. A few couple heading out and two groups that passed us. Both of those groups headed back before we got there.

I had read that the hike ended on an outcropping of red rock. When I first saw it, I tried to scan it to see where people were, to determine where the end of the hike was. I couldn’t see anybody.

The outcrop looked to be a long way above us so this section really tested our willpower. Steep, exposed, very hot, no wind and no idea where the end was. The last couple we met said that is was only “10 minutes more”. We looked at each other thinking that we were not sure could even handle 10 more minutes of this but we persevered.

The last level section before the outcrop.


And some wider panorama views.



It turned out that the reason I could not see anybody was that there was nobody there. We had the place to ourselves, and found a really nice viewpoint, for about 15 minutes before anyone else showed up.

Unfortunately this out of focus shot is the only one I took of us crossing the outcrop to the view on the far side.


Time for lunch with this view.


And a wider version.


The photosphere that you must check out.

There was a lot of water flowing down that cliff.


The flow actually increases during the day. When we got back to that wide flood area of the river, we noticed that it was much harder to walk out, as there was a lot more water flowing. I guess that as the sun melts the glacier during the day, the water flow increases.


We could see the end of the Vaux Glacier in the valley between the two peaks on the far side of the main valley.


We both found a nice notch in the rocks and settled in to enjoy the waterfall and mountains.


This picture of Jennie is looking back down the valley that we climbed up.


The white spot below the mountains in the distance is the Trans Canada Highway. The trailhead is just 1 km this way from the highway. It sure looked like a long way off.

We relaxed here for a long time. I am sure I fell a sleep at least a few times.

It started to get busier as people came in around lunch time.


You can see people on the end of the trail about half way up on the left in the picture above.

After resting for a while, I climbed up higher for a slightly different view. This is looking back towards Jennie and our lunch spot.


I tried to get her attention but she never looked my way.


I couldn’t resist including another wide shot from here.


And the photosphere.

Then back for another rest. Those rocks were REALLY comfortable but eventually we dragged ourselves up and started back.


Going down is so much easier but it was still hard on the feet and knees.

Back near the trailhead we noticed this ribbon waterfall on the far side of the valley.


Then back to the smoke around Revelstoke. Strangely enough, we have not smelled it yet.

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