It was a beautiful end-of-summer weekend when Dinah and I climbed Wastach Peak in Lake Louise. The weather was much warmer than expected, and below the icy, gray peaks, larches had started turning, lighting up the dark forests with splashes of yellow.
Because of group restrictions in the park, Dinah and I couldn't do it alone so we teamed up with Taras and Francisco from Clubtread. We met in Calgary and carpooled to the trailhead at Moraine Lake. The long drive gave us an opportunity to get to know them. Like us, they were climbing enthusiasts and we immediately took a liking to them.
The route up Wastach Peak is straightforward. From Moraine Lake start up the trail to Wenkchemna Pass. Well before the pass, however, the trail passes below a walled gully east of Wastach Peak. This gully leads to Wastach Pass, but after hiking out of the gully, one can start up just about anywhere on the broad lower slopes of Wastach.
When we set off at 9:30 am, the parking lot was already half full and the trail filled with hikers. Soon after we started up the switchbacks, we met up with Marko who was leading COC (Calgary Outdoor Club) members on a climb above Wenkchemna Pass. We parted ways with them when we reached the base of Wastach Peak. As Marko and his friends continued to Wenkchemna Pass, we started up the gully.
Taking our cue from previous trip reports, we hadn't brought helmets, but as we learned there is a risk of dropping a rock on someone's head; loose rocks abound on Wastach's lower slopes and helmets wouldn't be out of place here. To minimize the risks, we stayed together in the gully but spread out across the lower slopes. After reaching the crest, the grade and risks eased while the scenery got better. We followed the crest and reached the summit just over three hours after starting out. There we took advantage of the mild weather to loiter for an hour. Since the mountain straddles the ends of Paradise Valley and the Valley of the Ten Peaks, it's the perfect place to gaze down both valleys.
With the day still young we took our time on the return leg. Instead of going directly to the gully, we dropped down to Wastach Pass before making our way back to the trail. Along the way, we paused to watch a grizzly and her two cubs foraging below the trail. It was a fine way to finish the day.
The trail passes Eiffel Peak before reaching Wastach Peak
Wenkchemna Pass and Wenkchemna Peak
Coming to the ascent gully below Wastach Peak
Starting up the gully
Following a rough trail in the gully
A few larches have turned completely yellow
After climbing out of the gully we head up the rubbly lower slopes of Wastach
Grinding up the lower slopes
Eiffel Peak provides a dramatic backdrop
The rocks get bigger as we ascend
Almost on the crest
Francisco scrambles up
Looking down Paradise Valley
Dinah heads to the summit
Lingering snow on the summit
Francisco and Taras arrive on top of Wastach
Taras climbed down to a shelf below the summit. Glacier Peak (centre) and Mt Lefroy (right).
Click for a larger image.
View of Paradise Valley from Wastach Pass
Heading back. Mount Tuzo, Deltaform Mountain and Neptuak Mountain ahead.
Back on the trail we spot Marko's group – five people if you include the snowman – on
Wenkchemna's south ridge (mouse over to zoom in lots)
Heading back down the trail
Foraging grizzly below the trail
Lake Louise 82/N8
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