The hike began with a misunderstanding or two. Seven of us were at the Lake Louise Youth Hostel and planning our day, and our friend Beverley (who is a Kiwi) made a statement in the form of a question "So we're doing Sentinel?" Only with her accent it came out sounding like "Seasonal". When that was cleared up we all more or less agreed, but some of our party hadn't the faintest clue what was about to go down.
You see, you can't approach Sentinel Pass from any direction (Paradise or Larch valleys) in a party of less than 4 under pain of hefty fines due to the activity of *ahem* grizzlies. But it is a bucket list hike. Why? Well, for starters it begins here, at Moraine Lake.
I took this picture a few years back, and yes the water really IS that colour. This is the Valley of the Ten Peaks, and it's image adorned our 10 dollar bill when I was a kid. It is, unfortunately, a bit overrun by tourists despite the long and narrow twisting road that leads to it. On Saturday though, we were among the first to arrive at the parking lot, although not THE first, a busload of tourists was there before us.
Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass lie around that green ridge protruding from the right. It is a slog up to the hanging valley, although the path through the Engelmann Spruce is pleasant enough. From time to time we were greeted with views of the lake through the trees. (Note, some of these pictures were taken on the return trip.)
We were a bit late in the season and weren't anticipating much from the larches, but upon cresting the path into the hanging valley we were greeted with a golden view.
The larches come to the rim of the hanging valley, but the forest is far thinner in the valley and it affords some gorgeous views of the Ten Peaks and the glaciers.
Remember when I said that most of us were unaware of what this trip entailed? Well there are really four stages to this hike, the slog through the spruce, the stroll through the larches, then the trek through the alpine...
(That's Eiffel Peak of Pinnacle Mountain on the left and an outlier of Mt. Temple on the right)
To sit beside a mountain lake and ponder...
Ponder how the heck you're going to get up there...
Do you see the faint 'Z' (pronounced ZED by the rest of the world) etched in the wall? Yup, that's the trail to Sentinel Pass. The spire of rock to the top right we assumed was the sentinel, but we were proven wrong later as you shall see.
Despite the bum shoulder and a bit of a fear of exposure I ventured forth with the rest of the group to try my hand (or feet) at the wall. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, and snow was obscuring the Ten Peaks. Now and again a blast of wind would roar through the valley and we'd be peppered with ice crystals and snow. I was a bit timid about the wall.
Appearances can be deceiving. The wall is further away than it looks. You can just make out hikers attempting it in the distance. I needn't have worried, the wall was a (long) piece of cake compared to the scree, which was at times a tad daunting.
That's a view of a part of the zig-zag on the wall. See? All an optical illusion. It wasn't vertical after all. Still, you wouldn't want to slip...
The weather cleared a bit, and the wind stopped just as we crested the pass. Some of our party were feeling a bit deprived of oxygen. The highest we climbed in the pass was between 8600 and 8700 feet, and a few of our number had just recently arrived from the coast. Incidentally, that's an outlier of Temple in the background, we didn't get much of a view of the actual peak from the pass. Here (out of order) is a peak (pun intended) at it from the scree slopes. It was another 3000 feet above us at the highest point of our climb.
Before I get to the summit of the pass, I want to show you what the valley looked like behind us from that altitude. Not a great shot, but still gives you some idea.
While the way up wasn't so scary, the "trail" down the other side is a precipitous drop on scree into Paradise Valley. It would have left me shitless. Here's a view from the pass that leaves out that scary drop.
You can see that there are several sentinel spires.
We climbed a bit, ate our lunches and mugged for the camera...
Incidentally I didn't climb up there, it is a real drop of a couple hundred feet and I may be crazy but I'm also smart. I did make it into some pictures though...
See that woman in green in the telephoto shot? Well I'm in the picture she took. All in all we had a blast and the return journey was just as pleasant.
We all headed off to the hostel for our Thanksgiving meal and lots and lots and lots of wine. In years past we'd always do a hike on this weekend and end it with a shared meal. Looks like we've started another tradition. Only this year we followed this hike up with two more, one on Sunday and the last on Monday. But those stories will have to wait for another time.
Sentinel Pass? 8600' or so with side trips up the moutains. Bagged.
Purveyor of Awesome since 1958.
Incidentally, we just spent the weekend with some friends who visited that area in September. Their photos of the lakes and surrounding areas were beautiful, but they didn't do any of the hikes you did. Mostly, I think they did lake loops.
Yeah, it's easy to get great pictures when you live in photographic heaven.
I've never been to the Canadian Rockies, but I went to college in Colorado so I'm familiar with our version, and I think your part is even more scenic. Maybe we'll make that our next major vacation.
OK, now that I'm done turning green with envy, I can make some comments on the photos themselves. I copied my favorites below.
The first one is obvious. That blue is amazing! It reminds me of Crater Lake, except for this has more of a turquoise hue as opposed to the deep cobalt blue of Crater Lake. I really like the placement of those evergreens down in the bottom center.
I think the larches photo is my favorite. I love taking photos where a pattern (regular or irregular) fills the entire frame. This photo would not have been nearly as interesting if you had framed it with sky in the background.
The person on the left totally makes the panorama photo. I like the layering of the grass-trees-mountains-sky as well.
My friend who majored in geology in college would be drooling over the layers in the rock in all these photos. I like the washed out look of the mountains in the background setting off the deeper colors of the spires.
Hey! That's where I got married on July 5, 2002 years ago!! Yes, I wore a green dress. And it snowed that morning! Most gawgeous place on earth!!!
Needless to say, we didn't attempt any more challenging climbs in this getup, but later in the week we made some forays. THANKS for the wonderful photos!
Robin, I have numerous family pictures by that bench! Unfortunately it is no more. They're trying to restrict the damage caused by the busloads of tourists who disregard the "Keep on the Path" signs (maybe because they can't read English?). You can still get that view, but it isn't as "rustic".
Neat picture, neat dress!
Purveyor of Awesome since 1958.
Alot longer than it could have, we had someone very slow with us, but we didn't mind. It should have been a 5 hour return with a stop for lunch, it took about 6.
Purveyor of Awesome since 1958.