Lake of the Hanging Glacier | CAN
I had anxiously been awaiting this trip to the Rockies for quite a while. After my first time driving through them four years ago during my premiere move out west, I knew it was only a matter of time before I came back.
I chose the date of June 22nd to fly because it would allow me to attend Go Skateboard Day aka the summer solstice with friends back home before the adventure.
This would also be the first trip I went into without an exact itinerary planned out. All my trips before, I've had specific destinations and a rough idea of where I'd be each day. All I knew upon booking my ticket to Calgary, Alberta was that I'd be going into the mountains and not leaving for a couple weeks and that sounded perfect.
I had contacted a few friends and also left a Facebook status update stating that I'd be heading into the area with no plans and would love to do some hiking, as well as catch up with friends I hadn't seen in a while. The response was unbelievable!
Day 1 - June 22nd
(YQG to YYC - Calgary)
I had everything packed and ready to go the day prior just like I do for any trip except this one I also had my bike packed along with me. My dad and his good friend Chris dropped me off at the Windsor airport with time to spare. We stuck around together for a bit before I had to cross through security and on to the plane. As much as I love travelling, it’s always tough saying goodbye.
Around five hours later I found myself landing at the Calgary International Airport, gathering up my checked luggage and waiting in the arrivals area for a long time friend, Dan Orchard. Dan has been living in Calgary for a while now, but I knew him from back home when he used to skateboard with me and also shoot photos. He was certainly an inspiration in the photography game and still is. Now, Dan is running his own leather making business called Victory Made Goods and I’ll be frank, it’s damn good! A good five years must have gone by before I ran into him at a BMX competition in Edmonton back in September. I was shooting the event for BMX Union and he just so happened to be working for Red Bull at the time. I gained a considerable insight into his ideas with Victory Made Goods and by November, while in China we connected and collaborated on a wallet design that’ll last a life time. I highly suggest to anyone if they’re interested in custom leather products to go give his site a check: www.victorymadegoods.com
Once Dan arrived to pick me up, we headed over to his place to drop off my gear and out for some sushi. He kindly showed me around his leather making workplace throughout the evening as we caught up and expressed different ideas together before calling it a night. Dan had to get up super early for work in the morning and I was still stuck in Ontario timezone (EST).
Day 2 - June 23rd
(Calgary to Banff)
Since I was still use to the Eastern Time Zone, I had awoken not too long after Dan left for work. I opted to organize my gear a bit and then head into the city. I’ve flown through the Calgary airport multiple times in the past but never got to see the city. Dan lived outside of the city so a solid hour public transit ride was in order.
I made it into Calgary around 10am and had the whole day ahead of me. The only thing I knew I had to do was be back at Dan’s for 5pm (17:00) so we could head into the Rocky Mountains for a couple days of camping and to kick off my mountainous adventure. I got off the train at Olympic Plaza. Within moments, I found myself grabbing a quick double double and an everything bagel toasted with butter at the nearby Tim Horton’s before the sightseeing began.
I didn’t have many sights pinned to my map or much knowledge of Calgary so I asked some locals in the Olympic Plaza park where I should check out. They mentioned an island just outside of the city that would be a nice stroll and also keep me out of the hustle and bustle. I headed that direction but on the way I couldn’t help but take some photos of the many statues and monuments throughout the downtown core.
Eventually, I made my way over to the island that was recommended to me and noticed the Canada150 sign representing Canada’s 150th birthday that would be on July 1st. I was hoping to get a photo of it with nobody in the shot but that seemed next to impossible with all the kids running around. Was this the last day of school or something? Either way, after waiting for 15 minutes or so I decided to ask the group of kids if they would be willing to hop up on the sign and pose for a photo for me. They were extremely happy and the outcome was precious!
Deciding the eat a bit of lunch here and then looking for a good area to shoot some photos of the cityscape, I didn’t have to look to far. A hill behind me seemed like the perfect spot. When I got to the base of the hill and saw what looked like 200 steps going up, I chuckled and thought to myself that the hiking would in fact, begin today. The view from on top of the hill was totally worth it!
While I was shooting some photos, a woman asked if I had been to the Peace Bridge yet. I must have had a confused look on my face because without a response she went on to tell me it would make for some great photos and pointed me in the direction. Quickly, I headed down a nearby trail in order to avoid the steps this time around and it just so happened to lead 100 meters away from the bridge.
At this time, I decided to check out my maps app and see how far away from Millennium skatepark I was. Millennium skatepark is the largest concrete skatepark in Canada and I’ve always wanted to check it out. On the way there, I received a phone call from my BMXFU homie Greg D’Amico saying that he just got finished his last exam and that a bunch of people are going to be celebrating over at his place.
*BMXFU is a group of dudes from the Niagara Falls area of Ontario who I looked up to in BMX since they dropped their second full-length DVD “BMXFUTU”.
Continuing my walk over to Millennium skatepark, I was beyond fascinated at how big the park actually was. It was huge and so many different unique obstacles! I could help but ask one of the local shredders if I could take their bike for a rip. Using my camera gear as collateral, I got to ride for a few minutes before saying goodbye and heading over to Greg’s.
I hadn’t seen Greg in a few years but one thing with the BMX family is, no matter how much time has passed, you’re always going to be good friends. We caught up a bunch, had some drinks with the other graduates and then headed back to Dan’s. Unfortunately, Greg’s place was on the other side of the city so the transit ride ended up being an hour and a half to get back.
Dan ended up calling me while I was on the bus and let me know that he’d be running a little late which was perfect because I was too. I got back to the house around 6pm (18:00), repacked my gear for the trip through the mountains and took a little nap while I waited for Dan to get home from work. By the time he got home and got his stuff together we were aiming to be at the campground in Banff by 9pm (21:00). Dan’s friend Colin would also be joining us on the trip but would be driving himself since he had some business to take care of Sunday morning and couldn’t spend both Friday and Saturday night camping.
The adventure into the mountains began and before long the towering peaks of the Three Sisters were in sight as we made our way through Canmore and into Banff National Park. Many of the campgrounds were fully booked due to all national parks in Canada being completely free this year in celebration of Canada’s 150th. We were able to find a place however at Two Jacks Campground since it was on a first come, first serve basis and reservations were not allowed.
Two Jack’s wasn’t a 5-star campground by any means and it was quite expensive for the view it offered. Perhaps we just had an unlucky camping site for the night… By the time we got all our stuff set up, it was going on 10:30 (22:30) and all fires had to be out by 11pm (23:00). We put up an LED light in our fire pit for a makeshift fire and made the most out of arriving late.
Day 3 - June 24th
The three of us woke up around the same time and quickly got a fire going to make up for not having one the night before. We had some breakfast and came up with a plan for the day. Dan and I had originally intended to walk around Lake Minnewanka but Colin had mentioned doing Johnston Canyon so that was the new plan.
While we were exiting the park, we had to let the park attendant know that we’d be staying for one more night. However, we were met with the news that the campsite we were currently setup at was reserved for the night and that they would have to move us to a different campsite. So much for a first come, first serve basis…
Not putting up a fuss, we headed back to our campsite, took down our tents and stuffed them into the back of Dan’s car. Choosing to take just one vehicle to Johnston Canyon, we parked Dan’s little Chevy Volt and decided we’d setup our site when we got back in order not to waste any more daylight.
We got to the trailhead at Johnston Canyon at noon and began the trek. I gave a heads up to both of the guys that I’d be stopping a bunch along the way for photos and not to worry about waiting for me. Our aim for this hike was to make it up to the ink pots which was 5.8km at an elevation gain of 215 meters. I had visited Johnston Canyon previously but only managed to get to the upper falls before turning around.
The first 2.7km were the longest due to the fact that every five minutes there was a new amazing waterfall to photograph. I often went off the path in order to get unique angles and to experience something other than the beaten path. It must have taken me about two hours to reach the upper waterfall but from there on out there would be no more waterfalls to capture which sped up the hike tremendously.
The next 2.8km went by in less than an hour and I came upon the inkpots where Dan and Colin had already made it. The inkpots were pretty cool! The natural spring water could be seen filtering up through the ground causing different colour effects in each of the spring pools. We didn’t waste too much time up here though and scurried down to the upper falls together in order to get some promotional shots for Victory Made Goods. Once we were happy with what we had, the next 2.7km flew by as we made our way back down to the trailhead.
Dan and I made it down to the trailhead pretty quick but Colin was dealing with a bummed knee on this trip and had to take his time getting down. Nonetheless, he caught up within 20 minutes and we were on our way to grocery store to collect some food for tonight’s open fire.
After purchasing some hotdogs and snacks, we headed back to the camp and got our tents all set up again. We were able to get a pretty solid fire going this time around. For the first night of my trip, I was having a proper fire with some good mates. Colin had to dip out shortly after eating in order to be home in Calgary for Sunday morning. Once Colin had left, Dan and I had a few more drinks together before calling it a night as well.
Day 4 - June 25th
(Moraine Lake to Fairmont Hot Springs)
I woke up a bit earlier than Dan this time around and as per usual with camping, the first one up must get the fire going. That I did and soon after, Dan was waking up from his hibernation. One of my best friends from back in Windsor, Corey Shuker had messaged me the day prior about coming into Banff and picking me up in order to go out to where he’s been living in Fairmont Hot Springs. Our plan was to meet up in downtown Banff at 11am.
Dan and I headed out around 10:30am to meet up with one of Dan’s buddies for breakfast but Corey and his cousin David showed up just as we were about to grab a seat. I ended up bailing on breakfast and going out to the lake for a bit while we waited for Dan to get done so I could grab my gear out of his car. Corey had brought his canoe and mentioned we’d be going out to Moraine Lake for a canoe ride and that got me so excited and anxious to get my gear and get going. It wasn’t too long after that we met back up with Dan, grabbed my stuff and said goodbye as we made our way out to Moraine Lake.
Corey and Dave both had to start work at 5pm (17:00) this night but neither seemed to worried about making it back on time. Moraine Lake is about two hours from Fairmont Hot Springs and we got to the lake around 1pm (13:00). By the time we got the canoe in, paddled around for a bit and did a short hike, it was already nearing 3:30pm (15:30). We did our best to get going but you would not believe how busy one place could possibly be at one time. By the time we got back to Fairmont Hot Springs, it was going on 7pm (19:00) which means Corey and Dave would therefore have to work even further into the night. Their job consists of watering the golf course so they could do it till 5am if they really wanted too.
I was introduced to their other roommate Max and neighbor Adam when we arrived and within an hour of being there, Max had convinced me to go out to a party that was taking place nearby. I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet some new people at the resort knowing I would be staying there for a few days.
The party didn’t slow me down one bit and once it was dying down, I mentioned to my new friend Kaya that I was planning to go take some photos of the stars this night since the light pollution was at a minimum. We shot so late into the night, that the sunrise was actually appearing in the photo. We figured by then, that it was time to call it quits and get some sleep.
Day 5 - June 26th
(The Hoodoos + Natural Hot Springs)
Usually when I attend a party, the next day is a disaster but this wasn’t the case. Perhaps it was because I spent a good couple of hours shooting the stars that sobered me up or the fact I was just so excited to go sightseeing in a new place!
Since Corey and Dave had worked late into the night as well, we were all waking up around the same time and morning coffee was a must. The next couple days were Corey’s off days so we wanted to make the most of it. He told me about the Hoodoo’s that made for a great little hike and I was all for it. It was just a short drive away and you could even see them from their backyard. The Hoodoo’s were created from water eroding the limestone over many years.
We spent a good deal of time taking in the sights of the valley and the many little trails running around the park before heading out. Our next destination was the natural hot springs that Fairmont Hot Springs was known for. Back in the day, the natives had created a bath house where the natural hot water would run into the makeshift baths giving them a relaxing place to chill out. There were a couple others makeshift pools dug into the ground with benches nearby so you could sit and dip your feet in. That’s what we did!
That little bit of relaxation was enough to get our energy back and head back to the trailer where Corey, Dave and Max are living. We met up with Dave and headed out onto the golf course via golf carts to see what the two of them do for work. They got a pretty great gig going on to say the least. Once Dave had a bunch of his sprinklers setup, we took the carts up to a waterfall. The great thing about this waterfall is that it is also naturally heated!
Soon after, quite the storm came rolling in so we took some shelter and within minutes it was all over. Luckily, the strong winds knocked down a nearby tree and we didn’t end up having to go get any wood for the fire. Winning!
We got the fire, cooked some hamburgers and put our heads together for tomorrows plan. My goal of this whole trip was to do a bunch of overnight hikes so I looked around online for some in the area and learned about one called The Lake of the Hanging Glacier. I threw out the idea to Corey and he seemed pretty keen. The plan was set and the next morning we’d be heading out.
Day 6 - June 27th
(The Lake of the Hanging Glacier)
Today was the day that we were ready for… or so we thought. We gathered our gear in the morning and loaded it up into Corey’s Ford F-150 and hit the road around 10am. We weren’t much in a rush knowing we’d be staying the night anyway. A quick stop at Tim Horton’s of course and then we were on our way to the trailhead.
The trailhead itself was quite the distance away from Fairmont Hot Springs. We had to travel through Invermere and then down a logging road off the way to Panorama for nearly 50km’s. There was at one point a sketchy avalanche that had blocked the road but it looks as though someone actually came to clear it. Moments after the short delay, we arrived at the Lake of the Hanging Glacier trailhead.
We headed into the wilderness on what was suppose to be a 9km hike to setup camp for the night. We had everything stocked and ready to eat for when we got there. It was a good thing we wore long socks on this hike since the foliage was quite dense at the beginning. Just over 30 minutes in we came across a big brown bear but it scurried off into the woods as soon as we came about. Another 2km in we came across what looked like an old horse route which we followed up over a couple small streams before eventually facing the roadblock of a lifetime.
We knew ahead of time that the bridge crossing Hell-Roaring Creek could still possibly be out and we were without the knowledge of whether or not it was fixed. Upon looking at google images of the creek that other hikes had posted, we figured it didn’t look bad at all and should be an easy, get your feet wet kind of crossing. This was certainly not the case.
*Due to the traumatic events that took place during this time, I will not be posting any photos until the next chapter.
We came across Hell Roaring Creek and right away we understood where it got its name from. The spring snowmelt was coming down faster than Dale Earnhardt at a Daytona 500. I did a bit of bushwhacking to see if there was possibly another area we could cross at but it didn’t look good. However, there was a long piece of anodized steel going across the river with a rope also attached to the other side. When I’m out hiking with others or doing anything for that matter that could result in serious injury or death, I never push it and know my own limits. Corey was feeling confident and just like me, he didn’t want to have to turn back after already hiking three kilometers. We decided to go for it!
Corey tied the rope we had brought with us around my waist and I headed over first securing the rope to a tree on the other side. I quickly crossed back over the bridge and gathered my bag before proceeding back one more time. Corey was next and this is when things went disastrously wrong. While Corey was crossing, he lost his footing. He chose to jump towards me on the other side but unfortunately it was just out of reach and he came splashing backwards into the raging rapids and swept up hard against the bridge. I jumped down on my knees telling him to grab my hand but the current was so strong it pulled him away from him. The current sucked him under the bridge and it was that instant I thought I was losing an amazing friend. My shrieks were real but Corey managed to grab ahold of the other side in order to save himself, which gave me enough time to take off my heavy hiking bag and properly situate myself for the rescue. Now that he was on the other side, the hiking bag that he was wearing was much more visible and I was able to grab ahold of it and pull him onto the bridge. It wasn’t over quite yet however… The bungie cord that Corey had been using to hold some of his other stuff had caught onto the bridge and by this point the glacier water had immobilized him. I knew I had to let the bag go in order to save him so the next step involved unstrapping the cords and the bag. Within moments he began to slip back into the raging waters but I was able to get a good reach under his arms at this point and drag him up on the shore. The bag was also saved but his shoes and tripod were gone for good. We knew the hike was over by this point but we also knew we had to go back the way we came.
“If you fell into the main flow of the creek during the spring run-off your chances of survival would be slim to none. You would not be swept off a large waterfall, but the terrain is very steep and the creek goes over a series of 2-4 metre drops. This happens immediately so there would be absolutely no chance to swim for the sides. Trying to cross without the bridge would be extremely hazardous and not recommended.” - Summit Trail Makers I let Corey rest and recover from the freezing temperatures he was just soaking in and brought all our gear back across. Having to cross already a few times before hand, I had become comfortable with the crossing and altogether had to do it 10 times in order to get the water soaked bags across. This time around before Corey crossed, I talked him through exactly what he needed to do to stabilize himself on the bridge and we also tied the rope that I had used to cross the first time around him in case anything else did happen. It was an intense few moments but he made it back across and we took the time to gather our bearings knowing we had three kilometers to go back to the truck. Corey would be doing this three kilometer stretch without shoes.
Without a doubt, Corey made walking on this trail shoeless look way too easy. When we came across the first small stream, I decided to cross and throw my shoes back over to him so that he could get a grip while crossing. We made it work and eventually we got back to the truck and what a sigh of relief that was. It was that moment when I couldn’t find my wallet and the only thing I could think of was that it fell out when I took a little tumble down by the rapids. I decided to go for it. I sprinted the full three kilometers only to find nothing and then ran back. My wallet was gone and along with it all my I.D. and information. It wasn’t the end of the world compared to what could have happened on this trek but still a bummer. Corey asked if I could drive back and of course, given the shock he must have been in at this time, I didn’t hesitate. Next thing you know, 15km on the way back… Flat tire. We looked at each other in disbelief. Really? How can this day just keep getting worse. When Corey got out of the truck however, something fell out with him. My wallet! Phew… I guess there was a little upside after all. We spent a good hour trying to get the darn spare tire down and it brought back memories of the same thing a couple years prior in the arctic at -40 Celsius. This was much more pleasant temperature wise but still quite agitating.
In the end, we made it back to Fairmont Hot Springs by 9pm. We met up with Corey’s cousin David to share the news of what happen and also the GoPro footage. What a day it was! Now it was time for some karaoke.
Day 7 - August 14th (Redemption at the Lake of the Hanging Glacier - Part 1)
A lot had happened between the time Corey and I attempted the Lake of the Hanging Glacier hike, but I was still nonetheless anxious to get it done. By this point I was now living and working up at Sunshine Village in Banff which I will touch base on in a separate blog.
*See “This Past Year Changed My Life” if you’d like to learn more about my travels!
A friend at the time (let’s go with the name Carly for reference purposes) had mentioned doing an overnight hike together so I brought up the idea of going out to the Lake of the Hanging Glacier and she was 100% for it! We made our plans to correspond with Corey’s time off work so that he’d be able to get redemption on the hike as well. The day finally came and we headed back out towards Invermere, British Columbia where the trailhead begins. The day was August 14th, so almost two full months after the initial attempt which means we wouldn’t need to worry about a bridge not being built across the gnarly rapids.
The original plan was to leave Banff at 8am in order to arrive in Invermere by 10am, drive the hour plus distance to the trailhead than complete the four-hour hike to the campsite. That would have put us at a nice afternoon time of roughly 4pm (16:00), giving plenty of time to relax, cook dinner and explore the area. The best part was the skies were expected to be 100% clear and no moon which means we are going to catch the beautiful milky way above the glacier. A dream come true! Unfortunately, this would not be the case…
I received a message the night prior notifying me that Carly had decided to make a “nail appointment” and therefore wouldn’t arrive in Banff till after 11am. That pushes our camp setup back to 6pm with still a few hours before darkness hits. Not a big deal. We grabbed some coffees to go and headed out towards Invermere. Carly had invited her friend to join us on the hike and that she would be meeting us at the Subway in Invermere. Corey had decided to respectfully decline the invitation to join us on the hike which is understandable due to what he had went through previously. We arrived in Invermere at 2pm (14:00) before Carly received news that her friend had procrastinated so much that she wouldn’t be arriving till nearly 6pm (18:00). Six o’clock! At this point my frustration was certainly clicking in. How does one go from having a plan to set up camp by 3pm (15:00) to almost 11pm (23:00). It just boggles my mind. At this point, we had to call off the hike for safety reasons.
I gave Corey a call and asked if it’d be alright for us to setup our tents in his yard so we had a place to sleep and that we’d be leaving early in the morning to make the Lake of the Hanging Glacier into a day hike. He obliged so Carly and I headed over there to setup. Once we were all setup, we discussed some evening options which included going to check out the nearby hot spring waterfall that I mentioned earlier and then head out to the all natural Lussier Hot Springs. Carly’s friend did not arrive till 8pm (20:00)… Once she arrived; Corey, David, Max, Carly, her friend and I headed out to the waterfall. We were just waiting for Max’s girlfriend to get off work and then we’d be making the short drive out to Lussier. While we were waiting, Carly and her friend decided they didn’t want to come and would rather go get a hotel room now instead of sleeping in the tents. We set a plan to meet up for a 7:30am breakfast in order to get on the road early and make it to the trailhead by 10:30am knowing we had double the amount of hiking that we would have had if we stuck to the original plan.
As Carly and her friend left, the rest of us still stuck to our plan of going to Lussier Hot Springs and it was totally worth it. The atmosphere was so laid back and a lot of people were on their way back from a big festival that was nearby called Shambhala. We must have stuck around there till almost 1am and then headed back for some sleep. We knew it was going to be tough to wake up early but we were hyped and motivated for the big day.
Day 8 - August 15th (Redemption at the Lake of the Hanging Glacier - Part 2)
The morning came quick and before breakfast I had asked Corey if he wanted to go again but he stuck to his initial answer. Therefore, Max and I headed to breakfast to meet up with the girls. They weren’t there yet so we went ahead and ordered in order not to waste any time and what do you know, I receive a message from Carly saying that wouldn’t be there till 9am. Unbelievable! At this point I was completely over doing this hike with them as they’ve already ruined what could have been an incredible day and night. I knew the longer we procrastinated, the less and less time we’d be able to take in the true beauty of this hike.
Max’s girlfriend was nice enough to offer us her car for the day, so we told the girls we’d meet them there. We headed out and got to the trailhead about 11:30am and right off the bat things were looking different. The long grass that Corey and I had navigated through had been cut and a perfect trail lead us to the insane rapids that Corey had fallen into. It was but a mere run off by this point with a nice bridge placed across. I really wish Corey could have been with us for this but if someone doesn’t feel comfortable doing something out of their comfort, then I will not pressure. Max and I continued onwards and then the real beauty began to happen. Waterfall after waterfall made not only the destination worthwhile, but the whole hike in itself amazing!
The girls eventually caught up to us which we smiled and welcomed but they quickly sped by with no intentions to hike with us at this point. So be it… We’re going to enjoy the hike for what its worth. One thing I’m not a fan of is people who have a main goal of getting to the top of a peak or hike to say they did it but not to enjoy everything nature has to offer along the way. We continued at our own leisurely pace before reaching the final waterfall around 3pm (15:00). We noticed the girls not too far up ahead getting their “oh naturelle topless” photos so we stuck back in the meadows for a bit taking photos and admiring the beast of a waterfall ahead.
Thirty minutes later we reached the Lake of the Hanging Glacier, and even though it was a smoky day at the lake, it was beautiful. Majestic! Max and I were shooting some photos and then we hear “Hey, can one of you take a photo of us?” from Carly. "Of course" I said, we all made it to where we set out to go! After the photo was taken however, there was no thank you or question as to if Max and I wanted a photo together and they promptly headed back down. Max and I set up a natural tripod with the rocks and wood, got our own special photo and headed back to meet them at the cars.
A couple hours later we arrived back at the parking lot with no sign of the girls. We shrugged it off like we’ve been doing the past 36 hours already and hit the road back to town. Once we were into reception, I received a message from Carly that they were at a bar and for us to meet them there. I’ll leave out the details but let’s say things went further south from there and I ended up having to spend another night at Corey’s and getting a ride back to Banff with him.
At the end of the day, the goal of reaching the Lake of the Hanging Glacier was accomplished. As much as I would have loved to have completed it with Corey, I understand that sometime's things happen for a reason. I seriously can’t thank Max enough for all the wisdom and character he helped me with, and of course David and Corey for being the friends they are and letting me stay at their place once again plus a lift back to Banff. There will always be people in your life who stand behind you, inspire you and push you in a positive why. There will always be people who may not intentionally bring you down or project a negative impact on your ideas and goals but each individual presents a learning point in your life. Embrace what you've learned and continue to move forward.