Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Footloose on Fairview

Mt. Victoria and area from Mt. Fairview
Mt. Victoria and area from Mt. Fairview
The mountains above Lake Louise are surely some of the most brilliant jewels in the Parks Canada crown: hulking Mt. Temple, ice-draped Victoria, vertical Aberdeen, lofty LeFroy ... the list goes on. Big mountains need big views and it is hard to beat the vistas afforded by Mount Fairview. At 2744 metres Fairview was high enough to get Lisa, John, Mike and me into the alpine on an easy 5.5 km trail and scramble -- although we did have an elevation gain of a bit over 1000 metres when all was said and done. Actually, Mike and John both rocketed up Saddle Mountain on the way down, so they added another 200 metres to their vertical totals.
Mike, Mary, John, Lisa: Fairview summit
Mike, Mary, John, and Lisa on the Fairview summit

The trail (map below) starts off in the trees, but soon shoots out onto meadows and talus slopes below the Saddleback pass. From the pass it is about 1.5 km of steep switchbacks up to the summit -- but the views are indeed fair in every direction. The only down side is that the route is often quite busy. Even though the trail does require a good degree of fitness, the views are so stunning many people are tempted to head onward and upward. On the assent the four of us shared the mountain with about 20 people -- including a large group of older Japanese visitors who tromped along gaily and did not seem to notice how steep the trail was!

Penstemon on the trail
Penstemon on rocky bluffs
We took our time at the top and soon had the wide summit shoulder all to ourselves. Well, almost all to ourselves -- but the fellows didn't complain at all about the other two folks sharing the views with us. As it happened, one of the pair was a buxom young redhead who decided the top of the mountain was a perfect place for nude sunbathing -- Fair View indeed!

The day was stunning and showed the mountains and Lake Louise to perfection. I was particularly pleased that the weather cooperated as John and Lisa only had about a week for hiking in the Rockies. It is all too easy, even in the summer, for the rain and clouds to settle in and dampen even the keenest Rocky Mountain hiker's hopes.

Lunch on the summit
Lunch on top of Fairview - Mt. Victoria in the background
The slopes of Fairview gave us some good alpine wildflowers too: Shrubby Penstemon, Western Anemone, White Dryas, lots of Saxifrage, and Paintbrush galore. Marmots, pikas, ground squirrels, chipmunks, and one porcupine completed the list of animals for the day. I'm sorry to say we had no "charismatic mega-fauna" (bears, cougars, wolverines, etc.), but, as I often say: "always leave them wanting more". Certainly I want to see a lot more of the Rockies!

 Of course, the day wasn't complete without a dip in Lake Louise itself. John and Mike jumped in far from the madding crowd and splashed around in the milky green water. Lisa and I passed on the swim. And, to cap everything off, we decided to visit my favorite lake in the area: Moraine Lake. I know it can be thick with tourists, but the colour - even on an afternoon that threatens rain - will make your heart smile. With the Valley of the Ten Peaks standing guard on the v-neck shoreline, Moraine Lake is a fitting finish to a Rocky Mountain ramble.

Moraine Lake above Lake Louise
Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks

Our Route:

View Mount Fairview in a larger map