I leave Calgary very early and drive 260 KM (163 miles) west through the mountains past Banff, Lake Louise and Yoho National Park along the TransCanada Hwy to Golden, British Columbia for a hearty breakfast at Smitty’s then top up the gas tank and continue west for another 160 KM (100 miles) to Rogers Pass. There is still a lot of highway construction in the Golden area due to twinning of the TransCanada Hwy and speed must often be reduced. Throughout the trip I listen to Il Divo. For me, the music matches the grandeur of the mountains. On the final climb to Rogers Pass, I drive through 5 consecutive, closely spaced tunnels. These are snow sheds which provide protection from avalanche in winter.. On the other side of the last tunnel is the trailhead for The Hermit Trail. I have gained an hour in the time change from Mountain to Pacific Standard Time.
The first 50 metres (165 ft) of trail is pristine gravel through cedar-hemlock before it changes to a more traditional rocky surface through trail-side moss, fern and rich, aromatic, old growth forest.
To the end of the trail it is only 3 KM (1.9 miles) but net elevation gain is a steep 870 metres (2,854 ft) to a maximum elevation near 2,060 metres (6,760 ft). Elevation gain is rapid and views of surrounding mountains unfold quickly. Behind me, on the other side of the highway is 2,878 metre (9,442 ft) Mount MacDonald, named for the first Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald, and to my right is 2,804 metre 99,200 ft) Mount Tupper, named after Sir Charles Tupper, one of the Fathers of Confederation. Soon, I am able to look down at Glacier Park Lodge where I will be staying.
Update: October 2012 – Glacier Park Lodge at Rogers Pass is permanently closed.
Its distinctive green metal roof is across the TransCanada from the Parks Canada maintenance facility. The Hermit Trail is named for a feature on the ridge of Mount Tupper, originally named Hermit Mountain. A rock pinnacle, which from a distance, appears to be a man standing on top, is adjacent to a smaller rock designated as the hermit’s dog. It is a gorgeous, sunny, warm day with the occasional touch of breeze.
The very steep, variable pitch trail begins to level out near the top on stone slab path. One section with a steep step offers an anchored rope assist. There are spectacular views of the ice fields behind me. The trail ends in a large, rocky bowl with a trail extension into an adjacent valley. Four backcountry platforms at the end of Hermit Trail, in an area called Hermit Meadows, are occupied with tents amongst rock fall and multiple water sources. There is also an open air toilet and bear-proof bins for storage of food and gear. I know I need to scramble a scree moraine to get better visuals of the mountains beyond but I do not have it in me this day.
Instead of scrambling scree, I decide to top a nearby ridge where I almost step on a Ptarmigan who is shepherding her three young chicks.
Prior to the hike down by the same route I indulge in some off-trail hiking through wetlands and glacier-smoothed rock bands. Views are awesome in the warm sun and I find a quiet, comfortable place to sit down with my back propped up by a perfectly shaped rock where I can take in the view wrapped around me.
This picture which follows is not mine. It was taken by a friend about a year earlier. It will give you a partial view of the spectacular scenery on the other side of the scree slope. The photo features the Rogers Glacier on the flank of 2,922 metre (9,587 ft) Mount Sifton, named after Sir Clifford Sifton, with a pristine glacier-fed alpine lake below. The photo credit and copyright belong to Mélanie Jeanne Martin.
It is a great day and I finish it by checking into my perfectly adequate accommodation at Glacier Park Inn and enjoy supper at the dining room with a magnificent view of the sun setting over massive glacial ice fields in mountains to the west.