Following my recent, alternative foray into King Creek Canyon, following a failed Rummel Lake snowshoe attempt in Spray Lakes Valley Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, this day seems like a better opportunity. The early drive west from Calgary is under clear sky but the always spectacular drop from Scott Lake Hill into the Bow Valley Corridor, reveals heavy cloud over the mountains. I decide to save distance by driving south from Canmore, on the Smith-Dorrien Trail ( Hwy 742). Ascending the formidable slope at the east end of Mount Rundle, I drive past trailheads to Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak on my way through Whiteman’s Gap. Thirty-five kilometres (21.9 miles) later, through incredible scenery and light but increasing snow fall, I arrive at the very busy Rummel Lake trailhead across from Mount Shark Road, which leads to Mount Engadine Lodge and Shark Lake.
Quickly I discover I have chosen the same day as a group snowshoe hosted by the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre. It is a fine organization and I have used their resources many times over many years. If you wish to begin, the Calgary Outdoor Centre is a good place to learn, rent gear and meet potential partners at very reasonable cost. I gear up quickly and get out in front to avoid interfering with the crowd.
The trail is well-defined and actually enhanced by light snow fall as elevation is gained consistently and gradually over the one-way 5 KM (3.13 mile) trail which gains net elevation of 350 m (1,148 ft) to a maximum elevation of about 2,220 m (7,283 ft). Throughout the day the sun struggles unsuccessfully to break through variable density cloud cover.
Views back are heavily compromised by the falling snow. Still, pristine and pretty.
The trail has sufficient dips and turns to maintain interest and provide a good aerobic workout. The snow base deepens and temperatures drop as elevation is gained. Progressively dense forest provides protection from the light breeze and supports nature’s sculptures.
Am I being watched?
The final approach to Rummel Lake is over a shallow ridge and is very similar to, but shorter than, the approach to nearby Chester Lake.
Mountain summits are obscured by cloud and snowfall but the flat plain of snow beneath Mount Galatea is the winter version of Rummel Lake. Two young men on snowshoes are punching their way up a steep Mount Galatea avalanche plain on the far side of Rummel Lake. If you look carefully you can find the two specks on the steep slope in the pictures and follow their progress. I question their judgment and hope we will not be required to attempt rescue. I am not carrying a shovel or probe. There are a few people at Rummel Lake. Some are taking shelter from the light wind and colder temperatures in an abandoned snow trench and quinzee, no doubt constructed by a previous winter camping expedition.
I consider snowshoeing to Rummel Pass, 3 KM (1.9 miles) further, but the trail is sketchy and the view into the valley beyond will be heavily compromised by falling snow.
Two young ladies, having lunch in the shelter of evergreens near lakeshore, kindly take my photo with one of Galatea’s outliers in the background on the far side of Rummel Lake.
The large group, guided by the Calgary Outdoor Centre, arrives about 20 minutes later as I enjoy lunch in the shelter of nearby forest.
On the way out, I take advantage of the biffy before beginning descent. When I open the door, the snow on the roof slides off onto my head and down my neck. Very cool The outhouse is tiny and used less in winter because removal and reinstallation of snow shoes is too much trouble. This biffy’s above ground level elevation is camouflaged by deep snow but given away by the metal hand railing. I must back in with snowshoes on; easier said than done. The large protrusion at the side of the biffy was there before I began.
Once again, I enjoy nature’s amazing snow sculptures on the return trip.
There are excellent, snow-diminished views to the other side of Spray Lakes Valley and to the south end of the frozen Spray Lakes Reservoir.
Back at the car, the popularity of the Rummel Lake snowshoe remains evident. As I begin the drive north on the Smith-Dorrien Trail to Canmore, within a kilometre I am in sunshine that remains all the way to Calgary. The scenery is absolutely spectacular.
Rummel Lake is also a popular summer hike. The alpine lake, on a clear day, is crystal clear, turquoise and beautiful. I have not done the complete 17.5 KM (11.4 mile) traverse from the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742) across the Opal Range to Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40). Two cars are required, one at each end, and some bushwhacking and light scrambling is apparently necessary on the stretch between Rummel Pass and Lost Lake but it has all the earmarks of a great, fair weather, long day hike combined with a fine and well-earned dinner in Canmore on the drive back to Calgary.