Burgess Shale is a World Heritage Site in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada.
Within 700 m (766 yards) of departing from Yoho Lake Backcountry Campground the group, led by the Parks Canada Interpretive Guide, arrive at the trail junction with the Highline Trail and the trail sign announcing advancing trail continues to a restricted UNESCO World Heritage Site. The group bears left on the trail towards Yoho Pass.
0.6 KM (⅜ miles) later, on the hike between Michael Peak and Wapta Mountain, the hike arrives at Yoho Pass and bears left onto the incredible Wapta Highline Trail where incredible vistas begin to unfold as the warming day draws valley mist above surrounding summits.
As the hike continues south on the Wapta Highline Trail, an uphill push on moderate grade through forest leads to interesting rocky trail, predominantly at or above the treeline along the flank of Wapta Mountain. The scenery which unfolds is breathtaking. The route opens views into the valley hosting Emerald Lake and, in the distance, the pointed peak of 2,635 m (8,645 ft) Mount Field provides substance to scale and distance. The trail along Wapta Mountain requires special attention as much of it is in questionably stable, rock slide terrain. The approach to the lunch break location settles onto more stable terrain and grade with amazing spherical views as the sun continues to warm and brighten the day.
Seating for lunch is on warm and comfortable flat rocks while the guide presents historical insight into this region. A nearby young marmot, sunning on a large rock nearby, seems ambivalent to our presence as the group collectively enjoys the incredible view of Emerald Lake beneath us at the base of 2,555 m (8,382 ft) Emerald Peak.
Avalanche chutes on the slopes of Emerald Peak are a backdrop to pristine Emerald Lake under the watch of a young marmot who is comfortable with our presence on Wapta Mountain in Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
After lunch the hike continues south on the Wapta Highline Trail surrounded by fields of wildflowers and sensational vistas. This is an incredibly beautiful place. Within a short time the location of the Walcott Quarry becomes visible and soon the trail-head sign announces access by permit only. The public does not have free access to Walcott Quarry. The area is remotely monitored by sophisticated equipment and unauthorized access penalties are significant.
The people who do not have access may be the lucky ones. After a long hike, the final phase to visit Walcott Quarry is a gut crunching, heart pounding, thigh thumping ascent on a series of short, sharp switchbacks which rapidly gain height equivalent to an eighteen-story apartment building. Arrival alive at Walcott Quarry is a merciful blessing. The magnificent scenery surrounding the effort is a motivational blessing.
Sketchy trail on switchback near the arrival at Walcott Quarry in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada
Substantial electronic monitoring gear is evident at Walcott Quarry. The view is overwhelming. All participants are required to don rock helmets and are issued with specimen sheets to locate and identify fossils. They are not limited to trilobites as was the case on Mount Stephen.
There are a wide variety of fossils at Walcott Quarry but the majority seem to be of trilobites.
Heavy weather is slowly building as the visit to Walcott Quarry comes to an end. Another guided tour is waiting at the bottom of the switchbacks for their time slot because this is a popular destination. Our departure is ahead of the group. On the approach to the incoming group, their leader is Hugh from the fossil adventure on Mount Stephen. It's like old home week.
There is a much better opportunity to capture images on the rocky trail beneath the top of Wapta Mountain on the return hike to Yoho Pass. It is standard practice to hike with significant distances between us. In the event of a slide incident, we will not all be involved. There will someone to assist rescue. Similar to avalanche terrain protocol except additional gear is required for snow.
Trail on the rocky slopes beneath the summit of Wapta Mountain.
There is no alternative to being there with full vision and senses at play. Everyone is requested to consider this hike as an opportunity to create indelible memories.
The return hike proceeds through rock rubble on defined trail after completing the rugged section adjacent to vertical rock walls. There is further mild exposure to potential rock slide prior to the forested section which will lead us across Yoho Pass on the descent to Yoho Lake.
Heavy weather gradually builds, a breeze ripples the surface of Yoho Lake.
There are examples of old, abandoned aqueducts from historical infrastructure.
Mount Ogden is magnificent background to vistas along the trail between Yoho Lake and Takakkaw Falls. An old wooden pipe wrapped in metal coil lies abandoned adjacent to the rugged trail between Yoho Lake and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park, BC, Canada
On the home stretch of this long and fascinating day, intermittent light rain makes trail surface slippery and careful footsteps are needed in combination with the occasional use of umbrellas. Views of the Daly Glacier over Takakkaw Falls are spellbinding and beautiful as descent rapidly approaches the crowded parking area at the base of the falls.
This hike is a long, indelibly memorable day with lasting visions of spectacular beauty. Yoho National Park is a favorite Canadian National Park near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In spite of its more remote location, from an accommodation perspective, the park is very busy in summer and shoulder seasons often offer a better wilderness experience.
Guided tours to the protected fossil beds at Mount Stephen and Walcott Quarry are limited to small groups in limited time-frames and should be booked and paid for many months in advance to avoid disappointment.
Photographs for the Walcott Quarry adventure are captured on August 5, 2013.