Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis - Hiking Alberta

 

The cairn at the 3rd Memorial Lake honors lives given in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

The Memorial Lakes hike has been substantially modified by the June 2013 flood event.

This hike is dedicated specifically to Lorelee and Melanie, and generally, to every family member, or friend, or acquaintance of every name on the monument, and to every participant in the Kananaskis Country search and rescue operation during June of 1986. 

New visitors to this heroic and tragic story will benefit from reading a previous Memorial Lakes post at Memorial Lakes - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta which will make this post more meaningful.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The trail-head is at the end of the Ribbon Creek parking area near Nakiska in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

This is the third attempt to complete this hike.  The hike is difficult and the risk profile is too high for  most to responsibly attempt solo.  A close friend and long-time hiking partner has agreed to share this mission and the best time has been chosen for good weather combined with long daylight hours.

The objective receives absolute commitment and resolve to photograph the Memorial Lakes Cairn near the shoreline of the third and uppermost Memorial Lake on a departure the Ribbon Creek trail-head in Kananaskis Country near Nakiska at 9:30 AM.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Ribbon Creek trail is initially beside Ribbon Creek.  The sound of running water is relaxing.  We make good time.

 

The Ribbon Creek trail is flat, wide and easy to navigate.  For the first kilometer it tracks cascading, clear-water Ribbon Creek.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There are bridge crossings back and forth over Ribbon Creek on what was originally an old logging road.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada One of the old bridges crossing Ribbon Creek.

 

Following a 3.4 KM (2⅛ mile) hike on good road, the narrow trail along North Ribbon Creek is marked by a roadside cairn branching right.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada At the trail junction, Ken stands beside the North Ribbon Creek trail that will take us to the First Memorial Lake.

 

The trail is rustic, littered with roots and rock outcroppings.  Occasional level sections are punctuated by a series of steep climbs.  Trail conditions are diverse.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There are several very beautiful stream crossings past fast running water.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

At the prolonged and steep ascent trail, time is taken to photograph the cascading tiers in challenging light along the maze of trails at the cliff edges before returning to the main trail.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view above the top of the tall waterfall.

 

The waterfalls originate from the outlet of tiny Memorial Lake # 1.  Tight quarters make photography challenging but time is taken to relax and enjoy food and fluid.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Arrival at the first incredibly beautiful Memorial Lake beneath tall mountains.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The waterfall across the lake is from Memorial Lake # 3.  The objective is over the top of the cliff across from our current position.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Bogart Tower looms above the end of the first Memorial Lake.

 

The hike proceeds on wet trail through dense undergrowth to the other end of Memorial Lake # 1 for arrival at a T-junction at the base of pyramidal Bogart Tower.

A right leads to and begins the climb up and around the base of Bogart Tower to pass Memorial Lake # 2 (The Emerald) and achieve Memorial Lake # 3.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada At the base of Bogart Tower, the rustic trail to the right climbs through talus and scree, beside a waterfall and further, to get to Memorial Lake # 2.

 

Route finding is challenging on a variety of braided human and/or game trails providing many alternatives.

The best views of Memorial Lake # 1 are achieved on the climb above it.  Following a good climb, arrival at the stunningly beautiful Memorial Lake # 2 is achieved.  This sub-alpine, emerald gem is justifiably known as 'The Emerald'.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Climbing unstable talus and scree beside the outlet waterfall from Memorial Lake # 2

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lake # 1 gets smaller on the approach to Memorial Lake # 2

 

Arrival at Memorial Lake #2 provides a stunning and breathtaking view of emerald water, with a tiny island and a peninsula with trees, in a bowl surrounded by the sheer rock cliffs of surrounding majestic mountains.  

As difficult as it is to leave this beautiful place, the hike proceeds on and through talus and scree.  Again the best views of Memorial Lakes # 2 are achieved as the hike above it proceeds on the route towards the scramble zone at the far side of Bogart Tower.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The first view of Memorial Lake # 2 also known as 'The Emerald'

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lake # 2 - The Emerald - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Best views of Memorial Lake # 2 are achieved from above on the ascent towards Memorial Lake # 3

 

The easy scramble to the next hiking level is intimidating.  It is always easier and safer to scramble up a route than it is to scramble down the same route.  Three potential routes are analyzed and the best is chosen.  The route up is fairly straightforward. 

Rock helmets are a good idea.  Vision is hampered by sun sitting directly on the horizon at the mountain peaks above.

The first safe opportunity to take pictures occurs at arrival in the gorgeous meadow above us.  The short scramble takes less than 15 minutes.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The trail continues through this beautiful meadow at the top of the scramble. The wildflowers are amazing.

 

Hiking through the meadow leads to the top of the scree slope ahead.  On the left is a forested area and above is another scree ridge beneath the summit of 3,144 m (10,315 ft) Mount Bogart.  

The lake is to the left through the forest.  One heads left through the forest and the other ascends further to the top of the scree slope for potentially better photographs.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The sheer cliffs of Mount Bogart, and hanging snow, consume the field of vision.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The first view of Memorial Lake # 3 at the base of Ribbon Peak taken from above at the scree ridge below Mount Bogart.

 

The higher position provides outstanding views of Memorial Lake # 3 below.  The Memorial Cairn is a dot on a scree rise above the far shore of the lake.  The objective is clearly in view.  It is a good and rewarding moment.

Ken proceeds towards the monument as I work my way down the scree slope to follow behind in a counterclockwise direction along the dark talus shoreline of the lake which is about 1.5 m (5 feet) below completely full.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view of Bogart Tower from the high point on the scree ridge directly beneath Mount Bogart.  A small portion of Memorial Lake # 3 is seen at the base of Bogart Tower.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Progressing towards the Memorial Cairn on the far side of Memorial Lake # 3.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Navigating the dark talus shoreline of Memorial Lake # 3 on the approach to the monument.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A patch of snow on approach to Memorial Lake # 3 beneath Ribbon Peak

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Bogart Tower on the other side of Memorial Lake # 3.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The Memorial Cairn is now visible and perched at the top of a scree rise.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Arriving at the Memorial Cairn. 

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Shoreline view at Memorial Lake # 3 at Bogart Tower.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Final approach up the scree slope to the Memorial Cairn.

 

The Memorial Cairn lies majestically in honor of those who heroically gave their lives in June of 1986.

These lakes were named, and this monument was established to honor their heroic sacrifice in September of 1986.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The Memorial Cairn is perched on a scree rise at Memorial Lake # 3 near the edge of a steep cliff face looking directly down on Memorial Lake # 1.

The surroundings are nothing short of spectacular.  The sun is warm.  The air is calm.  It is a beautiful and peaceful place.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view of Memorial Lake # 1 from the edge of the cliff face near the Memorial Cairn.

 

Mount Allan is the rusty colored summit in the background of the picture above.

Centennial Ridge leads up to it and there is evidence of the Rock Garden along the ridge.

The time arrives to begin the return hike and a summit stone is placed beneath the base of the Memorial Cairn prior to departure.

The counterclockwise route around the shore of Memorial Lake # 3 is taken as the sun begins to dip below the summit of Mount Bogart.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Further along the ridge, another view of Memorial lake # 1 unfolds far below.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Memorial Lake # 3 with Ribbon Peak in the background.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A final look back at Memorial Lake # 3 en route over the lower ridge to the meadow and the down scramble

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking back across the meadow from the top of the scramble as sun drenches the top of Mount Bogart.

 

It is always easier to find a down route than it is to find an up-route on steep terrain.

At the top of the scramble, there is an outstanding view of Memorial Lake # 2, now in shadow.  The trails in the meadow lead to a better route down than the one used for ascent.

Like the scramble up, it is an easy scramble with brief moments requiring full attention as the scramble descends the steep slope to safe ground.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada From the top of the scramble, The Emerald is clearly visible in shadow below.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Part way down the scramble, Memorial Lake # 2 (The Emerald) lies stunningly beautiful below

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view from the bottom of the scramble route negotiated to get up to Memorial Lake # 3

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Ken arrives at the bottom of the scramble.

 

The route through scree and talus proceeds past Memorial Lake # 2, on a higher and better route to the steep descent past the waterfall and multiple stream crossings, until the return to Memorial Lake # 1.

Following a few minutes of rest and relaxation for weary legs, the hike proceeds slowly and carefully down the rustic trail along North Ribbon Creek.

Light is lower now and photographs of beautiful tributary streams are difficult to capture.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Descent from Memorial Lake # 2 past the tumbling waterfall to the first and lowest Memorial Lake.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

From the shore of Memorial Lake # 1, the view of the ridge between Ribbon Peak and Bogart Tower has become more meaningful.

Memorial Lake # 3 is on the other side of that ridge but the Memorial Cairn is not visible from this specific position.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada This absolutely beautiful stream crossing is typical of many tributaries which feed North Ribbon Creek.

 

There are tricky sections of trail which require extra caution on very tired legs as the descent proceeds to the Ribbon Creek trail.  The 3.4 KM (2⅛ mile) flat walk along good road back to the trail-head is welcome relief.

On the approach to the Ribbon Creek parking area at the end of the hike, light is dwindling rapidly and the setting sun creeps its way up surrounding mountains.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Tired legs are more cautious on compromising sections of trail.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada On the final stretch - the mountains behind the Ribbon Creek parking area are a welcome sight.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Very near the end, sunlight touches the tips of nearby mountains.

 

Spirits are raised by a setting sun channeled through valley openings to illuminate one mountain directly in the field of vision on arrival back at the Ribbon Creek parking area near 8:30 PM. 

There are a couple of cars remaining in the parking area.  All day there has been no sight of any other person so the Memorial Lakes belonged to us alone on this special and privileged day.

 

Memorial Lakes Monument - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Those who have spent a lot of time with nature, specifically on water or mountains, will relate closely to the power of the experience.  If you have made it this far, congratulations!  I admire your tenacity.  You may have what it takes to hike Memorial Lakes. 

There is a powerful story here about a significant event in the history of Kananaskis Country.  The memorial cairn is a fine tribute, situated at an incredibly beautiful place among pristine, alpine lakes named specifically to honor lives lost.

There were thirteen lives lost nearby in June of 1986.  These heroic and tragic events deeply affected the lives of families, friends and acquaintances. 

Additionally, there are hundreds of other people who participated in the search and rescue operations.  In total, there are thousands of people who were affected and undoubtedly there is some significant percentage who would like to pay their respect.  They may not be able to do so. 

The Memorial Cairn is a profound tribute which is very challenging to access and only possible for a short time each year.  It seems like the memorial has been, certainly unintentionally, only partially completed.  The following recommendations are offered. 

First, leave the current Memorial Cairn at Memorial Lake # 3 exactly as it is.  Trail marking, signage and ongoing maintenance is required to provide safe access and risk reduction for those who are able to hike into this historic and spectacular location. 

Second, create two new, identical cairns.  Place one at, or near, the Ribbon Creek parking area.  Place the other at an easily accessible location near the base of Cox Hill. 

Accompany each of  them with interpretive plaques, outlining the story.  Certainly a lot was learned from this tragic series of events, albeit at unreasonable expense.  To remember is a point of respect.

When you have a moment, please read the inspiring story of the family hike to honor Ken Wolff which can be found at:.

Memorial Lakes Monument Epilogue - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

Thank you for taking the time.

 

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