Rummel Lake Snowshoe near Mount Engadine Lodge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.
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 so saving time and distance may help by driving south from Canmore, on the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742).
Ascending the formidable slope at the East End of Mount Rundle, the drive passes trail heads to Grassi Lakes and Ha Ling Peak on the way through Whiteman's Gap.
Thirty-five kilometers (22 miles) later, through incredible scenery and light but increasing snow fall, arrival occurs at the very busy Rummel Lake trail-head across from Mount Shark Road, which leads past Mount Engadine Lodge to Shark Lake.
Immediately, it is obvious this day is also the occasion of a group snowshoe hosted by the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, which is an outstanding organization whose resources have been personally used many times over many years.
The Calgary Outdoor Centre is a good place to learn, rent gear and meet potential partners at very reasonable cost. Gearing up quickly gets out in front to avoid interfering with the assembling 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 (3⅛ 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.
Looking ahead, Rummel Lake is nestled beneath and between the heavily shrouded summits of pyramidal 3,185 m (10,450 ft) Mount Galatea and The Tower at 3,117 m (10,227 ft).
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.
Is someone watching?
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.
Surrounding mountain summits are obscured by cloud and snowfall and 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.
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.
Consideration is given to snowshoeing further to Rummel Pass, only 3 KM (1⅞ 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 while lunch is being enjoyed in the shelter of nearby forest.
On the way out, advantage is taken of the biffy experience before beginning descent. When opening the door, snow on the roof slides onto my head and down my neck. Very cool.
The outhouse is tiny and used less in winter because removal and re-installation 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. Backing in on snowshoes is easier said than done. The large protrusion at the side of the biffy was there prior to this specific visit.
During use the door must be left open to prevent being sealed in there by snow falling from the top. At the end, the door must be closed to prevent blowing snow from filling the interior.
The return snowshoe provides another opportunity to enjoy nature's amazing snow sculptures.
There are excellent but 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.
The return drive north on the Smith-Dorrien Trail to Canmore proceeds and within a kilometer the sun breaks through cloud cover to provide accompaniment all the way to Calgary. Surrounding scenery is absolutely spectacular.
Rummel Lake is also a popular summer hike. The alpine lake, on a clear day, is crystal clear, turquoise and breathtaking.
There is 17.5 KM (11⅜ 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, Lost Lake and the Galatea Lakes trail.
The hike 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.