Berg Lake, Mount Robson
July 1987 with Fred B (Phwed) and Paul K. Paul actually hiked in the day before Fred and I hiked in together. I can’t remember if he hiked out with us or if he also left a day early. Fred told me I could help driving his Maverick as long as I didn’t use the warp drive. He actually had a switch on his dashboard with “warp drive” on it, which will tell you a bit about Fred. He also told me on this trip about a new Star Trek series that was coming out that fall. With a bald captain and a Klingon on the crew, nah, that can’t possibly succeed.
I actually took this shot in 2011. With all the hikes in the Rockies that are high alpine, this hike is actually distinctly subalpine. But it’s one of the most spectacular anywhere for glaciers, lakes and waterfalls. Mount Robson is, of course, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and towers over the valley of the Fraser River. In pre-metric days, the summit was 12,972 feet with the visitor centre by the highway at 2,706 feet. A sign at the visitor centre used to say “there are ten thousand feet of mountain in front of you”. One of the clichés about Mount Robson is that it’s so massive that it creates its own weather; that may be overstating it a bit, but it certainly influences the local weather patterns. You have to be lucky sometimes to see the summit, and this trip we were very lucky.
The first part of the hike to Kinney Lake is moderately easy. You hike through cedar-hemlock forest which is a quite different feel from the drier conditions east of the continental divide a short distance away. This is close to the northern extremity of the Interior Wet Belt of BC, the same belt that includes much of the Cariboo Mountains, the Selkirks near Revelstoke and the Monashees.
Past Kinney Lake, you walk through an extended outwash plain with spectacular views. It’s when you get to the end of the outwash that the serious hiking begins. The valley narrows and there’s a gradual but steady ascent to Whitehorn campground and ranger station. If I do this hike again I’ll make this the first night’s stop.
Because then it gets serious. So far it’s been about 300 metres elevation gain from the trailhead, but now you have to go up over 500 metres in about three kilometres. It begins with getting up to the top of the cliffs and then up the valley to the right.
This is called the Valley of a Thousand Falls. Fred tried to count them but I think he lost count. However, that’s probably a good distraction from the gruelling ascent. And most of it is fairly wooded so the heat won’t kill you.
Emperor Falls is particularly good to see because it means you’re almost at the top of the gruel. Then another couple of kilometres of outwash and you’re at Berg Lake. The Marmot campground is at the south end of the lake, but most people go on to the main Berg Lake campground at the north end, which is where we went. Again, if I do this trip again I would consider staying at Marmot or one of the campgrounds beyond Berg.
The walk along the lake to the campground is pretty nice. And the main campground does have the million dollar view of Berg Lake, Berg Glacier, and the north face of Mount Robson.
But it’s awfully busy, and we did it in the days there were no real restrictions on numbers. And this hike does have a bit of a reputation for drawing hikers that are somewhat less than prepared. They now make you listen to a talk and watch a video before you start the hike so hopefully that has improved things. It was fun, however, watching some Canadians showing Japanese exchange students how to make Jiffy Pop popcorn and toast marshmallows over the fire.
I don’t really remember having hiked up the side valley past Berg Lake to the foot of the Snowbird Glacier, but judging from the photo below I must have. You can go way up a trail above the glacier, and that will be on the agenda if I go back there.
I do remember us hiking up Toboggan Falls behind the campground, with even better views of lake, peaks and glaciers.