Day 1 15th Aug Following on from our short Skoki backpack, we found a campsite near Banff and wandered into town the next day to shop for some food and arrange permits at the park office for our next trip to the famous Mt Assiniboine (Canada’s Matterhorn!) and surrounding area.
We left the rental car at Sunshine Meadows, where a bus service runs to the top trailhead saving a couple of hours walking up a dirt track- we have done plenty of that before! Waiting for the bus was a pleasant chance to chill out sifting gear for the next 6 days, eating bagels and watching chipmunks.
From the bus drop off we headed south on good trails over high meadows on an undulating plateau over Citadel Pass (with a golden eagle overhead) and a steeper descent down into the valley containing our prebooked Porcupine Creek campground. The park service limit camping to specific areas in this region. There was only one other tent here with boots and a backpack outside, but with no sign of anyone. Martina worried there could be a dead body inside!
Day 2 16th Aug Frosty overnight and thankfully a friendly Japanese girl appeared from the other tent for breakfast… We continued southward on twisting trails through the scenic limestone ‘Valley of Rocks’ through trees, meadows and undulations, before after a couple of hours finding a spot to spread the camping gear out to dry in the now strong sun.
Later we arrived at Lake Magog in even hotter sun and reached our campsite. It was busy though and we hunted around to find a patch of grass in an overflow area but with lovely views to the aforementioned Mt Assiniboine.
After pitching the tent, we headed out at about 3pm round Lake Magog to Wonder Pass past some cabins then flower meadows. We dropped down the other side for about half an hour to an impressive view point to the turquoise glacial Gloria Lake. On our return we managed a chilly but fab dip in the wonderfully named Gog Lake with a couple of eagles soaring above.
A great mixed day overall finished off chatting to other hikers in the group cooking area- including James from Santa Barbara who had been to Scotland to play ‘ultimate frisbee’ of all things at St Andrews.
Day 3 17th Aug Frosty again at camp and we set off north carrying day packs to climb a nearby hill ‘Nub Peak’ past Sunburst, Cerulean and Elizabeth Lakes. Fantastic views all round (see banner pic) and we lazed on the summit enjoying the scenery…
Swam in a couple of the lakes on the descent with a gorgeous backdrop, this is the life! Back at the campground we packed the tent and headed back north to camp at another lake- Og this time and had the by now obligatory swim in its cold waters!
Day 4 18th Aug Another overnight freeze but we set off up valley northwards in excellent cold, still conditions retracing our first day to near Sunshine Meadows. Before that we managed another great swim in Howard Douglas Lake but couldn’t linger due to fierce horseflies. We split from Sunshine Meadows to strike out north west towards Healy valley and our next campsite. An ominous plume of smoke appeared to the south west, likely to be a forest fire in the distance.
Boy was it hot. Horse flies pestered us most of the day with their sharp stinging bites and we scrambled inside the tent to hear them banging against the outer fabric!
Day 5 19th Aug Local hikers at the campground yesterday told us that wolves had been heard from here- but unfortunately we had no sounds last night as that would have been wonderful!
After a lazy breakfast we hiked west on a good path over meadowy Healy Pass. We reach Egypt Lakes area at midday in hot, muggy conditions again and pitch the tent – it’s a large camping area with a ranger cabin. We then head out for a fantastic circuit of the surrounding lakes and mountains. First up to the stunning Scarab Lake and of course have to have another cold swim- with snow patches in the background and the clear mountain water, it was beautiful. A short hike up to Mummy Lake and another dip with a osprey looking on from overhead.
We scrambled over boulders to a rocky pass then dropped down past some ptarmigans and lovely meadows to Talc Lake. Martina swam here with a big waterfall in the background. A short hike took us back to campsite again before some thunderstorms set in. Excellent day.
Day 6 20th Aug Today we walked out from Egypt Lakes back to the car in still steaming hot weather and skies hazy from the forest fires. On the way we witnessed an osprey catch a ground squirrel near Healy Pass. Reach the car and return to Banff for ‘tea and medals’ after a great hike- a smoothie, ice cream and a veggie meal. What a great backpack, we retraced our steps a few times but that did not detract from the trip and the views were different in each direction.