Knowing full well that I’d be in the mountains (again) this weekend, friends Steve and Aurore got in touch with me to see what I had planned. Steve and I had yet to scramble together but, apparently, my growing collection of mountain photos on Facebook had prompted him to bag a couple summits on his own. With his “feet (now) wet” (more on that later), he thought it was finally time to team up for an outing. Aurore, of course, had been along on MANY of my adventures and, provided that she was allowed to sleep in the car, was always game for any peak. Feeling the need to explore Yoho, I decided that Mount Niles was next in line. On the drive out to the Sherbrooke Lake trailhead, Aurore napped (as per usual) and Steve regaled me with tales of his scrambling misadventure earlier in the summer when he had somehow forgotten to bring his boots with him. We all had a good laugh and wondered how any scrambler could do such a thing. After a long drive, we arrived at the trailhead where Aurore and I noticed that Steve was furiously searching for something while we tied our boots. “Guys…I did it again.” So came the confirmation from Steve that history had repeated itself. Fortunately, Steve was pretty game on this particular day and, with the help of some duct tape, his sandals were transformed into make-shift boots. It wasn’t like we had 24 km of distance to cover and almost 1400 vertical meters…
Beautiful Sherbrooke Lake: about a 3 km hike from the highway. Our target Mount Niles (the round peak in the center) still a long way in the distance!
Closeup of Mount Niles.
One of several roaring waterfalls feeding glacial Sherbrooke Lake.
Above the falls and looking back down the valley towards Mount Victoria.
Emerald green Niles Meadows at the base of their namesake mountain.
Aurore making her way up the grassy alpine slopes.
Mount Ogden's long ridge on the other side of Niles meadows.
An unnamed highpoint across the col from Mount Niles.
Aurore taking in Niles Meadows.
Do those clouds over Mount Ogden look ominous?
From up close, the lower cliffs of Mount Niles make it look like the Saddledome.
The weather turning for the worse. Aurore making her way through a boulder-field in the blizzard.
And as quickly as the blizzard started, it was over. Beautiful views down the valley towards the highway as the clouds lift.
Impressive clouds over Cathedral Mountain in the distance.
Upon gaining the col, we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Waputik Icefield: 40 square km of continuous glacier.
A silty basin at the base of the icefield collects the water that runs into British Columbia. This basin is the ultimate source of Yoho's spectacular Takakkaw Falls.
The route up Mount Niles from the col. Note the blue skies!
Temple peering through the clouds to the south-east.
Inspiring views on ascent. Weather holding...for now.
Aurore enjoying the pinnacles on the backside of Mount Niles.
Views of Mount Field (left) and Mount Wapta (right) behind Mount Ogden (foreground).
From near Yoho Pass, the Iceline Trail continues along the base of glaciers on the east-face of the Vice-President (in the sun). By this time, the weather seemed to be turning (once again), however we didn’t think much of it since the last snow squall only lasted a couple of minutes.
The Lake Louise group across the valley. Temple on the left, Victoria on the right.
Steve and Aurore making their way up steep terrain below the summit.
Nearing the summit. Another blizzard in progress.
Summit shot! The view really made this all worthwhile!
Signing the register in the snowstorm: documenting our idiocy.
Steve and I looking cold. The French girl smiling. She's crazy.
What happens when Steve forgets his boots at home...again.
*KABOOM!* Taken seconds after Aurore was, literally, jolted by lightning. We hadn’t thought much of waiting out the snow squall on the summit because it was quite cold, we hadn’t heard any thunder all day and 2 similar squalls earlier in the day had only last 10 minutes or so. After being stunned and confused for a couple seconds, Aurore was quick to join Steve and I as we began to sprint down the mountain losing elevation! It wasn’t until we stopped to regroup several hundred meters lower that we found out that Aurore had actually been hit by (or close enough to) a lightning strike to get a jolt of electricity.
French fry. Lightning will do that...
After our hasty retreat down the mountain, the skies (of course) cleared in a matter of seconds.
Since lightning never strikes the same place twice, Aurore and I opted to leave our packs and make a quick re-ascent of the peak. Steve’s sandles didn’t feel like chugging through any more scree than they had to at this point, so he waited below with our packs as we made a light-weight speed ascent trying to get to the top before the next storm hit!
Aurore nearing the summit...again. The weather was still a little unsettled but there was a much nicer view this time though!
Enjoying the view to the west.
Rays of light penetrate the cloud over Yoho Pass. Emerald Lake in the valley on the other side of the pass.
Glistening Emerald Lake.
Yoho panorama: from Sherbrooke Lake to the Iceline Trail. Click to see larger.
The ridge between Mount Daly and Paget Peak. The Bow Valley in the background.
Aurore admiring the Daly Glacier and the Waputik Icefield.
With a view this nice, it's hard not to smile. Even when you were hit by lightning.
Mount Balfour panorama. Click to see larger.
A closer view of the icefields beyond Balfour and the Waputik. Click to see larger.
Intimidating crevasses on the icefield below.
Summit shot: take 2. So does this count as my 29.5th summit of the year?
The Vice-President. Somewhere amidst the moraines at the base of that glacier is the Iceline Trail.
Snow and sky. A rather large cornice on the east face of Mount Niles.
The dirty foot of the Daly Glacier draining towards Takakkaw Falls.
Mount Daly across the Niles Glacier from us.
Looking a little warmer (and happier) in this group summit shot – minus one idiot in sandles.
Impressive Mount Des Poilus rears up above the icefields below.
Sunny Castle Mountain above the Bow Valley in the distance.
Looking down the Bow Valley. Mount Niblock (foreground), then Mount Fairview (Hi Lise), then Pilot Mountain (sunny, background).
Exactly where she was standing when God smote her.
The summit cairn and Mount Balfour.
If you squint, I'm pretty sure you can make out the Iceline Trail between the two tarns.
The impressive north face of Mount Stephen.
Cathedral Mountain looking awesome as always across the valley.
Sherbrooke Lake in the valley below Niles Meadows.
It's going to be a long walk back to the car (3 km from the far side of the lake)...
Panorama to the south. Left to right: the Lake Louise group, Paget Peak, Sherbrooke Lake, Mount Ogden, Cathedral Mountain, Mount Stephen, and Mount Field (to name a few). Click to see larger.
Paget Peak (for my mom) above Sherbrooke Lake.
Cathedral Mountain, Mount Stephen and Mount Vaux beyond Mount Ogden.
Time to head back down...catching up with our sandled compatriot.
Mount Balfour and the Fairy Glacier.
Mount Balfour in the late, late afternoon sun. After the long approach and returning to the summit, daylight hours were now at a premium.
Pretty reflections on the tarn above Takakkaw Falls...all’s calm now (at least until that water plunges down 384 vertical meters in a few minutes).
Enjoying one last view from the col.
Interesting descent technique. Making her way back down to the meadows.
Mount Victoria from the Niles meadows.
All the rain and snow made for a slick path. Funny how the one wearing boots is the one who fell though.
Fading light on Mount Victoria. Last views before heavy rainfall began and continued until we reached the car; wet, tired, and electrocuted (some of us anyways).