Hikes: Upper Kananaskis Lake & Barrier Lake

I’m back from my mini blog vacation! Today I’ll fill you in on what Dana and I have been up to lately.

Since we’re doing the West Coast Trail at the end of June, we’ve started training in preparation.

Two Saturdays ago, we took our time and headed out to Upper Kananaskis Lake for what would normally be an easy hike. We started at noon and the weather was gorgeous, about 15 degrees.  The skies were a vibrant blue.  In very little time, we were completely sweaty.

This hike is about 15 km around the lake. Very little elevation gain.  Dana and I pictured most of the snow being melted, a bit of mud perhaps, but otherwise smooth sailing.

Unfortunately, I would not describe Upper Kananaskis Lake as a shoulder-season hike, especially mid-April. There was about 3 feet of snow still on the south (shady) side of the lake.

The first five kilometers were sheer ice and we shimmed like penguins up and down the little inclines, praying we wouldn’t break a leg or worse. This was when Dana asked me if we should just turn back; however, strangely, I was having a great time even though it was incredibly awful conditions.

The next five kilometers featured something called “post holing” – basically where sometimes the snow/ice supports you and sometimes it does not. Your foot falls through the snow every other step, or so it seems.  When you’re only five feet tall, falling through snow that’s two to three feet deep is exhausting!  Hell, if you’re Dana’s height it’s exhausting!  But we kept trucking because our only alternative was to go back the way we came and I couldn’t bear facing the ice again.  Penny was such a trooper – she stayed right by Dana’s side the entire time, even though she kept falling through too.

We ate lunch about halfway at Point campground. It was gloriously sunny and the break was much-needed.  From there on, we were on the sunny side of the lake.  We had to walk through deep snow and boulders to get back up to the trail, which was pretty tiring.  Penny started looking at us like “Really guys?  Can you carry me?” but she was always ahead of me so clearly she is in better shape.

Once we got up to the main trail, it was more melted and less of a slog. We made much better pace thankfully and were back at the car around 4:30 I think.

In conclusion, Upper Kananaskis Lake is not an April shoulder-season hike and if you insist on going right now, wear your crampons and be prepared for patience-testing conditions. I did have a great day though, despite it all!

On Saturday, we got out for our second hike of the year. Locals, you can laugh all you want, but we went to Barrier Lake and up to the Prairie View lookout and back along Jewell Pass.  It was laughable because the parking lot was chaotically full of tourists and it was a bit of a circus at times with the crowds.  Clearly we were not the only ones who wanted to get out hiking!  The hike is about 16 km and 750 m elevation gain.

We did the loop counter-clockwise and were glad we did. The way up is a ton of switchbacks in the forest and not much to see, but the viewpoints at the top are very nice.  We ate lunch away from the crowds, then carried on back down.  It was another beautiful day in Kananaskis and very sunny!       Thinking about the prior week’s hike, I dressed too warmly and was sweating within minutes of starting.  On the way down, my heels started getting hot and by the time we got back to the car the blisters had opened on one heel.  Ow.  Guess I have to break my feet in again.

The Barrier Lake hike was a much better shoulder-season hike. There was only a tiny bit of snow and ice at the top.  Otherwise much of the path was dry!  Later in the summer, I would definitely avoid Barrier because of the crowds, but for our needs, it was a great day out in the mountains.

 We are already plotting next weekend’s hike!  Calgary area folks, any shoulder-season hikes you would recommend?


3 thoughts on “Hikes: Upper Kananaskis Lake & Barrier Lake

  1. Pingback: Hike: Wasootch Ridge | Peanut Butter Kait

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