Monday, November 28, 2016

First Summits - Mount Lady Macdonald Hike, Canmore

Continuing with my family "First Summits" series, we tackled one final summit this fall for a grand total of 11 family summits by the end of October. Then I went and bashed one of my knees on a tree root (on a very simple hike) and that ended our hiking season. Fingers crossed for quick healing before ski season!!

Mount Lady Macdonald Family Summit

Mount Lady Macdonald is a technical scramble with a knife edge traverse required to reach the true summit. Needless to say we did not hike to the summit! Rather, we stopped at the "Tea House Platform" (They tried to build a tea house up here many years ago before they realized nobody was climbing up 900 metres for a cup of tea I suppose) and sat back to enjoy the views.

The beautiful platform that we reached sits perched at 2260 metres on Mount Lady Macdonald overlooking the Town of Canmore and the Bow Valley. It's an easy hike up to this point, no hands on scrambling required, and most families with experience hiking on steep terrain should have no problems reaching the platform. Most of the hike is on a fairly decent trail and it only gets tricky to follow in a couple of spots.

Awesome Views over the Bow Valley and Canmore from the platform on Lady Macdonald


Stats for Mount Lady Macdonald to the Platform


Height Gain: 888 metres

Distance: 4.4 km one way to the platform

Time that it took us: 5 Hours round trip time

Best Resource Guide: Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 3


Following the relatively straight forward path up Mount Lady Macdonald

The Motivation behind tackling Mount Lady Macdonald


I'd already hiked up Mount Lady Macdonald (affectionately referred to as Lady Mac) to the platform once this year so repeating the steep grunt of a climb wasn't high on my priority list. Noah however was BEGGING to climb Lady Mac. It was bothering him that I had "climbed" it and he hadn't. I warned him that it was a very steep trail, that it wasn't an overly exciting hike (no hands on scrambling,) and that the only "fun" part would be reaching the beautiful platform. It didn't matter though because he was determined to do this hike.

I promised Noah that I would not go up Lady Macdonald without him again and that I would take him with me the next time I did the hike. I then marked it down for a spring hike (next year) and forgot about it - until one beautiful fall weekend arrived and I realized we still had time to check it off our list this season. And so we did.

My boys on our way up Lady Macdonald

Hiking up Lady Macdonald


The crux of the whole hike is twofold. First, you have to find parking near Cougar Creek and find the trailhead amidst the current construction going on. Second, you have to find the correct trail leading up Lady Macdonald from Cougar Creek. Leaving the creek too soon will take you along one of the wildlife corridor trails and you'll realize that you are traversing the lower slopes of Lady Mac rather than climbing UP the slope.

Trailhead: From the Tourism Canmore website:  "Drive along Bow Valley Trail and turn left onto Benchlands Trail. Follow the road until you see the parking lot on the left side of the road, just before the Cougar Creek Bridge."

And note that the parking lot is currently closed for construction so you'll have to park on the side of the road beside Cougar Creek.

Next, again from the Tourism Canmore website: "Follow the creek. You will reach a signed junction,
stay straight on the creek, a few minutes later you will reach an un-signed junction, go left. Another few minutes later you will reach another junction, go left onto the Lady Macdonald trail. Follow the
most used trail and avoid fainter trails and off-shoots."

And if that above descriptions confuses you too, I suggest bringing a friend along who's done the hike before. Seriously, I've gotten lost before trying to find the correct trail leading off from Cougar Creek - and I've done the hike several times!

Once you find the Lady Macdonald Trail from Cougar Creek, it's a steep but fairly straight forward hike that takes you up 900 metres to a beautiful platform.

And my best piece of advice once you reach the confusing section in the boulders where the trail seems to disappear, is to stay left. Always stay to the far left. There is a very good trail along the left hand side of the boulders.

Up, up, up the steep trail on Lady Mac


Our Experience


It was steep. It was a looooong hike through the trees until we started to get views. It was a slog.

Almost there!
That all being said, Noah loved it and it's probably one of his favourite scrambles/hikes to date because he'd wanted to do the hike so badly. We also ate pretty close to an entire package of pumpkin spice Oreo cookies during the hike so sugar may have helped a fair bit.

Noah loved a sign that he found as we approached the final section leading to the platform. It was encouraging to him and made me think we should make some of these and leave them near the top of all family-friendly summits.

The platform was awesome, we had it all to ourselves, and the views were amazing! I always pick a nice day for the Lady Mac hike because it would be disappointing to hike all the way up and then to see nothing.

The return trip down was an "interesting" one for us. Normally Noah is crazy fast on the descent and runs faster than I could possibly keep up. This hike however, he was definitely walking rather than running and we had to keep encouraging him to continue on. I think it's the first hike ever where he was stronger on the way up than down. Fortunately, I'm sure this will never happen again and I'll be chasing after Noah for the rest of my life as I struggle to keep up.

My boys on the platform overlooking Canmore



Safety Notes with Late Season Hiking

 

Planning on heading out to hike Lady Mac this season still? Read my previous first summits story: First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise, for some special tips and advisories associated with shoulder season or winter hiking.

As far as I know, there is little to no avalanche danger on the Lady Mac hike (as far as the platform) BUT I am no expert. Consult with a local visitor centre before taking the kids here on a true winter hike up this mountain.

 Lady Macdonald Summit Shot

 

Other Family First Summits



Family-friendly Summits in Jasper National Park

More First Summits - Prairie Mountain, Kananaskis

Ha Ling! My Baby Climbed his First Real Summit

First Summits - The Mighty Yamnuska with a 6 Year Old 

First Summits - Barrier Lake Lookout, Kananaskis 

The Four Summit Day - Ha Ling Peak to Miner's Peak (and beyond)

First Summits - Forget Me Not Ride, Kananaskis 

Copper Mountain from Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff 

First Summits - Polar Peak, Fernie Alpine Resort

Family Hiking at the Next Level - Scrambles and Summits (Nihahi Ridge to the South Summit)

5 Summit Day in Canmore (Kid-Friendly) - Ha Ling Peak and Miner's Peak  

First Summits - Table Mountain, Beaver Mines Lake 

First Summits - East End of Mount Rundle Summit 

First Summits - Tent Ridge Horseshoe, Kananaskis

First Summits - Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise 

First Summits - Mount Saint Piran, Lake Louise

  
Rest stop at the old Tea House Site on Lady Macdonald

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families

I will always remember one of my favourite Christmas gifts that I've received so far as an adult. It was a gift that couldn't fit under a Christmas tree, that couldn't be wrapped, and that required skiing 11 km to enjoy. Given to my husband and I by his parents back in 2006, it's a pretty great gift if you still remember it 10 years later.

The Christmas gift that took us to Skoki backcountry lodge

The amazing gift I still cherish to this day is the trip we were given to a backcountry ski lodge for two nights as a couple. Today, a gift like this would mean even more because it's something my husband and I would never buy for ourselves, always feeling guilty if we leave our son behind on an adventure. Even in the pre-kid days, it was a great trip and it was the first time we'd been to this lodge. We'd long dreamed of going but it's hard to justify the expense of doing something "decadent" for yourself when you think of the groceries you could be buying instead. (yes, I'm too practical.)

We've also had family members buy us ski cards as Christmas presents and my father would buy us discount cards to every hill within a five hour drive of Calgary. It made skiing a LOT cheaper and we were very grateful for those cards.

A Christmas Gift Could Give you THIS Great Experience!

So, now I ask you, what would you like for Christmas? What lodge or resort have you been longing to visit? What tour have you been eyeing up? What bucket list item could a family member easily buy you as a present? Or, what could your spouse buy you that would make your favourite winter sport much easier to do this upcoming season?


Where would you like to spend a weekend with the family this winter?

Below are some suggestions to get you started with your holiday wish list. I hope they will also serve as inspiration if you're looking for ideas for that hard-to-buy-for spouse, outdoor loving parent, or child who has more than enough toys in the house! Choose one of these ideas for your brother, sister, best friend, or even your child's teacher at school if you're working together on a class gift.



 

Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families: Trips, Activities, and Tours

 ~ with giveaways!


 

Suggestion 1:

A Fun Weekend Away for the Family (sponsored by the Delta Kananaskis Lodge)


If you're immediately thinking that you don't want to spend Christmas away from home, don't worry because I don't either! What I'm suggesting is that you plan a weekend away for the family sometime in the new year. Book a couple of nights at your family's favourite mountain hotel (perhaps a resort you've always wanted to stay at,) and brainstorm some fun activities you'll do while there.

Then, you buy a calendar. You write the date of the trip on the calendar and you wrap it up to put it under the tree, addressed to your family or to the kids. With the calendar, you could type out a nice letter outlining the fun activities you plan to do. Examples could include skiing, a snowshoe tour, an afternoon at a resort tube park, a trip to the hot springs in Banff or passes for the Banff gondola, dinner out at a favourite restaurant, etc.

If buying a trip for an extended family member (and you don't want to book the date for them,) ask the resort about purchasing a gift card. Alternately, I worked with my husband's parents the year they sent us to a backcountry ski lodge. We chose the dates together and surprised my husband with the present.

Winter at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis


Featured Mountain Resort: The Delta Lodge at Kananaskis (with contest)


We LOVE the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis and it's positively magical during the winter with its skating rink, snowshoe and cross country ski trails right outside your door, sledding hill, sleigh rides, and proximity to the Nakiska Ski Area. The restaurants are family-friendly and affordable, and the swimming pool is worth a stay alone with its indoor/outdoor hot tub and eucalyptus infused steam room.

To read more about winter at the Lodge, read my story from last winter: Ten Reasons to Spend Time at Kananaskis Village this Winter.

Ski trails right outside your door at Kananaskis Village



Enter to WIN a one-night stay at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis for your family this winter with breakfast included in the stay. 

Full details are at the bottom of this post where you can enter to win.

Indoor outdoor hot tub at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis



Suggestion Two: 

Ski Discount Cards and Passes (sponsored by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies)


Nakiska Ski Area
There are a couple of different options for discount ski cards in the Canadian Rockies and most of them have to be purchased by the end of December. Most include multiple hills or resorts and qualify the card holder for free ski days along with discounted days. Most can also be upgraded for direct to lift access.

Gift cards or actual lift tickets are other great gift ideas for the skier in your family.

Featured Ski Resorts: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (with contest)


Invest in an RCR Rockies card, on sale until December 31st and get free skiing at four resorts (Nakiska, Fernie, Kimberley, and Kicking Horse) on your 1st, 4th and 7th days with discounts on the other days.   Buy a card for each family member and wrap them up under the tree or put them in stockings.

You can also buy lift passes for the RCR Resorts from Costco at a great discount or you can buy RCR gift cards  (in $25, $50 and $100 denominations.) These make great Christmas presents wrapped up with a new toque or pair of ski gloves. And, the gift cards would be very useful if planning an afternoon  at the Nakiska Tube Park.

Finally, check the Deals and Packages section of the Nakiska website to find great specials on accommodation which often includes lift tickets. The RCR website also has a Vacations Tab where you can book a winter ski vacation for the family.

Nakiska Tube Park, Kananaskis

To read about our adventures skiing at RCR Resorts, please read the following stories:

Off to a Great Start at Nakiska Mountain Resort

5 Reasons to Make Nakiska your Local Ski Hill this Winter 

Family Guide to Fernie Alpine Resort 

Family Guide to Kimberley Alpine Resort 


Kids Tree Skiing at Kimberley Alpine Resort


Enter to Win Two Lift Tickets and Two Tube Park Tickets for Nakiska Ski Area

Full details are at the bottom of this post where you can enter to win.


Ski days bring families closer together

 

Suggestion Three: 

Tours and Guided Adventures (sponsored by Kananaskis Outfitters)


Just to get you thinking, here's a short list of fun tours you could give as a gift to your family this Christmas:

  • A dog sledding tour in Kananaskis or at Lake Louise

  • A sleigh ride in Kananaskis, Banff, or at Lake Louise

  • A cave tour in Rats Nest Cave, Canmore (for kids 10+)

  • A guided snowshoe tour or hike in Kananaskis

  • A guided ice walk in Johnston Canyon or Grotto Canyon

  • A heli-snowshoe tour in Kananaskis

There are many tour operators for most of the activities above and a quick google search should help you pick an operator based on the area you want to explore. If you need help in this area, leave a comment on this story or send me an email. (you can find my contact information under the "contact me" tab at the top of this page.)

Most companies will print you a voucher that you can wrap up to put under the Christmas tree. Otherwise, book the tour and mark the date on a calendar that you would wrap up (as with the travel suggestion above.) Alternately, you can usually buy gift cards for tour operators if you don't want to choose the date for an extended family member.

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like an awesome tour booked for the family


Featured Tour Operator: Kananaskis Outfitters (with contest)


Kananaskis Outfitters operates a small outdoor retail store out of Kananaskis Village and I can assure you it's a great place to stop if you've forgotten your ski pants at home while heading out for a day of skiing in Kananaskis. (and yes, that has happened to me.) I love stopping in at the store every time I'm at the Village and have been known to build my Christmas list after spending time browsing around the store.

In addition to the store, you'll find a full rental shop here for all your equipment needs while visiting for a day or a weekend. They rent cross country ski packages and snowshoes (including children's sizes,) fat bikes (for adults,) pulk sleds for pulling youngsters on the trails, and ice skates for the whole family (along with hockey sticks and pucks.)

Finally they offer fat bike tours to a frozen waterfall, stargazing snowshoe fondue tours, full moon snowshoe fondue tours, and daytime snowshoe tours which are suitable for the whole family. Note that the evening snowshoe tours are best suited for adults or for children 12+.

Frozen Troll Falls (a short snowshoe, hike, ski, or fat bike ride from Kananaskis Village)


For full information on rentals and tours, please visit the Kananaskis Outfitters Website.

Also read the story I wrote for Snowshoe Magazine last winter:  Moonlight, Snow Angels, and Snowshoes

Chocolate fondue at Kananaskis Village after a snowshoe tour (photo: Chelsea Scott)


Enter to win two spaces on a Stargazing Snowshoe Tour from Kananaskis Outfitters. 

Full details are at the bottom of this post where you can enter to win.

Moonlight Snowshoe Tours at Kananaskis Village (photo: Chelsea Scott)

 

Suggestion Four: A romantic weekend away for you and your partner


There are beautiful resorts located all over the Canadian Rockies and chances are, you know exactly which one your partner would like to stay at. I know it wouldn't take much for my husband to pick ten awesome resorts or backcountry lodges that he could take me to - with a guaranteed scream Christmas morning.

Book a romantic weekend away for you and your partner this winter, and as with suggestion one, mark the trip down on a calendar that you can wrap up and put under the tree. Resorts will often print vouchers as well outlining the stay and inclusions of the trip (with meals that may be included for example.)

Emerald Lake Lodge (one of the places we've stayed before as a Christmas gift)

Wanting to do this for your son and his wife? Or your daughter and her husband? Coordinate with one of them to pick dates and offer to take the kids for the weekend. (And yes, that's two gifts actually.) Alternately, surprise both parents and leave the trip open ended for dates. Give the couple a gift card/voucher for the resort or print out your own voucher with an IOU for the intended resort.

Finally, this is a great gift to give to your own parents who "have everything," or who can't ever think of anything they want for Christmas.

Pretty sure your partner would approve of a stay at Mount Engadine Lodge! (photo: Paul Zizka Photography)

No babysitter? You can always take the kids with you. Less romantic I know, but many of the condos in Banff have one or two bedroom suites (so you can have some alone time) and a backcountry lodge is always romantic, with or without kids.

Need some more inspiration: Check out my latest story for Snowshoe Magazine: Ten Snowshoe Adventures to try this Winter in the Canadian Rockies. It features many gorgeous front and backcountry lodges, romantic tours, and resorts - many that are just as awesome on a pair of skis if you prefer skiing to snowshoeing. (Just skip the backcountry huts or hostels if you are really looking for a romantic weekend and don't fancy sharing a bedroom with strangers.)

Shadow Lake Lodge in backcountry Banff - romantic with or without kids (Photo: Shadow Lake Lodge)

 

Suggestion Five: The ultimate outdoor adventure for your partner


Do you have an adventurous partner that you never quite know what to get for Christmas? Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.

  • A Guided ice climbing day

  • A Guided backcountry ski day

  • A Course with a local adventure company (intro to ice climbing, backcountry skiing, rock climbing, etc.)

  • A Guided Fat Bike Tour (see Kananaskis Outfitters Tours above)

  • Any Adventure tour your partner would love!  (Think: The Via Ferrata at Mount Norquay or Kicking Horse Mt. Resort for next summer, a  cave tour in Canmore's Rats Nest Cave (good all year long,) a dog sledding tour this winter, etc.

  • A safety course to help ensure your partner comes home alive from their adventures! (Think: Avalanche Skills Training Courses!!)

The sky's the limit for adventure tours that you could get your partner for Christmas

There are many tour operators for most of the activities above and a quick google search should help you pick an operator based on the area you want to explore. If you need help in this area, leave a comment on this story or send me an email. (you can find my contact information under the "contact me" tab at the top of this page.)

And as with previous suggestions, most companies would be happy to give you a gift card or printed voucher for you to wrap up and put under the tree. Think of a creative way to wrap it. (For example, what would your partner need if he/she were to go fat biking for a day?)

A Backcountry Ski Tour makes for a great Christmas present!


Suggestion Six: Tickets to a Concert or Event for you and your partner


You shouldn't have problems thinking of an event your partner would like to go to over the next few months. The one that comes to my mind though is the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. The Tour will be coming to Calgary from January 17th to the 30th.

Tickets can be purchased on line or from MEC if you are in Calgary.

Babysitting suggestion: coordinate with friends who also want to go see the film tour. Buy tickets on different nights so you can take turns watching each other's kids.


Get inspired to travel and to explore at the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

 

Suggestion Seven: Passes or Vouchers for Family Fun Activities



While this may not be a primary gift for the kids, it makes for a great stocking stuffer. Consider some of the following ideas:

Buy your kids fun passes for Christmas
  • Passes for local theme parks and attractions such as Calaway Park, Heritage Park, the Telus Spark Science Centre or the Calgary Zoo

  • Passes to a local climbing gym. (You may even be able to buy passes for the Climb Park at the Hanger in Calgary if you explain that you want them as a Christmas present.)

  • Gondola tickets in Banff or tube park passes for Nakiska or Mt. Norquay in Banff

  • Passes to a favourite leisure centre. (We recently spent a day at Vivo in Calgary and got to try rock climbing, skating, and swimming with our day pass.)



Bonus Suggestion: A Subscription to an Adventure or Wildlife Magazine 


My son has subscriptions to two magazines and he loves getting them in the mail. The ones I recommend for kids are the National Geographic Kids (or little kids) Magazine and Wild,  which is published by the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

And while you're at the Canadian Wildlife Federation's Website, consider adopting an animal for Christmas.

Magazine subscriptions are great presents for the grandparents as well and ours regularly get a list of publications that the family wants.








GIVEAWAYS


Enter to win a one-night stay at the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis in a standard guest room for you and your family this winter.

Conditions and terms of the stay:

  • Breakfast is included with your stay

  • Room selection to be determined based on availability. (Blackout dates: December 25 – January 2 and February 18 – 21)

  • The room will accommodate two adults and up to two children. (Room for a third child would have to be accommodated by special request from the resort)

  • The winner must be able to stay at the lodge this winter with the stay to happen by the end of March, 2017

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Enter  to win two lift tickets and two tube park tickets for Nakiska Ski Area. The tickets must be used by the end of the 2017 season and there are no blackout dates.  The winner will be sent a certificate to use whenever he or she wishes this season.


a Rafflecopter giveaway  

 

Enter to win two spaces on a stargazing snowshoe tour from Kananaskis Outfitters.  The winner will receive a gift certificate so that they can book for the date of their choice this winter season, 2016-2017.

Note that this is for a regular stargazing snowshoe tour and does not include a fondue tour.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


All Giveaways end on November 24th. A winner will be notified by the 25th.
If I don't hear from the winner by November 28th, I will choose a new winner.

Giveaways are open to anybody who will be able to visit Kananaskis this winter to use their vouchers. Winners must be 18 years of age or older.

 

Holiday Gift Guides from other Outdoor Family Bloggers  



Monday, November 14, 2016

Week for the Wild! Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS)

Week For The Wild is an annual fundraiser for CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. I have been chosen as the team captain for Team Feather, the team that represents CPAWS in Northern and Southern Alberta along with Saskatchewan. Three of my fellow KEEN Canada Ambassadors have also been chosen as team leaders, and together we are all helping CPAWS with their challenge this week of raising $10 000.00 for wildlife and conservation efforts across Canada.



Through a series of fun challenges, the four teams sponsored by KEEN Canada will compete to raise the most donations for CPAWS. Challenge number one is already up and I've been tasked to "strike a pose" to raise awareness for this week's fundraiser. I chose Eagle Pose because I've always liked seeing eagles while doing river trips.

Striking a Pose for Wildlife. Eagle! On Skates! Elbow Lake, Kananaskis

Information on CPAWS and my local chapter


CPAWS is Canada’s only environmental charitable organization that works nationally to protect at least 50% of all of our public lands and waters.  Established in 1963, CPAWS works collaboratively with industry, governments, first nations and the Canadian public to help create new national parks and ensure the ones we already have are well managed to protect the nature within them.

"The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) is Canada’s voice for wilderness. We are a non-profit environmental organization. We safeguard the environment by working to protect half of Canada’s public land and water. Our focus is to ensure a healthy and wild Canada where people experience and respect nature. Since 1967, CPAWS Southern Alberta Chapter has led conservation efforts to protect areas in Banff National Park, Kananaskis, the Whaleback and the Castle. Our chapter is also a leader in environmental education. We offer award-winning programs to help build the next generation of environmental stewards." (source: The Southern AB CPAWS website)


Where your Donation will Go


Donate to CPAWS here and choose the area of Canada you would like to support for your donation.

Some of the initiatives and areas that CPAWS is involved in right now in Alberta:

  • Protecting endangered animals such as the grizzly bear, native trout, the sage grouse, the lynx, and the caribou

  •  Protecting the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor

  • Protecting our Grassland Areas (In Alberta only 43 per cent of native grasslands remain.)

  • Protecting the Castle Wilderness Area of Southern Alberta (The goal is to protect the Castle as a Wildland and Provincial Park)

  • Protecting our national parks, provincial parks and wildland areas (including Waterton Lakes National Park and Banff National Park)

KEEN Canada's Role in this Project


KEEN Canada shares many of the CPAWS values when it comes to respecting nature, and wanting to do what we can to preserve it for future generations. KEEN has been supporting the CPAWS national programs since 2014.

KEEN  is proud to sponsor Week For The Wild. They will be offering financial support and prizes, along with promoting the efforts of their participating ambassadors.

And, anyone who donates to Week for the Wild between Nov 14 – 20th, will automatically be entered in a draw for a chance to win a great pair shoes/boots from KEEN

Woot Woot! It's Week for the Wild!! And we are a wild bunch!


How You Can Get Involved this Week


First, watch for my #Wk4Wild posts all week on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook along with my #TeamFeather tags.

And, watch for the challenges I've been given this week along with my photo responses. Today's challenge was to "Strike a Pose." I'll have another challenge on Wednesday and Friday. You can respond to the poses as well and I'd love to see your photos.


Most importantly, please, if you are able, I'd love to see as many people Donate to this great cause. We are trying to raise $10 000.00 in just 7 days!

And finally, sharing is caring!  Share this post, share my social media posts, and promote this cause in your circles.


Thank you everybody for the support!



Thursday, November 10, 2016

First Summits - Mount St. Piran, Lake Louise

We hiked up Mount St. Piran at Lake Louise in late September and it felt like we were tackling a winter summit. There was much more snow on top than we had anticipated and were we to repeat this same summit now, there would already be avalanche danger. This was our 7th "first family summit" that we did this summer for a grand total of 10 family summits completed by the end of September.

Mount St. Piran Summit, Late September


Mount St. Piran Introduction


Mount St. Piran is located at Lake Louise and is one a few "hiking summits" located here where you'll be able to pretty much keep your hands in your pockets the whole time. There's no actual "scrambling" involved in getting to the top and you'll follow good hiking trails much of the time.

Unless you're crazy enough to descend the back side with kids (and yes, you know we are that crazy,) it's a very easy hike with no technical difficulties. Your kids just have to be able to hike up 900 metres of height gain.

Hiking up to the summit of St. Piran, Lake Louise

Stats for Piran

 

Entering the snow zone on St. Piran
Height Gain: 900 metres

Distance: 12.8 km for the full loop that we did, ascending up the regular St. Piran Trail and descending to the Niblock-St. Piran Col to reach Lake Agnes from the back side


Time that it took us: 6.5 hours round trip total


Age of Kids we hiked with: Ages 5 through 13


Best Resource Guide: Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies by Alan Kane (available at all major book stores)



Hiking up the Lake Agnes Trail


The hike starts on the heavily used Lake Agnes"tourist trail". This is probably the least enjoyable part of the trip and the trail was way too busy for our liking, even in September.

Fortunately, this trail is only 3.4 km long and we only had to go 3.1 km to the junction with the Little Beehive Trail. In that distance we gained our first 372 metres of height on the well maintained trail that was never very steep. (which isn't a bad way to travel.)


High above Lake Louise


Turning off for the Little Beehive Trail


At the 3.1 km mark you turn off for the Little Beehive Trail and follow this much less traveled path until you come to the junction for the St. Piran Summit Trail.  The Little Beehive viewpoint is at the 4.2 km mark but you don't hike the full distance. You'll turn off about 500 metres before reaching the end of this trail.

Climbing up the Little Beehive Trail (photo: Megan Dunn)

Along the way we started to get our first views and we began to see larch trees around us. We'd see more as we climbed higher up towards St. Piran.

Looking down on the Little Beehive covered in  golden larch trees


On the St. Piran Summit Trail


The Little Beehive is reached after climbing up 500 metres. This means that you have roughly 400 more metres to go when climbing up to the summit of St. Piran. And this is just a rough guess because you don't go all the way to the Little Beehive "summit."  There is definitely 400 to 450 metres of height gain ahead of you from this point though. And you'll want to pull out the candy here because the trail gets steeper!

The lower slopes were dry and covered in golden larch trees (photo: Megan Dunn)

We came to the signed junction for the St. Piran Trail about 100 metres before the end of the Little Beehive Trail. The Piran Trail is not an official parks trail but is still well maintained and is well switch backed for most of the distance. Views open up over Lake Louise and the whole valley and it's positively magical when the larch trees are golden. And the views do help take the mind off of the climbing.

Getting higher up the St. Piran slopes and it's getting snowy! (photo: Megan Dunn)

We followed good switch backs all the way up to the St. Piran shoulder and the snow was very manageable so far. The trail had been packed down by hikers ahead of us and so we had a very good path to follow. We didn't need ice cleats or spikes.

Climbing up to the St. Piran Shoulder above Lake Louise (photo: Megan Dunn)


On the St. Piran Shoulder


We stopped briefly at the shoulder to take some photos and to contemplate the snowy slopes ahead of us. The gloves definitely came out.

St. Piran shoulder before starting our ridge walk to the summit

Hiking up the Final Summit Ridge


For our crew, the hiking was easy going until we got to the shoulder. From here, we had to traverse the ridge up to the summit on snow slopes that were a big slippery.

Hiking up the ridge as the snow got deeper

The snow was also a lot deeper than we had expected for late September (and not packed down at all.) The boys also weren't entirely prepared in their light hiking shoes or trail runners. Fortunately they did have rain pants and we all had gloves, toques, and warm layers of clothing - all of which we needed!!

Final hike to the summit (photo: Megan Dunn)

 

The Snowy St. Piran Summit  


We didn't spend a lot of time on the summit because it was freezing cold up here. There was also deep snow drifts that came halfway up to my knees.

St. Piran Summit, late September


We took our photos, had snacks, and proceeded to make our way off the mountain.

Striking his Mountain Summit Pose

Note that there was no avalanche danger yet but should you attempt this hike now in November, there would be significant risk.

Rock shelters at the top of St. Piran


Completing the Traverse to the Niblock-St. Piran Col


We love loops, ridge walks, and traverses. It was therefore a no-brainer that we'd attempt to do the traverse of St. Piran, coming down the far side to the back of Lake Agnes.

Traversing the St. Piran Ridge to the Niblock-St. Piran Col (photo: Megan Dunn)

Normally, the traverse is "relatively" simple and straight forward but the slope is steep (very steep,) not fun when it's snowy (not to mention avalanche prone if too snowy,) and route finding is required. I've done this descent many times as has my husband so we felt comfortable with taking a more original way down rather than following the same trail we'd taken up. Also, we knew there was not enough snow for avalanche risk yet.

Our youngest hikers making their way across the ridge (photo: Megan Dunn)

In the end, I "almost" regret coming down this way because the snow made the descent very sketchy and tricky. It was slippery and the snow covered up holes in the rocks. Our son, Noah slipped numerous times when he'd fall into a hole and twist his ankle or hurt his knee. It wasn't fun in the slightest descending the steep slope and I think almost everybody in our group fell at least once.

Descending steep slopes to the St. Piran-Niblock Col (photo: Megan Dunn)

Fortunately, we made our way to the Niblock/Piran Col and then things started to improve (slightly) as we got on a rough dirt trail. If muddy this section can also be slippery though - and it was muddy. Overall, it was a much harder descent down the back side than I had remembered pre-kids.

The kids descended numerous sections on their bums holding on to trees to lower themselves. Adults fell as we all took turns sliding down the steep dirt/rock mixture through the trees, and my husband wants to point out that even in the summer, this is NOT an easy descent. The trail is brutally steep and does not fall into beginner hiking terrain. It is much easier to return via the same trail you hiked up. (And you can still detour up to Lake Agnes by going down the normal way.)

Descending very steep slopes down to the valley behind Lake Agnes (photo: Megan Dunn)

The walk through the valley towards Lake Agnes was also very pleasant (and is why I always choose this descent route.) You see nobody else when hiking this secret little valley and you won't meet a single other day hiker until you reach the junction with the Big Beehive and Lake Agnes.

There are a lot of fun rocks to scramble on at the back of Lake Agnes (if you haven't been hiking for 5+ hours already.) For us, we pretty much just continued going once we reached the lake.

Lake Agnes, finally!


Lake Agnes Tea House and Descent


We reached the crowded and touristy tea house at Lake Agnes. We didn't stay long because it was hard to be in the midst of so many people after being alone on the trails all day. We had some quick snacks, fed the kids their final sugar, and then proceeded to run down the stairs for the trail home.

Following the Lake Agnes trail to the Tea House


The final descent was a quick trail running affair, boys running down the trail hell bent on reaching Lake Louise. It took less than an hour to reach the lake and the kids passed many/most adults on the trail. We just tried to keep up.

Back on the Lake Agnes Trail (photo: Megan Dunn)


Special Safety Notes with "Winter and Shoulder Season Summits" 


As mentioned, St. Piran is exposed to avalanche risk and you shouldn't climb it when there is significant snow if you are not prepared or trained for traveling in avalanche terrain.

Right now it is advised that you check with an information centre in the mountain parks before attempting any summit in the Canadian Rockies. Traveling into avalanche terrain with children is not something I advise or practice.

Note that many/most summits you'd just calmly walk up in summer can and could have avalanche risk. So always ask and do your research before heading out!

As far as gear, our kids should have had winter boots on for this particular hike.

Shoulder Season Summits look a lot like this

Recommended gear for shoulder season hikes:

  • Winter boots or waterproof hiking boots (not low cut hiking shoes)

  • Layers of waterproof clothing, mittens and gloves, toques, and a Buff or something to cover the face when it's windy

  • Hiking poles for slippery slopes

  • Ice cleats or spikes. I like Kahtoola Micro Spikes personally.

  • Emergency gear in case something goes wrong and you have to wait overnight for a rescue. This should include a headlamp in case it is dark when you descend the trail.

Note that this list is not exhaustive. It's just a few top items that come to mind.

Family summit shot on St. Piran


 Additional Reading


To read about our previous "first summit" read  First Summits - Mount Fairview and Saddle Mountain, Lake Louise

 Another good read is First Summits - Tent Ridge Horseshoe, Kananaskis

To read about some of our other summits this summer check out my previous story on the East End of Mount Rundle. It has a lot of reflections in it, learned over the summer. It also has a complete link at the bottom to all of my "First Summits" posts.


Big thanks to Megan Dunn for collaborating with me on this with amazing photos. You can find her on instagram or at her blog here.


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