Views from the Top: Plain of Six Glaciers, Lake Louise
Words and photos by Victoria Lesce
Still half asleep, we sipped our warm coffees watching the fluorescent rainbow expand over the mountains. It was a chilly, cloudy morning, but Kaitlin and I were determined to get an early start on our day. This easily may have been the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen. I enjoyed that it took patience; though we arrived just before sunrise, we had to wait for the sun to move up over the adjacent ridgeline before it began illuminating the mountains around Lake Louise. At one point, it seemed as if each wavelength of visible light could be uniquely seen on the mountain face.
As the sky shifted from pink to blue, our bodies became motivated by caffeine, and we were ready to get moving. With over 20 different trails around the lake to choose from, the Plain of Six Glaciers trail seemed like a perfect fit that day – a moderate 4-mile trek leading up to a majestic cluster of mountains and glaciers.
The hike began with a soft introduction as the trail traced the perimeter of Lake Louise. This simple stroll offered incredible vantage points of the lake and its surroundings. It impressed me how the energy of the lake shifted as I changed perspectives. One moment, Lake Louise was delicate, accented with brilliant yellow and green leaves. Then a few meters down the path, the lake seemed ominous with dark river stones and broken sprigs. At the end of the of this lakeside stroll, we arrived at a sandy beach with views of Lake Louise and the Fairmont-Chateau Lake Louise. It was not the typical sight I see on my hikes, however, I still found it beautiful and charming.
Leaving the beach, elevation began to creep as we entered the shady, pine tree forest. Switchbacks ensued leading high over the treeline into open, rocky terrain. As the sun began heating our bodies, we moved faster, eager to see what treasures lie ahead at the end of the trail. We made a pit stop at the red, Swiss-style tea house and read the many information plaques on the area and its early pioneers. My favorite thing that I read was from one of the first female mountaineers to summit Mount Victoria, who proclaimed, “of course golf is a fine game, but can it compare with a day on the trail, or a scramble over the glacier…” (Mary Vaux, 1912). Since my mother is an avid golfer, I got a kick out of this. From the tea house, the trail continued unmaintained for another half mile. This portion of the hike was well worth the effort and was definitely made easier with trekking poles; there’s a fair amount of elevation gain on loose, gravely terrain.
The trail brought us closer and closer to the impressive sites of Mount Victoria, Mount Lefroy, Victoria Glacier, Abbot Pass and Mount Aberdeen. The view from the end of the trail was monumental. Mount Lefroy towered to the left as Mount Victoria stood illuminated with glaciers. Staring closely, you could see crevasses and varying blue shades in the thick of the Victoria Glacier. As our eyes followed the glacier downhill, the formation of Lake Louise became visible. Thin, vein-like streams of glacial runoff parted the ground flowing from the base of the mountain to the faint, blue dot in the distance.
After appreciating the distance we traveled and the intricacies of nature, Kaitlin and I began our grueling descent down the gravel path. That morning we had decided to share one pair of trekking poles – at this point, we were both regretting not having a set to ourselves. We moved slowly, and a bit clumsily, back to the Tea House to end our gorgeous morning with a cup of warm tea. Though we both agreed that we could have easily stayed longer, we had to get moving if we were going to make to our next hike of. With high expectations, neither Lake Louise nor the Plain of Six Glaciers disappointed. Our visit left us fantasizing about future visits to Lake Louise and how we’d love to spend the entire day exploring the trails and carrying a book to stop and read at the many scenic spots along the way.