Autumn is here, but Winter has basically arrived too...it's already snowing at the Icefield, so Tim & I decided before too much of the snow sets in, we would tick off one of the mountains that's been on our list all Summer. Cirque Peak is located just near Bow Lake in Banff National Park, Alberta. Cirque Peak summit is 2993m (if we could have hit 3000m we would have but we ran out of mountain to climb). This was an elevation gain of 1007m over 17.2km from the start of the hike with an estimated return time of 6-8 hours. (Spoilers we did it in 6 hours) The beginning of the hike was only in very light snow, so we were pumped as it was meant to be raining lightly during the day. The hike started off strong with a muddy, tree root riddled pathway heading straight up from the car park. We passed a few little water crossings which we knew were going to be flowing much more on the way back, and they definitely were.
There was a dense low fog which made the visibility only around 50m or less in most places. We couldn't tell how high, or how far the drop was off the side of the skinny, slippery trail. This muddy trail took us deeper into the forest where the trees protected us from the weather a little. The path was surrounded with dense pine forest, short grassy foliage and the occasional brightly coloured and I can only, assume poisonous mushroom. As we continued the fog began lifting slightly until we finally reached out first stop, Helen Lake (roughly 6kms into the hike). Helen Lake was blanketed by a thick low cloud and we couldn't see the other side, let alone the mountain we were yet to climb. We stopped, had our delicious Clif Bars (feel free to sponsor me, I literally eat these all the time), and water before beginning the rest of our accent.
From Helen Lake it's approximately 700m of incline over a 1.2km distance to reach the summit of Cirque Peak. The trail was hard to find, let alone follow as it was mostly shale and lose rock. The more we climbed the less we could see. We soon found ourselves surrounded with very thick cloud and we could only see about 20m all around us. Not knowing where the trail headed, where the drops off the cliff were or where we had come from, we continued climbing as we knew the peak was a long way up. As we got closer to the summit, it started snowing fairly heavily until it became a total whiteout blizzard. The trail was covered in snow and we had to begin following the footsteps of the one person who had climbed before us that day. The snowy trail got incredibly steep, with lose rock underneath this made it a pretty scary climb. Not being able to see how far we would slide or fall also increased our desire to keep our footing sturdy. As we reached the final climb we had to pull ourselves up a near vertical rock face, which was slippery and covered in snow. We carefully made our way up the rocks and as we pulled ourselves over the final rock we had a view of thick, dense cloud...However, we couldn't see anymore mountain to climb, we were stoked. Sitting at the top, we relaxed and reflected on the ridiculous feat we had just achieved. The super slippery snow, the lose shale and the blizzard all combined made for an epic adventure and a final summit for the Summer. We sat freezing at the summit waiting for the cloud to clear so we could enjoy the view we were hoping to see. After around 10mins the wind blew the clouds away for around 1min, just enough time to get a few beautiful shots. (See the bottom of this blog) The way down was much faster, we knew where we were going, we followed our own footprints and the cloud seemed to thin a little, just enough for us to see the path to take. It decent back down to Helen Lake only took 45mins (which took 1hr 32min on the way up). As we stopped at the lake for another water break, the cloud moved just enough for us to get a few nice shots and enjoy the view from the base. The photos don't do the height justice.
From Helen Lake back to the car the weather got gradually worse until we were almost running, saturated from the rain which continued to get heavier & heavier. We made it back to the carpark exactly 6hrs from when we left. Sitting down on beautiful warm heated seats in the car was an absolute treat after the hike. Our legs, feet, knees, wholes bodies were sore...but it was SO WORTH IT! The rest of the afternoon was filled with delicious warm drinks & food followed by a 1.5hr drive home to hot showers and photo edits. Here are the few shots I was able to get when the clouds moved for us!