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A Snowy Thanksgiving at Berg Lake

Winter Hike
Elevation [m]: 
Round Trip Distance [km]: 
YDS Difficulty: 
Friday, October 6, 2017

A tradition for the last few years has been for my Mom and I to ramble to some sort of backcountry location for Thanksgiving.  Previous trips have included heading onto the high seas of Maligne Lake to Fisherman's Bay, and a very snowy trip into the Wates-Gibson Hut.  With a less than ideal forecast, and the chill on winter in the air, we reckoned that somewhere with a decent shelter seemed a good plan.  After throwing around several schemes we settled on heading up to Berg Lake in Mount Robson Provincial Park.  After having been up to Berg extensively in winter for New Year's trips and ski mountaineering attempts (and subsequent success) on Resplendent Mountain, I had never actually walked along the lake when it was not frozen!

While in the height of summer Berg Lake it likely the most-traveled trail in the Rockies we were hopeful that by the start of October things would have started to quiet down and we would have most of the campground (and Hargreaves Shelter) to ourselves.  Getting to the parking lot there were a surprising number of cars, we hoped most were just going to Kinney for the day!

Some final packing before leaving the parking lot, quite a few cars for October.

Starting off on the trail things were a bit chilly but quite a comfortable temperature for hiking.  The usual arrangement for Thanksgiving is that my Mom is responsible for making most of the feast, and I have to carry it.  This years's haul felt especially hefty, with many (very not dehydrated) veggies, a smoked turkey, pumpkin pie tarts, and a full apple/raspberry pie not counting brews, wine, and breakfast stuff!  Before too long the forecasted rain started to come down; first in a mist, then a drizzle, and eventually an intermittent monsoon.  By the time we reached the Whitehorn Shelter anything with a roof was a very welcome refuge.

Taking a break at the Kinney Shelter before the rain really started.


As with any trek up to Berg Lake (be in summer or winter) things start to get chillier after gaining the Emperor Hill and approaching the frosty heights of the Mist, Berg, and Robson Glaciers.  A few flakes of snow started to fall which by the time we the Marmot Campground became some proper flurries.  Back to winter after all!  Getting to the shelter we were glad to see only one other group from Quesnel who had helicoptered in the previous day.


Around four hours later, approaching the ege of Berg Lake, blue sky above!


Later on that evening, somehow the pie manage to survive the trip in unscathed.


Looking towards Robson overnight from the shelter.

Waking up the next day the terrain was cloaked with new-fallen snow and were it not for the melted lake it would be hard to guess that it was still October.  Gobbling up a rather lengthy breakfast my Mom and I set off northwards, back into Jasper along the North Boundary Trail.  Given the fresh snow that had been piling up over the previous days only a few 100 meters above the lake we reckoned that a good flat trail might be best for a day-trip.  We ended up walking all the way to to junction with the Moose Pass/Coleman Glacier trails before backtracking to the Hargreaves for dinner.

The next morning things were quite wintery.


My Mom looking north towards Titkana Peak and the Alberta border.


My Mom crossing a rock bridge beside Adolphus Lake.


An important junction between the North Boundary and Moose River Route.


A pretty open valley in the upper Smoky River.


No bridge over the Smoky River, good to keep in mind for summer.


Mom on the shore of Adolphus Lake.


Looking back towards Mount Robson.

Getting back to the shelter things quickly became a lot busier!  The next couple hours played out like an extended version of the scene at Beorn's Cottage from The Hobbit.  First a group of four arrived, then a group of two, then a group of 6, then a group of 5 with a young kid and a dog, and finally another group of 2 hours later.  The dog caused quite a stir as beasties are not allowed to overnight along the Berg Lake Trail and as the Berg Ranger Curtis was 'right next door' building new tent pads there was quickly a conversation with what sort of fines would be levied for breaking the rules.  As par for the course, my Mom and I had way too much food, and managed to offload some pumpkin tarts to the Rangers and other folks staying at the campground.  While Thankgiving feasting was going on in the shelter over the evening, more and more snow was falling outside and by the next morning it looked much more 'normal' to me (i.e. like New Years or spring skiing in May).
With the stormy skies and limited views of the previous two days, we were hopeful that the forecast would hold and we would be able to get some decent views on the way out.  Thankfully after emerging from the tent sure enough there was blue sky above, and rays of sun shining on the upper slopes of Robson itself!


The next morning, blue sky and (almost) full views of Robson at last!


Zoomed in towards The Helmet.


A group of ducks crossing near the shore.


My Mom and I on the shore, far too frosty for swimming!


Working our way back down the trail things were slow but steady.  Our window of clear weather and blue skies was very short lived and by the time we reached the Marmot Campground there were very few views to be seen!  Wintey conditions held on until we descended below Falls of the Pool.  While we were heading down there were many other folks heading up the trail.  It was kind of funny as on the steep lower part of the Emperor Hill two folks starting waving up at me, it was Josh and Raquel (Josh even wearing his characteristic wizard hat)!  After catching up for a bit, and warning them that the shelter was going to be really busy they reckoned they would probably carry on to Robson Pass Campground for a little more privacy.


A quick stop at the viewpoint along the trail.


Back past the Marmot Campground.


Emperor Falls is quite the sight.


Still not fully winter with a clear trail.


Falls of The Pool marks the transition back to fall.


After a long break for lunch at the Whitehorn Shelter (finishing off the pumpkin tarts!) there was still a good 11 km of distance to go.  It was at this point I really started to regret being stuck on boots rather than skis as in the winter.  The flat and downhill sections of the Whitehorn Hill seemed to stretch on for a long while but it was still a pleasent temperature for hiking and slowly the kilometers started to wind down.  We were kind of surprised not to see anyone else along the trail in the stretch from Kinney Lake back down to the parking lot (there must have been a great deal of overnight traffic up at Berg to make up that number of cars).


Mom working her way up the mighty Whitehorn Bridge.


Back down at Kinney Lake.


A last view of shining lichen near the parking lot.


All in all this was certainly a memorable Thanksgiving!  There were certainly many more people up at Berg than we had expected given the time of year and forecast.  I can only imagine how busy the campground and shelter would have been in the middle of summer this year!  Have to see what sort of wild place my Mom and I will be heading to over the holidays this December!

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