Elbow Lake, Piper Pass

August 24, 2014, at 07:00 AMerika

Led another trip with the Calgary Outdoor Nuts this past Sunday, August 25, heading off to Elbow Lake and Piper Pass (first time for me). There were a total of seven of us in attendance. While we did get caught in some showers, they didn't last more than about 45 minutes in the late afternoon. Total details were roughly 24 km (longer approach), and 670 m elevation. Read more...

There were some initial challenges making it to the turn off for Piper Pass. The book claimed to hike 5.3 km until reaching a cairn. We found a cairn, but unfortunately it was only 4.8 km in (thank goodness someone else had a phone with working mileage counting on it). So we carried on, but nothing was to be found. After a good 20 minutes of what should've only been 10, we paused, and re-evaluated our bearings. With a fantastic scout, we decided to retrace our steps to the cairn and see where it leads. We passed a second cairn, a blocked-off trail, and then finally the first - more obvious - cairn we'd originally spotted. It led to a lovely view overlooking a canyon along the Elbow river. Great photos, but not easily passable without ropes and whatnot. So we re-re-traced our steps to this secondary cairn and lo, we found the trail.

The river crossing, where de-booting is a good idea (unless you're boots are already overly soggy, as mine were from the rain on the return), isn't more than 5 metres wide, though it can be calf-high in August. The steep embankment on the other side suggests taking turns to cross, so you don't have to wait in the cool river water while someone scrambles up.

The wildflowers were likely a sight to be seen a few weeks prior, but we certainly had some great colours along the way. Stopped at an outcrop of rocks overlooking the river drainage from Piper Pass. Here two members of the group decided - with their unfortunate choice of slip-on shoes - to head back to the car and wait while the rest of us carried on.

We aimed for the large boulder that lays at the base of the scree-trek up to the pass. There must have been +20 mountain goats just chilling, taking in the scenery. Two of us aimed for the top, and while the scree is deeper than I'm comfortable with, we did make it up. No more than a 20 minute "slog" up to the pass. There are a couple cairns, but the timing was such that small hail and rain spittle were kickstarting. A few quick photos later, and we started our quick descent back to the valley floor. The return, as always, was quick and cheerful.

The main road/trail coming up from Elbow lakes parking lot looks to be well used by backpackers accessing Tombstone. There's also a fantastic backpacking spot at Elbow Lake itself, a mere 1 km from the parking lot. Seems like a great stop to introduce munchkins to backpacking, and maybe have a lovely time for accessing local day hikes. *fingers crossed* To be used by yours truly another time. :)

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