Friday, 16 September 2016

Birdwood Beauty

I was up to Birdwood Lakes with Monty last year, but Karen was sick and couldn't go. Almost a year to the day, I dragged Karen up this challenging route. It starts with a 2.6 km bike ride, then a 6 km one way hike that has almost all of its 600 m gain in the last 2 km -- on a trail that is usually less a trail and more "guided bush bashing".

But boy, it it spectacular.

It starts by passing Commonwealth Falls.
Lush green 
A beautiful falls
After scrabbling up beside the falls, the trail continues next to the creek for a bit before breaking out into a 3 km long meadow with spectacular views of Commonwealth Peak, Mt. Smuts, Pig's Back, The Fist and Mt. Birdwood.
The destination is through the gap in the middle, left of Mt. Smuts
The meadow is beautiful...
Looking back
...and higher up offers views back to Rummel Pass between The Tower and the Mt. Galatea.
About 2 km of the valley
At the head of the valley, the grunt begins. Straight up through a larch forest that is about 50% turned, with some gold trees, some green trees, and some in between.
Forests changing colour 
Green & gold 
Looking back from almost treeline 
The road ahead 
It's longer than it seems, but not that steep
At last, we hit the top-ish. It's a bit of a false summit at this point; there's still almost 100 m of climbing left to get to the first of the lakes and this view:
The lower lake; "Smutwood Ridge" in the background
Conventional wisdom here says descend to the lake, then re-climb the first ridge behind it. Meh. We followed the trail ahead in the scree, keeping a high line...
Looking down on Lake 1
...and Lake 2 pops into view.
The high alpine
We left the car at 10, and it was now 1:15 pm, so we sat for lunch over the 2nd lake, with this view.
Full screen, this is awesome
Karen thought this was the "end". Hah. We walked uphill another 20 m to the Continental Divide, and this view of Snow Mountain and Mt. Sir Donald:
Donald left, Snow right 
Karen with the glaciers on Donald in the background 
Heck of a view
Even looking due west into the mountains of the south part of Banff Park is pretty decent.
A sea of peaks
We turned here, though you can go farther (to the col below Snow Mountain, or up Smutwood Ridge). We dropped down to the upper lake...
Mt. Smuts
...then climbed the ridge between the lakes to a small tarn hidden from view but offering what I think are among the most beautiful views in all of Kananaskis (so you get lots of pictures of them).
Birdwood and Snow 
Getting repetitive already 
Well, that's stunning 
Two lakes, two mountains 
The lake's surreal colours 
Sir Donald and Snow 
That's the gap through which we came 
Snow Mountain 
Golden larches against Smutwood Ridge 
Looking back
We dropped back to the upper lake, and the surreal colours of the stream flowing out of it...
The moss is excellent
..then dropped to the lower lake, and tracks of a baby bear.
Where there's kids, mom is not far behind
Alas, it was time to actually descend.
Looking into the valley 
Across to Rummel
Part the way down, we saw more recent bear evidence; digs and scat.
Looks like they're eating roots... 
...that they're digging up
To the meadow, and back along to the waterfall, with cool views of backlit larches on Pig's Back along the way.
Golden rims 
Babbling brooks 
Flowing water
It was a non-wildlife day. We saw a chipmunk, a falcon and a hawk, and that was it. We were hoping for later afternoon moose in the Engadine Meadows, as apparently were at least 5 photographers.
Patiently waiting

Still, if you gotta wait, this is a good place to do it:
Nice view, huh?

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