Backpacking Ups and Downs

Boulder Pass, Summer 2014

Boulder Pass, Summer 2014

Hiking in the mountains is inherently filled with trails either going up or going down, not much sideways. Trips can go ‘sideways’ and it has nothing to do with the terrain. With heavy backpacks, swarming mosquitos and snow in July, we were all still smiling!

A four-day and three-night trip into the pristine Skoki Valley sounded just right for our first multi-day backpacking trip.

This was Plan A:

Day 1: Hike into Hidden Lake Campground

Day 2: Hike over Boulder Pass and Packers Pass into Merlin Meadows Campground

Day 3: Hike back over Deception Pass to Baker Lake Campground

Day 4: Hike out, total of 27.6 km

Reality was Plan B:

DAY 1 We hoisted our forty-plus pound backpacks on a sunny July morning and hiked up to Hidden Lake Campground. This campground itself was worth the 6 km hike in. It had beautiful mountain views and a gently flowing stream. I could have stayed there except for some pesty mosquitos. Kendra bonded with an apple-sized rock which she insisted on carrying with her for the rest of the trip. Erin’s also had a travel companion strapped to her backpack.


Snack Time


Erin’s Travelling Companion


DAY 2 Even with the cool night air we were cozy in our sleeping bags, but the chill zapped the batteries of the only cameras we had, thankfully Richard had his iPhone. Breakfast was almost a disaster. I tried a new recipe from a backcountry cookbook, Wheat Germ Cereal, the brown sticky mush was dreadful. A pineapple zucchini loaf saved the morning meal.

Tip # 1 Taste test any new recipes you plan to bring backcountry camping. I learned that the hard way.

After packing up pots, stove, sleeping bags, tents and fitting all the gear into our backpacks again we ascended the short but steep route to Boulder Pass. We were greeted by a gorgeous view of Ptarmigan Lake with giant boulders to climb on while, chipmunks and squirrels scurried about in search of crumbs.

“Hey, that was my fig newton and I carried it all the way up here!” Kendra shouted at the chipmunk.

Tip # 2 Try not to drop any food with chipmunks and squirrels about, they will snatch it up before you do.

We continued around the lake and over less travelled route, Packer’s Pass. We scrambled down the back of the Pass to a rest stop where granite slabs met Zigadenus Lake. A magnificent glacier sloped down from the Wall of Jericho to grace this tranquil picturesque location. The girls played in the chilly lake. Once at Merlin Meadows Campground we couldn’t get our tents pitched fast enough to escape the swarming mosquitoes. Our tent became a cozy retreat after dinner and we enjoyed chatting, sketching and reading. The windy wet night chased away the mass mosquitos invasion.

DAY 3 Everything was cold and wet. Time to discuss Plan B. We gave the girls a choice, we could hike out that day, a 15 km trek over two mountain passes or have an easier day and camp one more night at Baker Lake. It was unanimous, we would hike out. Richard sweeten the deal and offered to take us out to our favourite local pub for dinner that night.

Tip # 3 Have a Plan B

We quickly packed up the wet gear and took the easier, more travelled route over Deception Pass. All our warm clothes came out of our backpacks as we approached the Pass. Ankle deep snow was not a big surprise with the drop in the temperature. The wind was fierce, with our heads down Erin sucked on fruit gummies and happily chatted away. In six hours, we made it to the top of the road where a shuttle van picks up Skoki Lodge guests. The driver offered us a ride saving us the last 3.8 kms. I happily handed over my backpack to join the colourful assortment of stacked denier.

Erin and Kendra were all smiles and Kendra still had her rock. She carried it a total of 20 km.

Highlights: Spectacular mountain and lake views, sleeping in a tent and fruit gummies

Lowlights: Wheat germ cereal and too many mosquitoes.

How To Make It Happen:

Obtain backcountry permits and camping reservations from Parks Canada:

Park at the trailhead just past Lake Louise ski resort. There are many trails to choose from, or you can follow Plan A, be prepared for backcountry travel and have a Plan B. Bring a map for the area and bear spray.

Leave a Reply