"If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all." - John Cage


Berg Lake Trail - Mount Robson Provincial Park

In August 2011, I had the pleasure of completing one of the most incredible trail runs I have ever experienced. If the runner's high exists, I lived in it for over 8 hours that day. In September 2011, I was lucky enough to return and run the Mount Robson Marathon, an event I cannot use too many superlatives to describe. This run report is of my August 2011 excursion.
Mount Robson Provincial Park - "Mount Robson Provincial Park, the second oldest park in British Columbia's park system, is truly one of the world's crown jewels. The mountain for which the park is named guards the park's western entrance. At 3,954 meters, Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, towers over the lesser surrounding peaks; winter or summer, this is one of the finest views in the Rocky Mountains. Just as the early trappers, hunters and explorers felt in awe at the mountain's magnificence, travelers today experience the same feelings."

 View of Mount Robson from the Mount Robson Visitor's Centre. This was the start location of the Mount Robson Marathon I would subsequently run in September. 

Berg Lake Trail - "The Berg Lake Trail is a world-renowned backcountry hiking trail. Gaining just under 800 meters in 23 kilometers, the trail traverses three biogeoclimatic zones.

This trail takes hikers to some of the best scenery in the province. Beyond Kinney Lake, the trail enters the Valley of a Thousand Falls. Fed by the massive Mist, Berg and Robson glaciers, visitors often see huge sections of ice break off or "calve" into the blue/green, silt-laden waters of Berg Lake. Berg Lake campsite is 21 km from the trailhead parking lot. Use one of the campgrounds as a base and take in some day hiking or continue past Robson Pass campground for a challenging excursion."

Snowbird Pass Route - "Snowbird Pass Route (1 day): Snowbird Pass is closed May and June due to caribou calving. A challenging route marked by rock cairns (caution required), it provides spectacular views of the back of Mount Robson. From Berg Lake campsite the trip is 22 km, return. Start north of Rearguard campsite, follow Robson River then travel up to Robson Glacier's moraine. Hike up to an alpine meadow, beyond which is Snowbird Pass."

The out and back route I chose, was to run the Berg Lake Trail, followed by the Snowbird Pass Route. In total, the run was 60km, gaining and losing some 2,400m of elevation in the process. 

The run took me half way around Mount Robson, to Snowbird Pass which opens to the Reef Icefield, as seen in the image below. Mount Robson in the centre. Snowbird Pass and the Reef Icefield are in the top right quadrant.

Mount Robson in the Center. Snowbird Pass at Top Right


Elevation Profile. Plenty of vertical considering there are no summits involved. 
I had been camping with my family at Mount Robson Provincial Park for 5 days waiting for the weather to hold out. The weather at Mount Robson is notoriously sketchy. Each day brought cloud, and a touch of rain. I was going to do this run regardless of weather, but being on vacation I had the luxury of holding out. On the last day possible, the weather gods smiled.

I planned to set out at the crack of sunrise at 6AM, which meant waking at 5AM. I had set the alarm on my iThing. I woke, started brewing some coffee and got dressed. Eventually I made it to my car and wondered why it was so dark out 15 mins before my planned start. Apparently, since we had come to the park via Jasper (Mountain Time), and there is no cell service at Robson Park, my phone was still on mountain time. I was up an hour early. I climbed back into bed in the trailer, snoozed for an hour, and headed back out.

Sign at the trailhead. 

Start of the Berg Lake trail. 

I was treated to this view within 30 seconds of stepping on the trail. Was this the most incredible lucid dream about to unfold, or was I actually awake?

The view looking back down the river. This was about 5-10 minutes into the run. 

I am not sure I had ever felt more invigorated on a trail run. 

This Google Earth (GE) image shows the start of the run. Kinney Lake, near the centre of the image comes at about 7km into the run. Further in the distance is the steep climb after Whitehorn Camprground (11km).

The first 7km to Kinney Lake are modestly uphill on non technical wide trails. You mostly stay alongside the Robson River.

The approach to Kinney Lake. 

Kinney Lake.
It was a challenge not to stop and take a picture of every single thing I saw. 

The approach to Kinney Lake campground. 

The GE view of the route passing the campground in the foreground, and entering the Valley of a Thousand Falls after the lake. 

Near the campground by the end of Kinney Lake. At this point, the hikers were still nestled in their tents. When I paused my watch to use the outhouse, I decided not to take it as an omen that my GPS read 6.66km. 

This was the view looking back from whence I came. A tent is visible on the edge of the lake. 

The Valley of a Thousand Falls. As in many cases, the wide angle camera doesn't quite capture the vastness of how this space felt, nor the detail of the plethora of hundred meters high waterfalls cascading down. 

The view looking back over Kinney Lake after starting the climb towards Whitehorn campground (~11km). The scene below served as the turnaround for the Half Marathon portion of the Mount Robson Marathon last September. 

The route leaving Kinney Lake and climbing to Whitehorn campground (mid scene) and Emperor Falls campground (16km - background).

A view looking back over Whitehorn campground after starting the steep climb to Emperor Falls. I still had not encountered a waking soul. 

Couldn't help myself. 

There was more than one set of spectacular waterfalls. I believe this one was Emperor Falls. 

This is the Google Earth view of the section of trail after Emperor Falls Campground (bottom of image ~16k) that leads to Berg Lake. You can see the Berg Glacier and the toe of Berg Lake in the distance. 

A view of Mt. Robson on the way to Berg Lake. 

Looking back towards Emperor Falls Campground. 

The approach to Berg Lake. The toe of the lake (Marmot Campground ~19km from trailhead) served as the turnaround for the Mount Robson Marathon last September. The extra distance was made by running from the Mount Robson Visitor Centre to the start of the trailhead. Mist and Berg Glaciers in the background. 

Oops... I guess I clipped the Mist Glacier from this shot. 

And here it is. Mist Glacier coming down Mount Robson. 

This is the view looking back over Berg Lake after passing the Berg Lake campground (~21km). Berg Glacier on left, Mist Glacier to its right. 

With Berg Lake and 20+ kms behind me, it was time to press on to Snowbird Pass. 

The route to Snowbird Pass runs along the Robson River and to Robson Lake which is created by the Robson Glacier. This is the primary source of the Robson River which is one of the uppermost tributaries of the Fraser River. This ice finds its way all the way to the Pacific Ocean. 

Robson Lake. The route to Snowbird Pass starts by following the glacial moraine on the left, then climbs up through an alpine meadow. 

The Robson Glacier, with some hobby jogger included for scale. 

After following the glacial moraine, the route climbs steeply through an alpine zone to Snowbird Pass.

This meadow on the way to Snowbird Pass was riddled with Marmots. 

The view back towards Mount Robson. 

I made it! View of the Tatei Ridge from Snowbird Pass. 

Despite being a lovely summer day, it was windy and cold at the pass (~2,400m elevation). I was glad to have brought my jacket, and even more so for this wind shelter. I don't think I have ever felt this good after 30k of uphill running. 

The Reef Icefield, as seen from Snowbird Pass. 

Reef Icefield. 

Self portrait thanks to my gorillapod. Westwood Running Club ain't nothin' ta f with! XD

The trail I took from Robson Lake to Snowbird Pass. Steeper than it looks!

A quick snap of the Berg Glacier on my way back to the trailhead. 

40 something kms into my run, I decided to plunk down on a bench and "enjoy" a gel. 

This was the longest run I had ever completed, and I must admit that the final kms, despite being downhill, were anything but easy. Upon making it back to the trailhead parking lot, I collapsed on the grass for 10 minutes, and felt overwhelmed with emotion. Then I decided to man up, soak my legs in the Robson River, and enjoy a can of Old Milwaukee. I'm classy like that. 

If you have a bucket list, you must put running of the Berg Lake Trail on it. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message.

Amongst other things, DO CONSIDER the Mount Robson Marathon (& Half Marathon & 12K) September 2012!

1 comment:

  1. The view was totally breathtaking! I wish I could run there one day.