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post #1 of (permalink) Old 06-10-2017, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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Default Return to Berg Lake

June 7 - 9, 2017

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Berg Lake Trail is one of most celebrated in Canadian Rocky Mountains. Interesting enough, it is (just) outside (Jasper) National Park and part of/managed by provincial BC Parks. In summer it is specially popular with Europeans who flock from overseas and backpack to one of several campgrounds strategically placed on several places along 22km long trail.

Despite the (over)crowding in summer months, it is still spectacular and one of these special destinations each outdoor explorer needs to visit. Over the years I've been several times; my trips ranged from day-hikes to week long backpacks. For fit hiker day hike is certainly feasible, in particular with trail runners as most of the trail is wide and very gentle. But from scenic perspective it simply doesn't make sense as most of the rewards are at or around Berg Lake and after 20km or so of approach you simply want to stay and soak it all in for few days.

There are 2 major problems with Berg Lake trips:

1. Weather. Robson creates its own climate, and often it is all socked in -- while sun might be shining further south in Jasper. Many parties have planned their trips for long time, waited just to come back disappointed as Robson remained hidden all the time

2. Logistics. Due to popularity, space is hard to find in prime season. BC Parks used to keep certain amount of sites for 1st come 1st serve basis, but this is now history and all camp spaces are 100% booked for the season (June 17 - Sep 17)

Having the above in mind, this year I decided to visit early. Additional motivation was spring scenery I haven't seen before: creeks and waterfalls bursting from spring snowmelt, and lake surface thawing. Having seen the window opening in 1st part of June I packed up and headed over. Initial plan was to spend 2 nights at Whitehorn; with middle day spent on dayhike to Berg basin. Driving up I changed my mind I decided to hike all the way on 1st day, thus allowing myself full day in core area. Having fairly light setup due to new ultra-light backpacking tent I was able to stuff everything I need in 35L pack I usually use for day-hikes only; it even included some "luxury" items (2 cameras, tripod, beer, etc). Walking in Visitor Center on June 7 I had no problems getting a site; I decided on Rearguard, as it is smallest and I was hoping to have it to myself (it didn't materialize; there was 1 other fellow from Edmonton there, but it was not huge bother). Along the way there were people staying in all campgrounds (except Marmot), but all were more than half empty. Robson Pass also had nobody.

I won't spend time describing the trail as it well known and documented. You can view official parks map here. Here is the photo story; read captions below each photo for more details:

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One of several bridge crossings in Kinney Flats. Do not follow "main trail" past Kinney campground; instead take the flats route - it is faster, no unnecessary ups/down and much prettier.

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Emperor Falls, 1st real scenic highlight. This is 'awe and wonder' kind of place; thundering waterfall below towering Emperor Ridge, swollen this time of year. Hard to get a photo as water spray clouds lens very fast. If I ever stay at Emperor CG which is nearby, it would be to spend in peace several hours here in the evening

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Another shot of Emperor Falls; if you descend a bit lower, spray is not so strong -- and you can also get a bit of rainbow in! Wide lens is big asset here

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Emperor Campground. I still consider it 'transit' campground (similar to Whitehorn or Kinney). It is directly on the trail too (and infested by mosquitoes, as it lies directly next to Robson river and there is abundant vegetation.

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Berg Lake west end; about 2km from Emperor and 19km from trailhead. Marmot camp is here as well as Hargreaves Lake junction. Small icebergs floating on the lake and thumping sounds from ice breaking off Berg and Mist Glaciers are your companions for the rest of visit

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Berg Lake from lakeshore trail past Marmot campground. There are several openings at 2km portion that rises up and down before reaching core area and Hargreaves shelter at east side of the lake.

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Hargreaves Shelter inside. Rodents are big problem, and sign warns you to keep the door closed. There is stove inside and I am guessing it gets pretty crowded. It is still very nice facility, specially in winter when you can (probably) have it to yourself. There was also large downed tree right by the shelter from winter storms

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Berg Lake from beach on east end looking towards trademark Berg Glacier. This side was still largely frozen and simply magical. There are couple of wooden benches; you can sit, gaze at all the wonder far away from all the nonsense of "civilization" and urban life.

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Berg Glacier below Helmet; North face above.

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Tent site at Robson Pass, which is my favorite campground. I stayed at Rearguard this time, but next I will use Robson Pass again. If weather is good, there are several sites with such views -- not a bad place to wake up to! Snowbird Pass trail junction is nearby, as well as Mumm basin route

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Speaking of Snowbird Pass -- trail is in good condition. Here is the bird-eye view I took the next day; you can see the edge of lateral moraine Snowbird Trail follows most of its length. Of course trail is closed till July 1 each year for Cariboo calving, but first 3 km are still open to toe of Robson glacier. This is very attractive option & I am not sorry I actually did not go there. It is mainly used by mountaineers who approach Robson or Resplendent via Robson Glacier

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Adolphus lake about 1km from Robson Pass and already in Jasper National Park. This is gotta be my favorite place on this trail; it is not so spectacular like Berg Lake, but so peaceful and serene; everything Rockies are in my mind. Completely thawed, bug free -- I walked through the marsh to other side, had lunch, read and slept for few hours -- finishing even with bit of skinny dipping.

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Fabulous skies on Robson Pass on return from Adolphus Lake back to Rearguard; you don't see this too often

I spent afternoon on 2nd day climbing about 1000m vertical above Berg Lake (photo on top of this TR). It was not planned as I wanted only to check Toboggan Falls, but I felt good and just kept going till I couldn't anymore. I can find no reference on this route, so I will post separate report in few days.

Last edited by zeljkok; 06-14-2017 at 04:04 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 06-10-2017, 10:35 PM
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Great shots, and it sounds like you had a great time. It surprised me that things were so far melted out already, but I guess it isn't that early in the summer any more!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 12:04 PM
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Beautiful shots. Looks like you had a great trip.

Last edited by zeljkok; 01-03-2021 at 04:55 PM.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 12:48 PM
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Seems remarkable that the snow is largely gone from trail. What a great TR, many thanks. Pics great as usual.

Is beer really a luxury item? LOL ... after 20 km in I'd say it's a necessity

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post #5 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys; I'm afraid trail is not snow free anymore after this storm & it is back to winter wonderland up there. Would be quite interesting to see though. With few days of warm weather it should melt. With Rockies trips timing is everything, and specially with Robson.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 08:09 PM Thread Starter
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Here's second part of report; this is more for scramble oriented crowd

Having wasted 1/2 of the day by Adolphus lake (which was perfectly fine) thought I should at least get a bit higher for some afternoon Berg photos. I hiked Hargreaves - Mumm loop before, but never been up Toboggan trail so that looked like good option. Toboggan trail branches off main Berg Trail just past Hargreaves shelter as you cross creek on good bridge; junction is marked. Trail is steep-ish but nice and Falls did not disappoint; about 200 vertical or so and I was at junction with highline trail I was familiar with. Plan was to loop via Mumm basin down to Robson Pass, but as the sign pointed up "The Cave" I thought I'd check it out. Another 200 or so vertical, now with several deep (but avoidable) snow patches and I was in the open; fabulous views back to Robson unfolded. Trail angles right and soon after I was at the Cave, about 450m vertical and 1hr - 1hr 15min from Berg Lake:
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Plenty of flowers already showing up; here is Alpine Anemone (Pulsatilla Alpina)
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The Cave: I didn't go in as generally closed areas don't make me feel comfortable, but there were faded bootprints in the snow at entrance:
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After break I started down in direction of Mumm basin, but spotted what looked like trail in scree in the slope above and thought I'd check it out; weather was clearing so nicely & thought I'd get few more shots from higher up. This is just your typical rubble slope; if you've done any Kane scrambling, you'll be at home. To put things into perspective, I did lower half with SLR dangling around my neck and unfolded tripod in the hand. Eventually it became non-practical so I ditched the tripod and packed up the camera. Bit lose near the top but not really problematic. Here's view looking down at top of this talus: Cave is near the distinct snowpatch roughly center of photo:
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Views were simply fab from here, so much better than from Cave area. Here's zoom to Resplendant peak (how I wish I was able to do things like that):
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and classic view of Berg Icefall below Helmet with North Face (hard mountaineering route up Mt Robson) above:
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From here it was just orange low angle talus heading up. I wondered how far I could go like that? I was getting already pretty high; here is shot of Mumm Peak (becomes technical near the top -- see this report):
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Eventually the ridge narrowed & I reached edge of drop-off. Large cairn(s) testified this was probably end of the day for non-technical kind of travel. I could have maybe scrambled over to the next notch, but it was still not the highest and I was quite certain I'd not be able to get to the next one so this was logical turnaround point: about 1000m vertical above Berg Lake.
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Basin pano from turnaround point:
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Came down the same way (do take mental note where you broke onto upper slopes as there are couple of options, and several cairns that might confuse things a bit). Sat down another 1/2 hour just before trail plunged below treeline and soaked for the last time one of finest views Rockies can offer.
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Last edited by zeljkok; 06-14-2017 at 04:05 PM.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 08:57 PM
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Very nice photos.. This is still on our list as we didn't have the best weather when we were here last, and i forgot they started the reservations in Jan!

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post #8 of (permalink) Old 06-11-2017, 11:55 PM
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Very nice trip! Love the photos and the description of the scramble. I will have to remember that area for June of next year!

Also, I believe that Berg Lake is under respected as a scrambling destination. So much to do there and such a great starting point! The new Northern Rockies Peakbagger's Guide might change that...

Not the fastest, but I get to where I am going and enjoy it.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 12:02 AM
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Also, want to add that I absolutely hate the fully reservable system now. It's completely not fair to shift workers or people who can't book their vacations 6 months ahead of time! Clearly designed by people which the luxury and means to plan that far ahead *cough* Government Bureaucrats *cough*

Not the fastest, but I get to where I am going and enjoy it.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 01:31 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SarcasticMarmot View Post
Also, want to add that I absolutely hate the fully reservable system now. It's completely not fair to shift workers or people who can't book their vacations 6 months ahead of time! Clearly designed by people which the luxury and means to plan that far ahead *cough* Government Bureaucrats *cough*
I am not fan of new system either; but I don't think its related to bureaucracy. I think they wanted to further facilitate overseas visitors (they bring in more money after all) Berg trail is one big German/French/Italian/.... speaking area in summer; I had chance to talk to all of these 3 nationalities during this trip. If they can't book, they likely won't fly over either.

What is going to happen though is, there will be tons of no shows & sites will be empty. There will be also more 'locals' camping wild. So they will revert back to old system in year or two. But this is separate topic & not really part of this report.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 02:07 AM
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When I was younger and we used go up up there on climbing trips, there was hardly a soul there. I would really love to go again, especially now that I have a family to share this special place with, but I don't want to do it with hordes of people around. It's unfortunate that there is so much catering to the tourist dollar.

By the way, I believe that's the North Face above the Berg glacier. You can't see the Kain face unless you travel up the Robson glacier a ways.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 02:24 AM Thread Starter
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By the way, I believe that's the North Face above the Berg glacier. You can't see the Kain face unless you travel up the Robson glacier a ways.
You made me flip Daugherty book, and you are absolutely right; that is North Face above Berg Glacier. It says: FA: P. Callis and D. Davis, August 1963. FWA T. Sorenson and A.Henault Winter 1978. Kain Face is out of picture. Thanks so much for this correction.

Hordes are an issue, there is no sugarcoating. But if you can go early June, or late September it is still reasonable. In full season (July, August) I'd also recommend staying away.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 12:15 PM
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Looks like an awesome trip. I'm heading out there this Saturday for 3 nights, hopefully the conditions are decent!
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 12:30 PM
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I ended up cancelling my reservations for July 11-15, and doing Cathedral provincial park instead. I didn't want to drive 10h from Vancouver after being on the Nootka the week before that.. I checked back 5 minutes later after I cancelled, and the reservations were already taken by someone else. Maybe a good thing considering how busy it will be up there.

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post #15 of (permalink) Old 06-12-2017, 05:15 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by pdomansky View Post
I ended up cancelling my reservations for July 11-15, and doing Cathedral provincial park instead. I didn't want to drive 10h from Vancouver after being on the Nootka the week before that.. I checked back 5 minutes later after I cancelled, and the reservations were already taken by someone else. Maybe a good thing considering how busy it will be up there.
that's too bad as you were planning it for awhile, but I think you are making the right decision.

Interesting about reservation gone so fast. I'd really love to see some stats this summer how many of these that booked (and didn't cancel) actually showed up.
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