AB Cen = Alberta Rockies Central (Banff & David Thompson) Siffleur Wilderness, BNP Aug 27-30 '17 - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 08:12 PM Thread Starter
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Default Siffleur Wilderness, BNP Aug 27-30 '17

Solo 4 days, 3 nights backpack into Siffleur Wilderness. Full details with many high-res photos and downloadable GPS tracks here.


Trip breakdown:

Day 1: Mosquito Creek -- Fish Lakes. 16km, +800m, -400m 5hr.
Day 2: Fish Lakes -- Pipestone Pass -- Devon Lakes. 16.5 km, +620m, -480m, 6.5hr
Day 3: Devon Lakes -- Clearwater Valley -- Devon Lakes. 33km, +780m, -780m, 10hr
Day 4: Devon Lakes -- Mosquito Creek. 32km, +880m, -1420m, 10hr

Map:
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Vertical Elevation Profile:
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Total Stats over 4 days (GPS):
98km, ~3200m elevation

Couple of scenic highlights:

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[Upper Fish Lake in the morning of Day 2]

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[Hours of delightful alpine hiking on Day 2; Pipestone Pass upper center]

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[Bivi at upper Devon Lake for 2 nights]

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[Clearwater Lakes Ranger Cabin]

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[Martin Lake as haze/smoke moved in; Mt. Harris upper right]

I'll post detail day-by-day report as I sort out the photos in next days; please indicate any part you have specific questions about. Banff National Park backpacking at its best!
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Last edited by zeljkok; 07-13-2020 at 07:16 PM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 10:32 PM
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Well obviously we'd like to hear about all of it! Mostly for me, details of how the trip felt and what were your high points and low points!
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-31-2017, 11:06 PM Thread Starter
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thanks big Phil, there were many highs, the biggest one maybe sitting on porch of Clearwater Lakes Ranger Cabin; built in 1930 it is recognized Federal Heritage Building.

http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-...u.aspx?id=9845

Hot afternoon, not a soul around closing my eyes and traveling back in time almost 100 years ago. I'll talk much more about it but this trip down Clearwater Valley was awesome; thought of lobo several times as something like this would be his staple trip.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 02:41 PM
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Spectacular photos; we're hoping to go here next summer. Why did you venture from Devon Lakes to Clearwater Valley - was there a goal in mind to see something in particular or was it just general curiosity? Thanks!
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 03:08 PM
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Wow, beautiful pics!
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Wilderness is not a luxury but necessity of the human spirit.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lprazak View Post
Spectacular photos; we're hoping to go here next summer. Why did you venture from Devon Lakes to Clearwater Valley - was there a goal in mind to see something in particular or was it just general curiosity? Thanks!

Thanks.

I'll talk in detail about Clearwater day when I get all photos sorted out, but short answer --- I LOVE exploring. Longer answer -- I have fixation about photographing this waterfall ever since I saw this photo:



According to some sources, this waterfall is more spectacular than Takkakaw -- but it is very difficult to get there. It is fed by Icefield between Willingdon and Clearwater mountains, and flows into upper Martin lake and then down the valley into lower Martin lake. I had no plan of getting there this time, but was going to evaluate what it would take to travel the "low route" (Clearwater valley) before I start looking into "high routes" (several options).
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 06:06 PM
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Good job! I would have thought after our discussion that you were going to take the higher route to get to those falls. I commend your tenacity to follow the Clearwater drainage down and back for 33km all of which 90% I'm guessing would be in the forest; not to mention the increased heat in the valley. My understanding is that portion is more popular with horse outfitters than anything else. I could be wrong.

On a completely other note your elevation profile is very similar to other elevation profiles seen all the time. The issue I have with those graphs is the inherent distortion and inaccuracy of them. Specifically, in the real world a horizontal metre is identical to a vertical metre. Not so of course with the graph. Consequently the descent and ascent of the graph(trail) is highly exaggerated and makes it look far steeper than it really is. Just google "gee whiz graph" and you will know what I mean. Sadly, and I apologize, I don't have a solution for this nor do I know anyone else that may either.

My final question is I can only assume because of the greater distance on day 4 that you did not go out via Quartzite Col to MC as that distance is far less than the 32km

Looking forward to more photos

Last edited by woodenshoes; 09-01-2017 at 06:14 PM.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 06:30 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by woodenshoes View Post
On a completely other note your elevation profile is very similar to other elevation profiles seen all the time. The issue I have with those graphs is the inherent distortion and inaccuracy of them. Specifically, in the real world a horizontal metre is identical to a vertical metre. Not so of course with the graph. Consequently the descent and ascent of the graph(trail) is highly exaggerated and makes it look far steeper than it really is. Just google "gee whiz graph" and you will know what I mean. Sadly, and I apologize, I don't have a solution for this nor do I know anyone else that may either.
I will not disagree; but it is what it is, and if one refers to side bars (coordinate system) it does paint accurate distance / elevation picture. In other words, ascent to North Molar Pass is nowhere as steep as that graph would indicate if one would read 1:1, but it does indicate where and how much one climbs the most.

Rest (Clearwater / Quartzite) I will discuss when I put detail TR for these days.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 07:13 PM
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Looks like an ideal backpack. Great shots as always.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 08:55 PM Thread Starter
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Day 1: Icefields Parkway -- Fish Lakes

Ultimate trip destination were Devon Lakes, but there are 4-5 different routes to get there. Fish Lakes are part of popular "Dolomite Circuit" loop. I've never been to Fish Lakes before; it is possible to dayhike from Icefields, but that would be hard to justify as day trip due to significant elev. loss / regain from North Molar Pass - it is much more natural backpacking destination. It also has official Parks Canada "MO18" back-country campground, so that looked like a good plan for 1st day. It also made 1st day short which was a good thing because overnight backpacks tend to be heaviest in the beginning (specially if you carry beer, lol). Strong hikers or trail runners could probably make it to Fish Lakes from Icefields in couple of hours; I took 5 in fairly relaxed pace, which was still ok -- 15.7 km and ~800m elev.gain.

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Day 1 Tracks: Icefields Parkway -- North Molar Pass -- Fish Lakes

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Day 1 Elevation Profile

First part is mostly flat hike along Mosquito Creek for ~5km. (Just before last bridge around km4 is turn-off for Quartzite col shortcut to Devon Lakes; faint trail branches left and follows west side of the creek). MO6 campground is nice, but it would be hard to justify overnight there since it is so close to highway. There was nobody there -- but on return it was almost full. Beyond campground trail becomes more rough and reaches South Molar Pass junction in about 30 mins. Turn left and follow trail that now rises more steeply towards expansive meadows leading to North Molar Pass. From now on entire travel to Devon Lakes is mostly above treeline in fantastic alpine; lakes, meadows and flowers are everywhere! Takes about an hour to cross first big meadow that hosts large lake; trail then climbs to North Molar Pass and is easier than you think while approaching. From the pass it is gradual descent for about 3km to Fish Lakes and Mo18 campground, all on a good trail you could not lose even if you wanted to. There is 1 creek crossing before final descent to campground; now in late summer it was an easy rock-hop, but I imagine earlier in season you'd have to take your shoes off (There is also a bridge just a bit lower, kinda falling apart but still functional). Pictures:

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North/South Molar Pass junction, about 1.5 hrs from Icefields. Follow "Fish Lakes" sign

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Vast meadow leading to North Molar Pass (upper right). There is also a shortcut over to Pipestone Valley here -- "Mosquito col" in upper left side of the photo. Other side is considerably steeper, but still feasible. I wanted to see Fish Lakes though, so I stayed on the trail

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Large lake in meadow below North Molar Pass; rock hop at outlet

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Start of climb to North Molar Pass; good trail in scree switchbacks and poses no problems at all

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View east from the pass; you can spot trail most of the way from here. Molar Mountain poking in upper center

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Final descent to upper Fish Lake. Campground is in the forested area halfway around left side. Lower Fish lake is behind the corner and can't be seen from here. Distinct mountain on the horizon is Cataract Peak; it is kinda hard to believe Phil and Vern got there (and down!) in a day from Icefields; these guys are super fit; no way I'd be able to do it


Word about the campground; it is in nice setting, but it leaves a bit to be desired. There are several picnic tables, bear hang and outhouse (that didn't smell bad at all). But there are no tent pads, just some rough uneven clearings almost on the trail. Parks list is as 5 camping spots, but more are possible as you can virtually pitch tent anywhere (since there are no officially designated areas).. Setting is very nice though. On return I met Parks Canada employee doing some maintenance with chain-saw, so it is not like Parks are letting the facility fall completely into disrepair; would be nice to work a bit on tent sites as well. Pics:

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Picnic Tables by upper Fish Lake; very nice setting

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My tent I just pitched on bit of grassy area away from trail (Note tent floor; LOL -- I can't find Nemo 1P tent floor anywhere in Canada. It costs ~35US but shipping from US would double the price. So I'm improvising till next time I travel down south and get it in person)

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Besides picnic tables there are some nice logs by the lake one can also use to have a meal, or just sit and enjoy the scenery; this is where I had by breakfast in the morning of Day 2 before packing up and setting for Pipestone Pass.


[... to be continued: Day 2 ...]
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Last edited by zeljkok; 09-01-2017 at 09:05 PM.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 09-01-2017, 11:47 PM
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Nice to revisit that place in your photos. It may just be because it is a recent memory, or because we had awesome weather and flowers, but I think the trail upto the pass and in particular down the side to Fish Lakes is a really favourite of mine. A lovely feeling to hike that terrain.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 09-02-2017, 02:02 PM Thread Starter
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I think the trail upto the pass and in particular down the side to Fish Lakes is a really favourite of mine. A lovely feeling to hike that terrain.
Fully agreed. Ascent past south Molar Pass junction is a bit tedious till you break treeline, but when that ultra large meadow opened up I had serious "wow" moment. Other side is no less spectacular. I was a bit surprised as I thought you could see Fish Lakes right from the pass; alpine tundra is fantastic though.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2017, 10:28 AM
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Beautiful pictures of a beautiful place. I'm glad that you've started to do multi day backpack trips.

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post #14 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2017, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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Default Fish Lakes to Devon Lakes via Pipestone Pass

Day 2:

This was probably one of best alpine hikes I ever did. Out of 16.5km only short stretch above Fish Ranger Cabin was below treeline; rest was just one big alpine meadow dotted with lakes, creeks and far reaching views. Took 6.5 hrs; it can be done in far less than that, but why? Perfect weather, no smoke (yet!), crisp and clear, no bugs and warm but not hot. Just perfect. I'd recommend this to anyone really; it is what Banff National Park in summer is all about.

Terrain profile:
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Elevation profile:
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From Fish Lakes trail descends a bit to signed junction: Pipestone River right, Pipestone Pass left. Left is highline route; very few would decide to go to Pipestone Pass via valley / river route. Descend a bit more to Fish Lakes ranger cabin, then -- following signs again -- turn left and cross creek (rock hop). About 100m vertical on a switchbacking trail follows, rest is just pure joy. Pipestone Pass can be reached in ~2hrs from Ranger Cabin on a fast pace; I took 4 with many stop. Several scenic highlights, nicest one might be Moose Lake & it would be perfect overnight spot as well. Final stretch to Pipestone Pass climbs on shale to windswept gap and park table. Photos:

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Fish Lakes Ranger Cabin. It was locked. I actually thought about using outhouse but it was locked too

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Moose Lake, about 45min from Fish Lakes. Very nice bivi spot would be to the right (east) just as you cross lake outlet coming in from Fish side.

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Expansive alpine meadow on east side of Moose Lake

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Classic example of terrain between Moose Lake and Pipestone Pass. Pure joy

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Climbing to Pipestone Pass. I actually thought trail would go to the left side, but it goes right. Left would work too and would bring you to sizeable lake beneath Quartize cliffs

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Parks marker erected on Pipestone Pass; "low route" coming in via Pipestone River joins here as well. You can actually trace it quite a ways down. Parks warn you that this route "is not recommended"

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Rock sign someone made on Pipestone Pass pointing "high route" to Fish Lakes

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[Closer look at Parks table on Pipestone Pass; it is starting to fall apart]

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View on the other side of Pipestone Pass into Siffleur wilderness. Eyes can trace a trail quite a ways down. Directly beneath the pass trail actually goes a bit up, but you can also drop directly on the left side; both routes join in below the pass


From the pass trail gradually descends towards the meadows contouring Devon Mountain on right (east) side, then comes to unsigned junction I did not expect, but it was obvious -- high (right) side is shortcut to Clearwater Pass and Devon Lakes, left descends to valley floor. I took a right; it climbs a bit then soon exits to vast meadows of Clearwater Pass. From there it is still maybe 20-30 minutes to upper Devon Lake that was way larger than I expected.

Devon Lakes is not official campground; it is bivi site, and I registered myself before departure with Parks Canada for 2 nights. There are no bear hangs or anything, so you need mechanism to store your food. I carried bear canister (bought at Atmosphere for 35 bucks only); it is safer than these ursacks, but heavier. At any rate you need to be prepared.

Most people seem to bivi along the trail on left (north) side of the lake; there are several corrals that testify to that. But I found "better" spot. Approaching the lake I left trail and rock-hopped over the outlet and some marshy meadows, then found delightful spot on west side of the lake. Flat terrain, bit of shelter and many very nicely positioned rocks that served well both for kitchen and higher up for stashing my bear canister. Photos:

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Contouring Devon Mountain on the way to Clearwater Pass

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Clearwater Pass alpine environs. Upper Devon Lake is behind the corner to the right, still hidden from view. Mt. Willingdon center

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Upper Devon Lake. If you look closer, you can see my pack lower left I tossed to the ground; this is the spot I'd erect my tent for 2 nights

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Nemo at upper Devon Lake looking north towards Mt. Willingdon


Rest of the afternoon was spent cooking dinner and resting. Nobody in sight, no bugs - just perfect. Enjoyed beautiful sunset colors before retreating for good and peaceful sleep
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[... to be continued: Day 3 ...]
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Last edited by zeljkok; 09-03-2017 at 07:18 PM.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 09-04-2017, 12:44 PM
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Attachment 228434
Parks marker erected on Pipestone Pass; "low route" coming in via Pipestone River joins here as well. You can actually trace it quite a ways down. Parks warn you that this route "is not recommended"
for more than 40yrs I've always taken the "left" route as you approach Pipestone Pass. It always looked a whole lot more friendly to me. Now I know why I've never seen that sign as well, but it appears Parks wants you to take the "alpine" route(but it is far more scenic) to avoid any bear conflicts. Not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense as the bears use the pass as a regular route into the Siffleur regardless.

Last edited by zeljkok; 09-04-2017 at 02:59 PM. Reason: edit to include quote only relevant part, not entire post
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