When you backpack, there are sacrifices to be made. You sleep on the ground, usually dirty and sticky from not washing yourself properly (or at all), you don't eat right, you don't rest properly etc etc. But this is the price for being able to wake up in amazing remote areas; when you crawl out of the tent in the morning and realize where you are, and what kind of day lies ahead, all troubles are forgotten! Sipping my coffee ( unused pouch brought back from Vietnam trek, of all places) with instant oatmeal and nature valley granola bar I kept surveying prime alpine environment in anticipation of spectacular day ahead. Light day-pack only, and no specific goal -- just keep following your nose; no chasing peaks, no "must do this or that" -- just enjoy and be happy to be alive in such a wonderful place. I did want to see Valley of the Lakes (Afternoon Lakes), but how will I get there I was not sure yet -- such is the beauty of absolutely not having to do anything or following pre-established plans.
[Morning at a bivi site; looking up alpine meadows leading to Cline Pass; Guardgoat peak center (above tent). Most of other peaks in area are unnamed; that by itself speaks of general area remoteness]
[Hiking gentle meadows in general direction of Cline Pass. "GG" -- Guardgoat Peak, "W" -- Mt. Willis, "AC" -- usual Afternoon Lakes col route, Cline Pass in between "W" and "AC", "BDT" -- best day trip from from Cataract bivi area, "U" - unnamed peak, "S" - Mt. Stewart]
What is "BDT"? I could not find any reference that someone went that way & it really surprises me. This would be superior easy route to get quite high without paying huge price; views into the "Valley of the Lakes" would be outstanding and just look at the ridgewalk to left of "BDT"!!!!
[Easy looking route to superb viewpoint of Afternoon Lakes Valley followed by splendid ridgewalk]
I toyed with the idea; but I also wanted to explore Cline Pass, so I decided to head there first and then possibly return -- it is ~20minutes away at most. But Cline Pass is fantastic & I simply refuse to rush; why go then if you are on the clock? So I sat down by second Cline Tarn which is simply delightful; no bugs whatsoever (!!!), took quick dip, had early lunch -- and fell asleep! Waking up about an hour later I turned my gaze up normal route to Afternoon Lakes valley; boulder strewn slope directly above Cline Pass, that has quite a bad rap.
[Strange Creature at Second Cline Tarn, wondering if it would be possible to build some sort of log cabin here & not come back to "civilization"]
[Boulder slope leading to "Afternoon Col"; considerably worse than it appears here. It is not the grade, it is the unstable shifting boulders that make going fairly tedious. Red line is my route up; lower down I tried to utilize snow as much as possible, and then higher up -- armed with JHector tip (thanks again)! I stayed climber right. This route had unmistakable signs of human traffic; boot prints in dried mud. Hardest part was near the top but I generally had less problems than anticipated. I'd rate this easy/moderate scramble, if you stay on easiest path]
After about 45-50minutes I topped up by couple of cairns ~50m vertical above obvious low point, almost under that pointy peak upper right. And views down Valley of the Lakes opened up; panorama I wanted to see for many years. It is quite unreal, over a dozen of lakes of different colors scattered down glacial moonscape! I dropped to the saddle, found sheltered spot and soaked it all up, then continued for about half an hour on ridge towards Mt. Willis. This ridge is not as easy as you might think from below; not easy going scree, but boulders that shift and slow you down as you must stay focused; ankle twist or worse is real possibility. Eventually I decided to call it a day; I estimated at least 2 hrs more to Mt. Willis in such terrain & I really saw no purpose in torturing myself. I sat again, and 20 mins (and at least 100 of photos) later I started back.
[Topping up on Afternoon Col; Cline Pass below. Guardgoat Mtn. above]
[Panoramic view from Afternoon Col. Cline Pass / Guardgoat center left, Cline canyon (eventually extending to Brazeau River for outstanding loop !) center, Mt. Willis upper right]
[Pano into Valley of the Lakes. No picture really does justice to this out-of-this-world place, bedrock scoured by glacial retreat, dotted with multi-colored alpine tarns that even appears it might belong to another planet alltogether]
[Telephoto to largest, glacially fed Afternoon Tarn; what a place!]
[Very steep drop into Valley of the Lakes from the saddle; this picture does not reveal it all. People apparently descend this way, but I believe it is more difficult that Cline Pass side. I could also not tell if there were cliffs lower down]
[Bouldery Mt. Willis ridge from my turnaround point. "W" - Mt. Willis, "AR" - possible alternate route into Afternoon Lakes Valley. Descent on this side is definitely possible, I am not sure about terrain is on Brazeau side. Afternoon Peak (out of picture, right -- looks more like a long ridge) would likely be a scramble from there]
I took time descending, not wanting to slip or roll ankle. It was easier than expected, and lower down I boot skied a bit before dropping all the way back to alpine area above second Cline Tarn. Encountering bit of trail, I followed it out of curiosity but it vanished at start of "Cline Canyon"; possibly it reappears lower down. Turned back and went for another, now mid-afternoon dip, before starting slow descent back to campsite -- encountering pack of wolverines along the way! (see photos at top of thread). Decided to eat dinner on little rise above the campsite, as it offered great views down Cataract Creek towards Pinto Lake area; awesome backpacking route by itself
[Snowdrift at start of Cline Canyon ~100m below second tarn outlet]
[Faint trail by Second Cline Tarn going back to Cataract area]
[Interesting rock formations descending meadows towards Cataract bivi. Cirrus peak above]
[Lower Cataract Creek valley from rise above bivi site, that also had cairn. Good trail runs along skier right side of Cataract Creek below Cirrus peak]
Back to bivi with nobody around; made quick tea, and went to bed with that unique feeling you get only after you have spent day exploring such amazing alpine environments we are lucky to have living in Canada.
[... to be continued ...]