AB Cen = Alberta Rockies Central (Banff & David Thompson) Hector Lake and Little Pulpit - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2021, 07:41 PM Thread Starter
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Default Hector Lake and Little Pulpit

Hector Lake is major body of water west of Icefields Parkway as one drives north of Lake Louise. I've enjoyed its views many times in the past from summits of Noseeum Peak, Mt. Andromache or Little Hector. But I never bothered to visit - official Parks trail exists and leads to back-country campground at east side of the lake, but it is way too short (~2km) for summer trip. Going further is possible, but has many logistic problems, main one being crossing lake outflow (or the lake itself!). Situation is different in winter & as I absolutely adore crossing frozen mountain lakes I figured I could snowshoe length of the lake to flats on west side under Mt. Balfour. But snow conditions were not in my favor; thick layer of sugary snow on lake surface, and even with snowshoes I'd sink above the shin or deeper. Pulling snowshoe out of that hole would leave pool of water beneath -- not exactly boosting the confidence in regard to safety. Nobody in sight and beauty of the day, so I crossed to west side and followed lakeshore thinking going might be easier, but it wasn't and several times I fell to my waist. Stuborn as I am I made it halfway to Lake Margaret drainage before decided to turn back. Then I remembered "Pulpit Knob" ski tour, article I found here. Well defined ski track went in that direction, so after returning back to outlet I decided to follow & see how far I can get. Going was not particularly difficult until upper slopes when it became a bit dicey. Steep and open slopes that could definitely slide, but I made it, delighted I discovered by pure chance area of Rockies I didn't visit before. Photos tell the story:


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[Parks Sign after trail reaches Bow River, ~20 min from the Icefields. For campground you cross (can be involved in summer) and pair of snowshoe tracks went in that direction. I turned left and followed much better defined ski / snowshoe track heading towards Hector Lake outlet]


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[Further down Bow channel nearing Hector Lake. This part was pure joy]


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[Reaching Hector Lake. "Little Pulpit" is knob directly center across the lake; at this time I had no clue I'd actually end my day there! Pulpit Peak to its right]


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[Someone made an igloo!]


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[Follow the hare! Wallowing across Hector Lake to west side]


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[Painful snowshoeing in heavy wet snow on west side (pic on return). Bow Peak center right, "BowCrow" (accessed from Balfour flats in winter) center left]


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[Panoramic view east from the point I decided to call it quits, after realizing I'd not get anywhere in these conditions. Hector, Andromache and Noseeum can be seen]


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[Hector Peak telephoto. Parks Canada were doing avalanche control whole afternoon and loud "booms" were echoing across the valley]


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[Pulpit Cirque from snow slopes below "Little Pulpit". Pulpit Tarns are below, and there is very good report by -- who else but - Bob Spirko. It is quite dated though]

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[Catching the alpenglow off Hector / Andromache upon descent back to Hector Lake]

Took ~6 hrs, with ~500m elevation & 14km return, but that included over an hour of wallowing in deep and unsupportive snow on west side. Little Pulpit can be done in ~5hrs in good conditions. Map and Elevation Profile:
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Intrigued about whole area on return, I did bit of digging. Could one scramble Pulpit Peak in summer? The answer is yes, and there is even Club Tread report. It is difficult scramble with several logistic problems, including crossing Hector outlet and bushwhacking. There is apparently log jam that makes outlet crossing easier. There are two ways up. More scenic but also more difficult is via Margaret and Turquoise Lakes. Nugara went this way -- see here for report. Other way is via steep boulder/talus slopes above Pulpit Tarns; this avoids the bushwhack and difficult headwall above Margaret lake, but is also less scenic; both can be combined for a loop. Whole thing is more like an expedition, but views from the top on a crisp late summer day must be simply phenomenal.


Detail discussion with more photos here
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Last edited by zeljkok; 03-09-2021 at 02:30 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 03-05-2021, 08:55 PM
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Nice shots, looks like wide open expansive country there. Nice to be retired and enjoy whatever one wants to do.

Not retired as yet myself, your pictures and reports provide a lot inspiration and ideas, and items to put on my wish list.

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post #3 of (permalink) Old 03-09-2021, 11:05 PM
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Originally Posted by KARVITK View Post
Nice shots, ... your pictures and reports provide a lot inspiration and ideas, and items to put on my wish list.
This!

Zeljkok,
Thanks so much for another interesting place to explore. I do remember the name, Hector Lake, and keep imagining I have been there. I'd like to take the time to savor the many offerings along Icefields Parkway.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 03-09-2021, 11:43 PM Thread Starter
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I do remember the name, Hector Lake, and keep imagining I have been there. I'd like to take the time to savor the many offerings along Icefields Parkway.

Just to get to Hector Lake and back would be less than 2 hours, so you can do as side trip/break while driving. Main problem in summer though is crossing of Bow River:
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Note sign -- this is same place as 1st photo in my report. Pic above is during high water, late summer level drops but still not trivial.


Many further options exist, but one must find way to cross to west side of the lake. This is either paddling or dangerous multiple fords at outlet, sometimes facilitated by log jam (still mid thigh). Advanced stuff
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 03-10-2021, 01:01 AM
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Wow , have no idea how big that river is with it being frozen and covered with snow. It is a fairly major river.

K

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post #6 of (permalink) Old 03-10-2021, 05:40 AM
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A nontrivial crossing, for sure. With a suggestion of underwater hazards, not visible through the glacial flour/sediment in suspension but detectable from surface disturbances.
What a treat to see alpenglow on your return path!
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 03-10-2021, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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This is my own image of Hector Lake, taken from Bow Peak. Image is not very good, but it shows how wide the lake really is. Would take probably couple of hours end to end to Balfour flats on snowshoes



I crossed far end center left. I believe trail from Crowfoot Pass drops to Hector Lake (lower center right on photo above); is it possible then to continue on north side to campground for loop trip? I might go find out this summer.
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