Plain Of The Six Glaciers

In the wake of a recent fresh dump of snow, Shaun Luong, Marta Wojnarowska, Zosia Zgolak and I headed to Lake Louise in Alberta's Banff National Park for our first backcountry ski tour of the season on 24 October 2020.  Conscious of the hazards of early season ski conditions, we opted for a relatively simple trip to Plain Of The Six Glaciers as described in Chic Scott's guidebook, Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies.

Starting from the Lake Louise parking lot, we dodged a few tourists as we skied past Chateau Lake Louise on the lakeshore trail.  The trail was nicely packed and very easy to ski at least as far as the west end of Lake Louise.  Beyond the lake, the trail narrows and begins to climb steadily up the valley below the southeast slopes of Mount Whyte.  With a deeper mid-winter snow pack, it would make more sense to ski along the valley bottom, but since snow coverage was still thin on this day, we stuck pretty much to the summer trail.  Furthermore, the trail had already been packed down by hikers, and naturally, we were compelled to follow it even though it became increasingly more difficult to do so in our light touring gear.  While some of us had brought climbing skins, it was simpler to just pick up our skis and walk up the steeper sections of trail.  At the switchbacks below Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse, I was wondering why we were even bothering to drag our skis up a trail that we had no hope of skiing back down, but before I had a chance to protest, we had already arrived at the teahouse and were settling in comfortably for a lunch break in the sunshine.

After our lunch break, Shaun, Marta, Zosia and I carried on toward Abbot Pass Viewpoint, but we only made it as far as the end of the broken trail about 675 metres beyond the teahouse.  The terrain was becoming uncomfortably steep for our light touring gear, and none of us were in the mood to break trail any further.  As such, we turned around here and skied back to the teahouse before carrying our skis down the switchbacks and a little further until we felt comfortable enough to strap our skis on again.  There were a few exhilarating moments on the ski back to the lake, but fortunately, we all made it down in one piece.  We had no further issues skiing back to Chateau Lake Louise along the lakeshore trail.

Look at me, I'm as helpless as a kitten up a tree...

Lake Louise is misty on this cold morning.


Watch out for lollygagging tourists! The group skis along the lakeshore trail.
Much less tourists at this end of the lake! Marta and Zosia arrive at the west end of Lake Louise.
Anybody wanna climb this? The group skis past some impressive cliffs beyond the end of the lake.
Tough skiing! Without climbing skins, Shaun struggles a bit to climb up the narrow trail.
Need more snow here! The terrain opens up further along the trail.
With more snow, this gully looks mighty tempting to ski! The group takes a break near the bottom of an avalanche gully below Popes Peak (right of centre).
Let's see how far we get... The group carries on along the trail to Abbot Pass Viewpoint with Mount Victoria in the background.
Glad we're here and not there! Spindrift can be seen tumbling down a cliff ahead.
Now for the tricky part--getting down from here with light touring skis! Despite stopping well short of Abbot Pass Viewpoint, Sonny, Zosia, Shaun and Marta are still happy to have gotten this far with their light touring skis.
Big hunk of rock! The northern aspect of Mount Lefroy looks rather impregnable.
Who's idea was it to ski up here? The return ski is challenging to say the least.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

No need to risk our necks! The group is not too proud to walk down steeper sections of the trail.  The snow pack is still too thin to ski on anyway.
Ice, ice baby! Icicles adorn a cliff band beside the trail.

I wonder if I can get a deal there on

Chateau Lake Louise looks brilliant in the late day sun.


Watch out for some thin spots on the pathway! Marta returns to Chateau Lake Louise.
A nice warmup for the ski season. Total Distance:  14.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  5 hours 55 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  475 metres

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