Wastach Mountain

When Rafal (Raff) Kazmierczak invited me to join him for an ascent of unofficially-named Wastach Mountain near Moraine Lake in Alberta's Banff National Park, my initial reaction was somewhat lukewarm.  Wastach Mountain was not on my radar of summits I was interested in tagging, and the weather forecast did not appear very promising either.  Nevertheless, I was eager to return to the mountains after a somewhat lengthy absence, and consequently, I dragged myself out of bed at a God-forsaken hour to meet Raff on the morning of 6 October 2013.  Given that the ascent of Wastach Mountain is relatively short, I was a bit perplexed about the need for a pre-dawn start until Raff revealed to me during the drive that we were going to be joining some other hikers at Lake Louise.  These other hikers turned out to be Fabrice Carrara, Charles Fortin, and Josée Ménard.  Josée and Fabrice are, of course, the authors of, a great resource for peak-bagging around Golden, British Columbia as well as many other areas in the Columbia Mountains and the Canadian Rockies.

After some brief introductions, we all drove to the Moraine Lake parking lot and quickly geared up for our hike.  The group set a brisk pace up the rising trail, and it was not long before I was feeling the effects of not hiking for over 50 days.  Thankfully, we took plenty of rest stops which allowed me time to catch my breath and even join in on some conversations.  As predicted, the sky was overcast, but the views of the golden larches and the surrounding peaks were still sufficiently impressive for everyone to stop frequently and take photographs.  The hike along the trail to Wenkchemna Pass was actually so enjoyable that we nearly missed the turnoff to climb up Wastach Mountain.

Although the ascent route is not complicated (go up gully and talus slope), the upper mountain is much steeper than expected, and on this day, lots of fresh, unconsolidated snow made the footing both slippery and treacherous (I stepped into lots of deep holes among the boulders).  Despite the problems with traction, we all arrived at the summit without serious mishap and in good spirits.  Views were rather disappointing due to the low cloud cover, but at least the weather conditions were relatively mild at the summit.  Highlights at the summit included Josée disco-dancing and Fabrice breaking out some Twix chocolate bars and Jägermeister.  These two really know how to party!

Leaving the summit, we utilized snow slopes wherever we could to make our descent easier.  While Josée managed to glissade long stretches of snow, the others attempted to do the same with mixed results.  I opted to plunge-step as the snow was not quite abundant and consolidated enough to bear my full weight.  Upon regaining the trail, we enjoyed an uneventful hike back to the parking lot.  Even dodging the afternoon crowds on the trail was only mildly annoying.

Lousy weather aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my company on this day, and I look forward to hooking up again with any and all of them for a future trip.

Be sure to check out Charles' photos here as well as Josée's and Fabrice's photos.
There was already quite a few tourists milling about here in the early morning. Mount Bowlen towers above Moraine Lake.
Josée must be the happiest person in the world because she is always smiling! Josée emerges from the trees high above the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
The Crazy Pole wields a crazy pole! Raff checks out Eiffel Lake.  At left in the distance is Wenkchemna Pass.
Looks fairly straightforward... Wastach Mountain comes into view along the trail.
We almost missed going up here! Josée and Raff start climbing up the steep gully.
Snow conditions were marginal on this day... Eiffel Lake is far below Fabrice as he makes his way up the gully.
It's still another 300 metres elevation gain from here, plus it gets quite steep! The final slope looks deceptively easy from near Wastach Pass.
It has been over 10 years since I climbed Eiffel Peak. Fabrice pauses on the slope to adjust his gear.  In the background is Eiffel Peak.
Watch your step! Fabrice walks along the summit ridge above the precipitous north face of Wastach Mountain.  Raff is visible at the summit.
A very happy group! On the 2832-metre summit of Wastach Mountain are (L to R) Fabrice, Josée, Charles, Raff and Sonny.
Probably can't see much of anything from the top of Eiffel Peak today! Pinnacle Mountain (left) and Eiffel Peak dominate the view to the east.
Nothing like a hard-on to spoil a picture! To the north, a striking gendarme partially obstructs the view of the lake at the head of Paradise Valley.

Marko Stavric was actually somewhere down there when this photo was taken.

Here is a more comprehensive view of Paradise Valley.

Not much else to look at on this cloudy day... Eiffel Lake is partially visible to the southeast in the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
It's almost a conga line! The group heads back to the access gully.

And now, no. 3...the Larch!

Here is a close-up of some larch needles.

I've forgotten how terrific the scenery is here! Mount Babel and Moraine Lake still look impressive despite the overcast weather.
A relatively easy trip with great rewards...if it's sunny! Total Distance:  ~14.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 19 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1012 metres