Landslide Lake

June 20, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Distance: 11 km return
Elevation gain: 1200 m
Maximum elevation: 2600 m

This is a highly scenic hike which I much prefer to the approach from the Pinto Lake trailhead. The trail to Landslide lake from the south begins just beyond Whirlpool Ridge towards the Banff Park boundary. The trailhead is well signed and the route is obvious. After passing through the burn on the valley floor, the trail begins to climb away from Wild Horse creek along an exposed spine, with Whirlpool Ridge on your right side. Once you leave the creek, water is not abundantly available. The trail is relentlessly uphill but the footing is never loose.

At treeline, you recross the creek onto the southeast side where there are a couple informal campsites. This is the most overgrown part of the trail, but you fight through some trees for only a short while before it opens up completely. Work your way up the obvious ridge to your right towards a knob, with the col visible beyond. The high peak to the left has plenty of cornices even at this time of year, whose failure has led to many avalanches into the upper valley from the northwest. We watched a couple cornices drop onto bare rock below. Hence, the southeast side of the upper valley is the proper route.

On this trip, we hit the snow line at 2200m, with much of it being recent. It was ankle/shin deep to the first col. From here, we continued to the right, to a small peak with a saddle on each side with views down to Landslide Lake; post-holing through isothermal snow from knee to thigh deep was lots of fun.

The total distance to the south end of the lake is 7.5 km. The lake is often open by the last week in June, depending on the year. Keep in mind, the descent towards the lake will have snow well into the first part of July because of the north aspect. As an aside, Lake of the Falls, being smaller and higher elevation, is often not free of ice until the first week of July. Summer is obviously very late arriving in the high country this year.

Our group split up at the upper valley. The girls headed back down, and the boys continued to the top. It took us about 4 hours to the top of the peak, and just over 1.5 hours to get down. The women told us about how they caught up to some hikers wearing t-shirts, jeans, and running shoes on the way back to the trailhead who had apparently turned around from their attempt to reach Landslide Lake. They didn't know what they were getting into, that's for sure.

Landslide Lake Col, Bighorn Backcountry, AB Landslide Lake Col, Bighorn Backcountry, AB Landslide Lake, Bighorn Backcountry, AB Landslide Lake, Bighorn Backcountry, AB Wild Horse Creek Burn, AB


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