Expedition Tips: Canadian Rockies

Helpful tips for scrambling Canada's Rocky Mountain parks
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Helpful tips for scrambling Canada's Rocky Mountain parks

Permits

A park pass is required for entering any Canadian national park. Backcountry permits are required for overnight stays-reservations may be needed for popular areas-but not for daytrips like the scrambles described here.

Camping

Many public campgrounds (including Lake Louise in Banff National Park) operate first-come and can fill up on summer weekends; try to arrive or change campgrounds midweek. Some accept reservations (including Boulton Creek Campground in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park). Many campgrounds have full facilities, including showers.

Season

The old line is that the Canadian Rockies get 10 months of winter and 2 months of poor sledding. While some peaks in the Front (easternmost) Ranges can be climbed by late spring, the hikes described here--located on the Continental Divide or west of it--aren't snow-free until mid-July or later. Ideal weather may last into September or, less frequently, October.

Guides

Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, by Alan Kane (3rd edition; $17) describes 156 scrambles from Waterton Lakes north to Jasper National Park, including all eight above. Canadian Rockies Trail Guide, by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson (7th edition; $15, available at www.maptown.com), is the region's hiking bible, covering 233 hikes in 10 national and provincial parks. The Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, vols. 1 and 2, by Gillean Daffern (both 3rd edition; $14 each), cover that spectacular yet little-used area comprehensively.

Safety

The rock here is notoriously loose, and rockfall is a hazard on many routes. Be careful not to kick rocks loose (yell "rock!" if you do), keep your party close together, avoid climbing below another party on steep terrain, and wear a helmet on steeper routes. If snow persists late into summer, some routes may require an ice axe or crampons. Afternoon thunderstorms can be dangerous; start and finish early. Grizzly activity sometimes closes certain trails and areas of backcountry; check with park authorities.