Berg Lake- Mastering a Plan
With Parks Canada's 150th birthday this year, people everywhere are going to be taking in the beauty of our National and Provincial Parks. Berg Lake in Mt. Robson Provinical Park, and any of the stops along this trail are a great alternative to Jasper or Banff if you are lucky enough to catch a campsite.
We had always wanted to take Gaia backcountry tenting, but wanted to wait until the time was right. The Berg Lake trail on the legendary Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, is a short drive from where I live, so we set our eyes on it. The final campground on the trail sits 24 km later at 5410 ft of elevation with a starting elevation of 2800 ft. My husband was only able to take 4 days off to commit to the hike and we figured that 48km over 4 days would be too much for Gaia. Even if she had been able to hike that kind of mileage (which I don't think she would have been able to) she would have been complaining and none of us would have enjoyed the trip.
Instead, we searched out Robson Heli-Magic tours . They offer an assortment of Heli-drops around the valley, and are the only tour group to do drop offs on Mt. Robson. We reasoned that if we got dropped off at Robson Pass, that would give us 4 days to hike 24 km out, there would be relatively no elevation gain, and it would ease Gaia into backcountry camping. So we called and made our reservations with Robson Heli-Magic and Parks Canada.
A couple of weeks before the trip we found out that my husband, Kyle, had some mandatory meetings to attend in Calgary and wasn't going to be able to fly with Gaia and I. Nervousness washed over me- not only was I was going to have to do all of the preparations for the trip, but I would also have to carry all of the gear for the two of us by myself. I was also upset that my husband wasn't going to be able to enjoy this special family trip. Instead of letting all of this get us down, we mastered a new plan. Gaia and I would fly in as scheduled and Kyle would bike/hike up and meet us at the second campsite at the end of Day 2.
The week before fly day was an overcast, thundering, raining mess. I stayed up late Thursday packing and repacking our bags, and then- the final weigh in. I had (there will be a more thorough post describing gear): 2 sleeping bags, 2 mats, both of our clothes, a tent for 3, food for 3 people for 4 days, emergency supplies, outerwear, the stove, and cooking gear and I still managed to keep it down to 42 lbs. I was tempted to throw in a bottle of wine for good measure, but opted out at the last minute.
Friday morning, I woke up and looked out the window to find that there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Gaia and I met up with our pilot and he loaded us in and we were off. Of course, Gaia was sly enough to charm her way into the front seat.
Mt Robson is a sight to see from the highway, and she doesn't disappoint from the air. After a short flight, we landed, unloaded, said thanks to our pilot, then the helicopter left and it was just the two of us. The clouds were starting to creep in by then but the sun was still beaming down on us and the panorama of mountain tops wrapped itself around us. We were a little way from the closest campsite so we were able to feel like we were in complete solitude. Paired with the brisk morning air, it was a wonderful feeling.
BY THE NUMBERS:
You can reserve campsites through www.discovercamping.ca
You can book a heli-drop through www.robsonhelimagic.com
You can find more information on the trail itself at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/mt_robson/berg.html
Mt. Robson is nestled in the Canadian rockies on the BC side of the Alberta/BC border close to Jasper, Valemount, and McBride. The hike itself is suited to various levels of fitness. Below I've listed a few of the many different options for the trail.
1. Trailhead to Kinney Lake headwaters
Hiker Level: Beginner- moderate
8.8 kilometres return
There is nominal elevation gain on this trail, and this is the most popular route for day hikers. The trail is wide enough to bring a stroller along but I suggest a BOB or other off-road capable stroller.
2. Trailhead to Kinney Lake campsite
Hiker Level: Beginner- moderate
14 Kilometres return
Once again, nominal elevation gain. It is a beautiful trail and very accessible. There are a few switchbacks shortly after the Kinney Lake picnic area but with proper pacing, it's not unreasonable. I think this is a great place to start with overnight hiking trips for children as it is absolutely beautiful. There is a fair amount of traffic so help is readily available if you are in need. If you make this an overnight trip that breaks it up into 7 kilometres the first day and 7 kilometres the next.
3. Trailhead to Berg Lake over various days.
There are campsites at the following locations:
Kinney Lake 7 km
Whitehorn 11 km
Emperor Falls 16 km
Marmot 19 km
Berg Lake 21 km
Rearguard 22 km
Robson Pass 23 km
Hiker level: moderate to (somewhat) Experienced
On this hike there is a series of switchbacks between Whitehorn and Rearguard which are quite daunting. That being said, when hiking down last time, I met a series of hikers between the ages of 65 and 72 of moderate fitness level who were doing the trail over 7 days. So it is definitely doable. Once you're past Rearguard it's pretty much a walk in the park... literally. I also have met a 6 year old and 8 year old who made the entire trip plus additional kilometres day hiking, but these kids were pretty much born hiking. To be honest, I fully believe that Gaia would not have been able to do the entire trip there and back and enjoy it.
4. Fly in and Hike out.
Hiker level: Moderate
24 kilometres one way
How often do you get the chance to fly into one of the most beautiful places that you've ever imagined? Robson Heli Magic only flies Mondays and Fridays but they're sure not to disappoint. Most recently, we chose to hike out over several days in order to enjoy the trip, but we met many people who were flying in and hiking out on the same day. This is a fantastic option for people who are strapped for time or have children with them and are unsure whether the children can make the switchbacks near Rearguard.
5. Trailhead - Berg Lake and back in one day.
Hiker level: Experienced.
42 kilometres return
The trick is to bike the first 7 km up the trail and then hike the following 14 kilometres to the lake. Bikes are not allowed past the 7 km mark on the trail. The more avid hikers of us can do the whole hike by foot but make sure to leave very early in the day!
6. Berg Lake to Snowbird Pass, Moose River Route, Toboggan Falls, Hargreaves Lake.
Hiker Level: Moderate- Experienced
There are various options from Berg Lake day Hikes, to multi-day adventures. Since I haven't done some of them, I don't feel comfortable writing about them but I'm sure the information is out there.
A note on hiking with kids: I cannot tell you what you or your child is capable of. For anyone looking to hike these trails, I recommend starting small and working your way up to a comfortable level. If you can't walk 8 kilometers on flat ground, I don't recommend trying it on a mountain. If your child is unhappy after 10 minutes of hiking, work them up (and yourself) towards longer and longer distances. There have been many times when I've walked a trail with Gaia and due to different factors, had to turn around after a couple of kilometers. It has yet to be an issue since we often have no set destination, we were just out for a nice walk. Hiking with children, as with anything in life, is a fine balance of knowing when to push them, when to pull back, and when to just listen.