Adventure Report: Hiking Abbott Ridge in Glacier National Park (Canada)

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Buffy and my partner taking in the views on Abbott Ridge.

Glacier National Park (Canada) is located in between Yoho National Park and Revelstoke Mountain National Park, about an hour east of Revelstoke British Columbia. This park is known for being home of the Rogers Pass, a pass made famous for it’s big mountains and intense avalanche activity (sadly made famous when the rail was trying to build through the pass and a large avalanche in 1910 killed 62 men, eventually the rail was re-routed through a mountain via a tunnel). The park is a mecca for backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the winter and home to several camping sites and many amazing trails in the summer. The mountain range that runs through the park is the Selkirks, which run all the way down and into the states. The mountains in this park are big, steep and in the winter, covered in deep powder. 

This summer, my partner and I headed over for a couple days of camping. We visit this park regularly all winter to do backcountry skiing and snowboarding, but have only made a couple of short visits in the summer. We made it a goal of ours to do a bit of exploring in the area over a couple of days. After car troubles delayed out trip, we opted to get one large hike in with my dog Buffy tagging along (Cody sat this weekend out by spending time with my mother who had just lost her cat).

We camped at Illecillewaet campground. Our site was magical and located right next to a stream so we could cool our beer cans, Buffy could soak to her leisure, and after a big day of hiking, we could soak our feet. The campground is first come, first served and given its picture perfect location, it is quite busy! We snagged the last site after getting in around 3pm on a Thursday. 

Our objective for Friday was Abbott Ridge, the trail climbs with about 1,000 meters of vertical gain and is anywhere from 14-20km long from the campground, depending on your route choice. Given the hot weather, we opted for an early night to bed on Thursday so we could get up early on Friday and hit the trail first thing.

We hit the trail around 6:30am on Friday, only to discover, about a km in, that we had left lunch behind at the camp. So I ran back to the campground, leaving Buffy and my partner behind with my bag, to grab our food. Once I got back, we finally started the climb.

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Marion Lake in stillness, before Buffy jumped in.

The first part of the hike takes you through endless, fairly steep, switchbacks all the way to Marion Lake. It’s a beautifully maintained trail and it wasn’t too warm but it was humid and we hiked in that weird temperature where you are cold but sweating due to all of the dew in the air; always a strange feeling. Once we got up to Marion lake, we took a detour to check out a beautiful view point, and then headed to the lake to throw the stick for Buffy. Hiking with a husky mix in the summer means you have to soak her at every opportunity. She was thrilled.

After a short break for a snack, we continued up and made it to the junction in the trail. You can opt for the short cut or the long way. We opted for the short cut. It’s steeper but with the sun coming up and the temperature rising, we wanted to make sure we summited as quickly as possible. The short cut is indeed quite a bit steeper, but we continued up until we finally broke through the treeline and into a beautiful alpine meadow. It was stunning and such a relief after hiking in the trees for several hours.

We found a melt pond in the meadows that helped to cool Buffy off, and by now we needed some serious food so we sat to eat some lunch. I was so happy we had realized we had forgotten lunch early enough for me to go back and get it. There would have been some serious hanger without lunch on such a hot day.

As we left the meadow to head up for the last climb, the trail continued to switchback, but in a much more gentle way. We switchbacked up to the rock face in front of us and started the traverse around. We encountered our first snow patch around the side of the trail. Buffy rejoiced and took a snow bath of epic proportions. Then the last climb started.

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Heading back down the final climb to the top of the ridge.

Gaining the ridge from this point was straight forward and not too difficult. The trail had been expertly maintained from the bottom to the top. It was incredible. As the ridge flattened out, we were treated to 360 degree views of the amazing peaks in the park. We could see the Illecillewaet glacier perfectly. The rewards of this hike were incredible.

On our way down, we opted to take the long way down, thinking it might spare the knees a little. The trail traverses for a long time and we found ourselves not exactly regretting our choice, but wishing it was shorter. However, when we turned a corner heading further from our campsite and thinking ‘oh god, how long is this going to be’, we stopped in our tracks to see the views of the Asulkan valley. We hadn’t seen this view on our more direct approach and the new awe inspiring views made the seemingly long detour worth it.

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Our surprise view of the Asulkan Valley.

When we finally made it back to camp after endless switchbacks, we threw our camping chairs into the creek and iced our sore feet in the creek while we cracked some beers.

To say Glacier National Park is spectacular, would be an understatement. In the winter as much as in the summer, the mountains in the park tower over you in ways that make you feel tiny and so insignificant. They are steep, tall, full of inspiring rock faces you could only climb with a rope, and jagged peaks that drive a desire to attempt to. I am most often in the Rockies adventuring on those large mountains, but the Selkirk Mountains are different. They’re alluring and always seem to drive my desire to adventure even higher.

 

 

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