Mt. Robson is a towering giant of a mountain, both in height and width. At a height of 3,954 m (12,972 ft), Mt. Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, and second in British Columbia. What makes it so impressive to look at, however, is the prominence, the distance from the peak to the surrounding area (the lowest encircling contour line, if you must know) – basically how high the mountain looks from the valley floor. With a prominence of 2,829 m (9,281 ft), the mountain is 7th in Canada and 21st in all of North America.
Mt. Robson Provincial Park has been around since 1913, which is something when you consider that hardly anybody lived in the valley. One of the few routes through the Rocky Mountains passes by Mt. Robson, however, and so it has long (relatively, as this is western Canada after all) been an object of admiration and awe.
The Texqakallt Nation called Mount Robson “Yuh-hai-has-kun” or The Mountain of the Spiral Road, given the layers of rock. It almost always has a cap of clouds on it. In fact, the above picture is from a number of years ago – in all my photos from this year the mountain is well shrouded in cloud.
As the clouds get ‘caught’ on the mountain top, the area gets a fair amount of rain, as seen by the temperate rainforest at the base of the mountain. Moss crawls over the ground, surrounding huge cedars. The whole area, in fact, is part of the inland rainforest in the Rocky Mountain Trench, but it is more obvious when hiking up the base to Kinney Lake.
Kinney Lake lies 4.2 km up the Berg Lake trail, a trail that winds through to the north side of the mountain. The lake is named after a climber, Rev. George Kinney, who thought he was the first to summit Mt. Robson but actually didn’t quite make it. Behind it is Whitehorn Mountain (remember this view for an upcoming post!).
The lake, a part of the Robson River, is glacially fed and therefore quite colourful, although what colour the water is depends on the weather and the season. Above, the water is a grey-green. Below, it is intense blue. The photo is old and of terrible quality, but the water really is that colour sometimes.
As glaciers run, like water down a hill but much, much, much slower, the ice grinds over rock and produces ‘rock flour’, a dust that is carried along with the ice. When the ice melts, it carries the dust along with it to produce water that has a distinct cloudy blue colour.
I’ve hiked up to Kinney Lake since before I can remember. It’s a great hike for families or a place to stretch your legs on a long journey – not too long, not too steep, and very beautiful. The trail is wide and easily accommodates a stroller with large wheels. The only thing is that the Robson River runs alongside most of it. While beautiful, the river is incredibly powerful; an adult, much less a child, has not chance if they fall in.
I’ve never heard of anyone falling in, but just so you know.
As a teen, I worked as a naturalist for the park, giving talks and guiding walks, back before those services were cut. I loved that job. I also worked for an adventure company at the base, mostly shuttling vans with trailers and hosing down rafts or canoes. For mandatory volunteer credits in high school, I also volunteered with the rangers who take care of the backcountry, i.e. the Berg Lake trail.
I have so many memories of Berg Lake, but I will save them for another year when I manage to get up there again.
Kinney Lake is also a great place to cross country ski up to in the winter. I remember even coming here on my own as a teen in the winter to ski up with a film camera.
We managed to make it up twice this summer, both with rain. It was, admittedly, a rainy summer. Picnic tables make it an ideal place to bring a picnic and take the time to enjoy the view. The water is frigid, but that doesn’t stop some people. Running into the water is usually accompanied by shrieks and shivers.
Mt. Robson is also fairly close to the headwaters of the Fraser River, where it is a small active river before it becomes the slow wide Fraser that runs into the Pacific Ocean. The below photo was taken across the highway from Mt. Robson.
Back to the Kinney Lake trail…the sound of a roaring river accompanies much of the hike. The air is more humid and thicker than in the mountains around Valemount. But there is a particular smell in that mossy cedar and hemlock forest. Thimble berry bushes and devil’s club (a thorny bush) line the trail and have somewhat similar shaped leaves; the four year olds look carefully before touching.
The towering giant disappears and reappears from view, playing hide and go seek. The closer you get, the less you see.
A fifth child behind completes the circle.
And that, in a nutshell, is Mt. Robson and Kinney Lake.