Mt. Trudeau, near Valemount, BC, Canada, contains picturesque valleys and views – but not for the faint of heart.
This summer our family was fortunate to visit Canada for over two months. With a few pauses on the West coast, we spent all our time in my hometown of Valemount, BC.
High on the To Do List was get in as much hiking as I could, not an easy feat with four children. When a friend organized a group to go hiking up Mt. Trudeau, therefore, I jumped at the chance. Who better to hike with children than a large group of enthusiastic but laid back young people?
The mountain’s full name is Mt. Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Officially named in 2006, it belongs to the Premier Range which has been set aside to honour former prime ministers of Canada. The peak rises to 2,640 m (8,661 ft).
Mt. Trudeau is a favourite hike of mine, for the simple fact that it’s a shortish hike to get out of the forest and have beautiful views. Notice I said short, not easy.
Two friends of mine, Joe and Noland, actually built the trail when they were 14. I remember helping them for a few days and they were adamant that the trail was going to go the shortest way possible – no switchbacks allowed. 14 year olds are known for lots of energy and no knee problems.
The end result is that the first part of the trail (to the end of the valley in the top photo) climbs over 450 m (1500 feet) in 3 km (less than 2 miles). Most of the elevation gain is in the first 2 km.
It’s a narrow trail, somewhat bushy now. And the creek crossing is rather rudimentary:
The ‘bridge’ across the creek. Photo by Maddi Pickerl
But a mere hour and a half-ish hike brings you out of the trees and into a valley, complete with a stream of absolutely clear running water, with a view of Mt. Trudeau on one end and Mt. Robson on the other.
The first view of Mt. Trudeau
The trail appears and disappears along this part of the valley. It’s wet; from above it looks like a lush valley with a stream, but it contains many little rivulets running into the creek and a lot of squooshy moss.
At the end of the valley is a pond, with clear clear water. As alpines lakes go it’s on the warm side, as there is no incoming (cold) water source and it’s possible to go for a dip.
The first little lake/pond, facing west.
Originally, I thought the kids and I might just go as far as the first little lake. The older girls, 10 and 8, had bounded ahead at the top of the pack, motivated by fun people whose cool factor is much higher than mom’s. The twins, at 4, had done pretty well too. So, as nobody seemed put out by being held back by a bunch of kids – actually, they were very encouraging – we continued on.
The trail only goes as far as the first lake, after that you find your own way. It’s not possible to get lost, the options of places to go are fairly limited. The obvious place to go is up the waterfall (seen in the top photo). Well, not on the waterfall, but following an old rock slide and then angling right/west.
It was a little steep. Photo by Maddi Pickerl
Such a beautiful waterfall means that the hill is very steep, and it is also full of vegetation. The kids scampered up without a problem, but one person I invited was not used to scrambling. There is a certain skill set that I take for granted, finding the best line and digging the side of your foot into the hill, that you don’t learn in a city.
An exceptionally strong young lady makes my hike much easier. Photo by Maddi Pickerl
At the top of the waterfall is a bowl with a meadow, with more waterfalls and incredible views.
Mt. Robson, highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 m (12,972 ft).
Continuing to the right.
After lunch at the big rock, we split up. Some people headed back down and some people, including the two older girls, headed to alpine lakes that are above the next ridge. I decided the stay in the basin with the twins and wait. They are, after all, only four. I didn’t want to push them too hard, but I didn’t want to go down either.
I had such a lovely time, exploring with the twins and not hurrying anywhere. My son gets twice as much energy as usual around rock slides, bounding over and around rocks and leaving his sister behind. I had some consternation when he didn’t -couldn’t – wait and went ahead on his own, as he could step badly on a rock and get hurt, but I let it go. It’s an education in practical physics.
Bounding over rocks
Snow in the summer!
What you don’t see in the beautiful pictures are the mosquitoes. This mountain always has an abundance of the little blood sucking menaces. I had only thrown in a pair of leggings for pants, as it was supposed to be a warmer day than it was, and leggings are absolutely no protection against mosquitoes.
Watching the continuing hikers.
The hikers who continued on up to the next lakes did so to complete their goal for the hike – crazy carpet down the snow into the lake, complete with a shovel to make a jump. Those lakes are not just cold, they are frigid. To jump in, you need to have a unique sense of adventure and willingness to be rather uncomfortable. Although I’m sure it’s most refreshing.
Sliding into frigid waters. Photo by Noland Germain
And then we headed down again. Now, this was no simple task with the twins. A good part down the hill from the basin to the first lake was spent on our bums. The hill is steeper than it looks and the vegetation makes it slippery, especially if you don’t have good foot gear (which I didn’t).
Photo by Noland Germain
I don’t often brag about my kids, but I was very proud of them. It was over a 12 hour day, from the time we left Valemount until the time we got back. The older girls had gained a good chunk of elevation, and my oldest even slid into the snow-fed waters. We were tired, for sure, but it was the good kind of tired, weary but with a sense of accomplishment.
A big thank you to all the other hikers who helped with the kids and had patience with our slower pace!
Before the mountain had an official name, we used to call it Skill Hill Mountain. Joe, one of the trail builders, has always had a vision of the mountain having a ski resort on it. On the other side of the ridges are glaciers, some of which are possible to ski on in the summer. And now a ski hill is slated to begin construction in the spring of 2017. I admit that I am conflicted on the resort – it would bring a welcome injection into the economy of a small isolated town but at the same time it’s important to preserve the pristine wilderness of such a beautiful area.