Canadian Rockies Fall Colors Highlights Part 1 Mount Assiniboine

So I decided to take a friend of mine who had never been up to the Canadian Rockies around Banff for Fall colors.  And a chance to try out the Fuji GFX50s medium format camera in this beautiful environment.

I put together a simple plan starting with two nights in the Mount Assiniboine area and Magog Lake campground.  I arranged for us to fly in from the Mount Shark helipad near Canmore and then set up camp and explore.  We got some nice light, met quite a few great people and did a lot of hiking to check out the fall colors in the area.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on my first visit to the area and was ready to compare to my Lake O’Hara experiences.  What I learned:

Lake Magog tent pads have very sharp rocks.
The water available is unfiltered.
It’s about a half an hour walk to the campground from the helipad.
The common cooking area is un-enclosed and unlit.

These are observations in comparison to the Lake O’Hara facilities and things to keep in mind when packing.  Beyond the camping, the surrounding beauty is unrelenting, especially in the Fall.

To get to the area, you can either hike 13 miles in or take a 10 minute helicopter ride:

Helicopter Pad Heading to Mount Assiniboine

Helicopter Pad Heading to Mount Assiniboine

Our Fjallraven Tent Ready for Anything

Our Fjallraven Tent Ready for Anything in the Lake Magog Campground

An abundance of Fall Colors around the Mount Assiniboine area.  Larches were turning and many more were ready to turn.

Trail Through the Larches Past Sunburst Peak

Trail Through the Larches Past Sunburst Peak

Golden Fall Colors Leading to Mount Assiniboine

Golden Fall Colors Leading to Mount Assiniboine

The main hike in the area is the climb up to the Nub to look back down at Sunburst Lake, Sunburst Peak and Mount Assiniboine beyond.

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak from the Nub

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak from the Nub

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak Beneath Dramatic Skies

Mount Assiniboine and Sunburst Peak Beneath Dramatic Skies

One morning down next to Lake Magog revealed a mist-covered lake that later cleared up to show Mount Assiniboine.

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist Golden Light

Mount Assiniboine in the Mist Golden Light

We spent two amazing nights in the Mount Assiniboine area.  We had to leave too soon for the next leg of our trip but hope to  be back next year for more amazing landscapes.

Golden Larches Fall Colors Hiking and Photography: Enchantments 2017

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Enchantments Prusik Peak Perfection Lake View

Each year I contemplate the hike I will be making into the Enchantments for larches and fall colors.  I go over hiking gear lists, camera gear, food plans, compositions, etc.  I decided to go Snow Lakes route this year, having gone Asgaard Pass out of the Stuart Lake trailhead the previous two years.

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

My Zpacks pack ready to go at Snow Lakes Enchantments Hike Trailhead

We planned on staying 3 days near Leprechaun Lake.  The weather report indicated snow in the area we wanted to camp in and temps in the 20s so I packed accordingly.  My tent was the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1.  My sleeping bag was the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 0 degree and Thermarest Xtherm pad.  My pack was the Zpacks Arc Blast cuben/carbon pack.  Arc’Teryx Bora2 boots, Cerium SV and Alpha FL jacket, Rampart pants and Atom LT insulated pants.  There’s a reason why I worked retail at the ArcTeryx store for two years  🙂

My camera gear was my Sony a7r2, Zeiss 55 and Zeiss 16-35 lenses along with my Voigtlander 10mm.  I brought my carbon tent pole tripod, which was pretty underwhelming so my shots were all handheld.  For hydration, I brought two small bottles of gatorade and made more with Endurox R4 and electrolyte tabs as I hiked.  Food-wise, I had oatmeal and high protein granola, a stack of peanut butter and honey sandwiches and a pile of snacks heavy on Snickers bars.  I left the trailhead at 32lbs, which I was pretty happy with. FWIW, I don’t do poles after an unfortunately pole to tooth incident a few years back, and I drink straight out of fast-moving streams.  This has always worked for me, but I don’t necessarily recommend it for others.

Once the dates were in place, I put out some invites for others to go along.  All this inviting resulted in two people going with me: Jenn and Erwin.  Erwin insisted on camping halfway up which is new to me but we found camping at Snow Lakes to be a nice break and got some great shots there.

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Snow Lake Enchantments Sunrise Light

Another nice part of staying at Snow Lake is that the next section is flat for a while.  Having rounded Snow Lake, however, the climbing begins.  We took it slow and got to Leprechaun Lake in a few hours.

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

Jenn and Erwin Climbing up Towards Lake Vivianne

We camped near Leprechaun Lake and set out getting photos.It was a great trip as always.  Oncoming snow showers sent us back down a bit earlier than expected but we decided caution was in order.  As I write this a few days later, I, of course, already want to go back  🙂  Here is a random sampling of shots from the hike:

Many more shots at Mike Reid Photography

Road Trip to Banff for Golden Larches and Fall Colors

The Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State is my usual Hiking to Fall Colors Larch Fest, but this year I put together a trip to the Banff area for some camping and Larch photography.  My friend and I had about a week to play with so I arranged some last minute camping at Lake O’Hara to start the trip.  From there we would head to Lake Moraine for Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  I’d heard reports that the colors were glorious mid September and a bit of snow had freed up some of the reserved months in advance camping spots at Lake O’Hara.

We spent two days at the campground and did a bit of hiking up around Opabin Prospect to capture amazing views that finally cleared up a bit on our last evening.  I brought my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent, Mountain Hardware Phantom Zero degree bag and Kahtoola microspikes, all of which I was glad to have and made the trip a lot more pleasant.  We were warm and dry in the tent, I was warm in my bag and the spikes made getting up and back down the icy trails a lot safer.

 

View of Lake Mary and O'Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

View of Lake Mary and O’Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

We came back down after two nights and headed to Lake Moraine Lodge for some photography and hiking around the Lake itself and then up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  Lake Moraine was spectacular as always with a dusting of snow atop the Ten Peaks that surround the lake.

The next morning at 5am, we set out to hike into Larch Valley and up up to Sentinel Pass.  We hoped to hit the golden larches around sunrise and found ourselves in a wonderland of fall colors as the sun rose.

 

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Eventually we headed back down the now-crowded trail, catching even more glimpses of Fall’s splendor in the valley.

The next part of our journey took us to Bow and Peyto Lakes, before heading back to Seattle. Peyto was crowded and not its usual impressive self so we headed up the road to Bow Lake and waited for dusk  The dusting of snow on Crowfoot Mountain made for a dramatic reflection.

The next morning, we headed back west towards the border and on to Seattle. In two weeks we would be heading into the Enchantments Lakes Basin for 5 days of backcountry Cascades fall colors and beautiful tarns.

 

 

First of the Fall Colors Larches – Blue Lake

Fall colors were beckoning out on Highway 20. Its a bit of a drive to this wonderland from Seattle, but oh so worth it. There are several awesome fall colors hikes along the highway. We arrived at the Blue Lake trailhead in the afternoon to a full parking lot and cars parked out on Highway 20. When we came back after sunset, the lot was empty.

This trail is in great shape. No stairsteps over roots, mostly dry. Came across several people with dogs. I love seeing dogs on the trail. Honestly most dogs treat the wilderness better than many people. Anyway the lake and the larches are spectacular. Incredible views in every direction. A short easy hike with incredible payoff. Warming up for the Enchantments next week and this is a nice introduction.  #larches #fallcolors

 

Blue Lake Fall Colors Reflection

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Fall Colors Bokeh – Zeiss 85mm Otus Wide Open on Sony A7R2

I am crazy about back lit maple leaves.  Actually any fall colors leaves.  I heard that back in the middle ages, churches told bible stories to parishioners using stained glass.  They would walk into the church agape at the lights and colors.  Its how I feel amongst the leaves, looking up.

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Enchantments Fall Colors Camping Hiking Ultralight Survival Guide

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First off I should say that I cant stay away from the Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State.  Each Fall, I have to go at least once.  The first time I went, I carried way too much stuff and finished the through hike in 17 hours with bleeding feet and a strong desire to crawl back to my car.  Two weeks later however, I wanted to go again.  Since then, I have become a scientist of sorts figuring out how to lighten my load and make the whole experience more fun.

Last week, I headed up to get some fall color before I fly off to China for a work trip this week.  I saw a lot of miserable people coming up the trail, carrying too much stuff. Actually it was usually one excited person and then the others they had talked into going. I recommend taking a hard look at your load and gear. My pack was a 45L Zpacks Arc Blast, which weighs less than a pound and carries beautifully. My bag was a 10 degree Zpacks 900 fill down bag which weighs 22 ounces. My tent is a Tarptent Contrail which weighs 27 ounces and has never let me down.  I won’t soon forget seeing someone carrying a full-sized Costco tent, still in the box, bungee-corded to their pack.  Or hikers carrying iron skillets.  Ugh.  And for the record, you don’t have to spend a lot to go light.  Ebay, hiker gear for sale sites, craigslist and manufacturer’s website bargain bins are all great sources of discounted gear.  I seldom if ever buy new and only as a last resort.

I saw people carrying gallon jugs of water. I carry one small bottle of gatorade and filter as i go with a Sawyer bag filter. I carry “gatorade” tablets to make more as i go along. Now the camera gear is where i splurge, since that is why I am going.  I recently swtiched from Canon to Sony, which lightened my load a bit.  I see people carrying Gitzo 4 series tripods.  I would never do this.  I carry my Gitzo 0540 and it feels excessive.  Other times I have carried my Tamrac Zipshot hiking pole tripod which weighs 8oz.

I will expand on this topic as more thoughts come to mind.  Thanks for listening. #ultralight #tarptent #zpacks #enchantments #hiking #backpacking #fallcolors

Enchantments Lakes Basin Fall Colors with Zeiss 85mm Otus and Sony a7r2

The Enchantments Lakes Basin is one of the toughest and most rewarding hikes in Washington.  Once you’ve been up there, it’s hard to stay away as the larches turn golden in late September.  This year I decided to take two cameras, three lenses and two tripods.  I was particularly excited to see how the Zeiss 85mm Otus would capture the detail and the glow of the larches as they showed off their autumn palette.

I camped overnight and eagerly anticipated the morning light.  About an hour before sunrise, I headed out with the Otus mounted via Metabones on my Sony a7r2.  I tried to capture not only the broad landscape of fall colors but also the closeup details of the larches and their reflections in the lake.  Once the light had passed and the sun was overhead, I could barely wait to see how the shots had turned out. Mike Reid Photography

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Last of the Larches – Horseshoe Lake

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Packed trailhead with cars parked hundreds of yards down the road. I could have taken my truck but instead took the 330i which had no problems with the bumps and puddles. Personally, I like getting my BMW covered in mud and parking it next to a shiny SUV back in Leavenworth. Ok enough about my personal issues…

I found that this Meetup.com group had borrowed one of my Horseshoe Lake photos to entice people to go on the hike this last weekend. So I joined and gave the group leader some good natured static over using my photo and off we went to the lake. This is a less known corner of the Enchantments Lakes basin, which is known for its amazing granite and fall colors scenery. Its also a rather challenging hike. The last mile covers about 1500 vert feet alone to get to the lake. Got there for sunset, camped and then sunrise and then down. All Zeiss 18mm, 9oz tripod and Sony a7r.

Annual Visit to the Enchantments Lakes Basin for Fall Colors and Larches

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Set out to find some fall color and larches. Won the walk up permit drawing, interfaced with the cranky permit lady (she reminds me of the accountant from Monsters Inc.) and quickly organized into a party of 8.
I’d like to provide one of those butterflies and rainbows trip reports where everything is wonderful but seriously, this hike is a slog. Its officially the 8th toughest day hike in the country and for good reason.  I got my pack weight down to 28 lbs including a bottle of Pyramid Oktoberfest and a pack of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Via.  My Zpacks ten degree sleeping bag weighed 1.5 lbs. My pack was 3. My tent was a Shires Tarptent weighing 1.6 lbs. Almost everything metal was titanium or carbon fiber.  I planned on eating peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I carried a liter of water, planning on filtering more as I went along. Its a long hard hike, each step contemplated carefully so as not to trip/fall/slide/tumble etc. Lots of hydration, sweat, aches, thoughts of anything other than how my thighs felt. Reaching the top of Asgaard, I didn’t have some wonderful revelation of otherworldly beauty, instead more real thoughts of cramps, observations of desolate granite and an eye on the watch to be sure to reach Leprechaun before dark. Ran into some guys camping right on the trail above Inspiration. Really? So many awesome spots nearby. Oh well.

Got up early for sunrise and got some decent photos. Decided to leave via Snow Lakes despite having to arrange a ride back to Stuart where my car was. I never seem to want to visit Asgaard twice in one hike. I cant imagine why. Many in my party had never been to the Enchantments before so that was fun to show them around. But their whining about suffering and how they were getting old was tiring as they were half my age 🙂

Cliff Notes: Decided to go in via Colchuck and Asgaard, camp near Leprechaun Lake and then down via Snow Lakes. Colors are looking great and weather is awesome. Made seven new friends along the way and had a great time. Lots of Aleve and Advil recommended. Once you’ve seen this, you cant stay away.

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

Mysterious Horseshoe Lake, or Beyond Lake Stuart

I hadn’t seen enough Northwest alpine larches changing color so a friend of mine and I headed up past Stuart Lake to Horseshoe Lake. We had heard it was much like the Enchantments Lakes Basin and it didn’t disappoint. The “trail” past Stuart is an unmaintained combination of more than 100 blowdowns and routefinding, then 1100 vert feet of scramble to the Lake. However its an amazing spot once you get there and we had it to ourselves. Canon 5D2 and Zeiss 21/50mm.

On a side note, climbing back down from the lake, my front teeth impacted my hiking pole with sufficient force to break one of the lower ones. So I am on the mend this week and contemplating implant dentistry 😦