The terrain along the trail includes hundreds of opportunities to visit nearby peaks. I took advantage of these and made several side trips to nearby summits for a total distance travelled of 272 km with seven peaks climbed. I had considered climbing one or both of Assiniboine and Sir Douglas, but the snowy conditions this season and the need to carry additional gear made me decide against these and instead to travel light and focus on some of the many dry scrambling routes.
The weather was amazing; it was sunny for almost the entire time, except my first night camped at the Mount Sarrail campground near Upper Kananaskis Lake and again on my fifth night which happened to be my only night spent under a roof when I stayed in the Hind Hut at Mount Assiniboine. Not once did I need to wear my rain jacket.
I had originally planned on continuing north of Field into the Little Yoho Valley for some additional scrambling. After spending a night on the riverbank in Field, the appeal of a shower, a beer, and seeing my lovely wife Andrea proved too strong, so I stuck out my thumb and hitched a lift to Calgary.
I decided to spend a day on a side trip up to Mount Assiniboine. After leaving some extra food and gear at the lodge I headed up the headwall at 12:15 pm. As the Corbett guidebook warns, the path along the Gmoser Highway is sketchy in places. It's exposed to say the least and requires attentive footwork much of the way. I reached the Hind Hut at 2:45 pm. During the last hour up, the skies clouded over, the wind picked up, and a light rain fell now and then. I stopped in the hut, unpacked, ate some lunch, and rested for half an hour.
Inside I met Jack and Art, two American climbers. I got an idea of their age when Jack mentioned that the youngest of his three children had been born in 1961. This pair was the real deal: no harnesses, just three wraps of the rope for a swami belt, a good old hip belay, and webbing for rock protection. These hardmen summitted almost every peak in the area during their stay (including Sturdee and Lunette amongst others). As I asked questions, I learned about a first ascent here, another three there, an expedition to the Himalaya, ... Unfortunately, I never caught their surnames.
I left the hut by 10:15 am and hiked north. Og Lake is beautiful; consider staying at this campsite if you're in the area (in general, the campsites in Banff are under tree cover, away from any interesting views, quite the opposite of the panoramas visible from most campsites in Mount Assiniboine and Kootenay). The next stretch through the Valley of the Rocks is very dry. In fact, the only water source between Og Lake and Citadel Pass is a single small lake where I stopped for lunch and enjoyed a swim. If you pass this way, make sure to fill up on two or more litres of water before leaving Og Lake.
A leisurely hike downhill led to the Howard Douglas Lake campsite at 6:00 pm. I would have liked to continue walking, but the next campsite was Healy Creek, about fifteen kms further. I considered continuing to Sunshine but decided against it. (When I arrived in Sunshine the next morning, someone was indeed camped near the lake).
I arrived at Egypt Lakes in the early afternoon and headed up toward Whistling Pass. I had my eye on Pharaoh Peak and shortly before the pass I cached my pack and headed up the southwest face. I started scrambling easy third class rock but the uncertain route soon led me to move around left onto the straightforward scree slopes.
I was back at my pack at 11:45 am. Along the way out, I stopped by a stream and cleaned out my infected toe. Quite satisfied with the result, my left foot felt much better on the hike out and I arrived at the Floe Lake trailhead just before 2:00 pm. Here I lay in the shade and awaited James who arrived at 3:00 pm.
I had the option of staying at two campsites along the way, but decided to continue to the highway which I reached at 5:00 pm. Here, I continued walking the 8 km along the highway to Field. I arrived tired, with feet aching from the hard ashphalt, after covering 37 km. In Field I visited the park office where the staff were particularly unhelpful. I then wandered the town, stopping to buy a litre of orange juice and half a litre of milk. I definitely looked out of place with the Audi-driving crowd arriving for dinner at the Truffle Pigs restaurant in front of which I sat on a park bench, slurping orange juice, wearing duct-taped and stained pants, looking greasy, dirty, and very tired. I didn't help that I took my shoes off to let my feet breathe.