This weekend was my first double-hiking weekend of the summer. I’m quite tired and exhausted as I write this, but it felt good to test out my ankles and head out to the mountains. I figured it would be good preparation for my backpacking trip to Glacier National Park in a few weeks!
On Saturday, I recruited Robin and Jess and we were off to Banff to hike the Cory and Edith Pass trails (aka the Cory Pass Loop). It’s a hike that starts just a few kilometres west of Banff at the Fireside Picnic Area and is one of the popular ‘classic’ hikes to do in Banff National Park. The flooding in Kananaskis this year has prompted me to look into hikes in the Banff and Lake Louise areas. The Cory Pass Loop is noted as one of the most beautiful and scenic of Banff’s trails, but also one of the more difficult ones.
At the junction, we decided to proceed along Edith Pass trail. Apparently Cory Pass trail is the recommended way, but since I failed to do my research, heading to Edith Pass first seemed like the best choice. At this point in the hike we were dying already. Not because of any incline or the heat… nope, it was due to mosquitoes! I’ve never been swarmed like this before during a hike in the rockies. And there seemed to be something about the scent that I gave off, because they were more attracted to me than both Robin or Jess (although they got attacked a ton too!). Thank goodness for bug spray or I would have been eaten alive, more than I already was! (As I write this, I can’t stop itching my arms and legs… ahhhh!). The hike itself was quite nice as we made our way through forests on the east side of Mount Edith while making a steady ascent.
As we ascended the rocks to the highest point of Edith Pass, the gargoyles came into view. The formations don’t quite look like gargoyles, but they’re pretty awesome rock formations. It was also cool to be in the shadow of Mount Louis- that’s quite the rock face. Proceeding onward around the north side of Mount Edith, Mount Cory came into view and so did an amazing view of the southern mountains from Cory Pass. It was pretty breathtaking. Of course, we stopped for a few photos. Proud and jovial about our accomplishment, it was time to head back to the trailhead via the Cory Pass trail.
All was well until we hit a seemingly dead end! Later I would google that although there’s some route finding to do, there’s nothing too crazy about the hike. But at that moment, we didn’t know where to go and decided we would head left onto an unmarked former trail and make a ridiculous descent down the side of Mount Edith. All seemed fine and good… sort of… until we started hitting fallen trees on the trail. Then overgrown foliage. Then the trail was covered in moss. Then there was no trail. I suddenly felt like something was wrong! For an official trail in Banff National Park, our path certainly did not look maintained. We made the decision to continue on, having descended so far after about 30 minutes. I began to panic and suddenly became worried. We were so far off course, and although we knew the general direction to the highway, we were facing old fallen trees and lots of obstacles. I played out scenarios in my mind- being blocked by a river; having a medical emergency due to a dangerous branch; or worse, running into a bear. Our bear calls were booming every few seconds. And since Jess and I were wearing shorts, our legs were destroyed by mosquitoes and numerous scratches. We climbed above and under so many branches. I do feel bad about losing my cool, but focus just set in, and all I wanted to do was get out of the forest. Suddenly I yelled, “What’s that!!?”. Robin and Jess were startled. Their heart rates accelerated. A bear? No… it was the trail! I have never been so happy to see a trail before (well, maybe I was just as happy when Robbie and I got lost on Tent Ridge last year). Suddenly our “Whooooops” to scare the bears away became “Whooohoooos” to describe our elation. And this trail was maintained. In fact, it was the same trail that we started on. We had managed to make a descent down a random side of Mount Edith back to the Edith Pass trail rather than continue on the Cory Pass trail back to the official junction. Argh! To top it all off, I managed to twist my right ankle. Not the bad left ankle… the good right ankle. Now both ankles hurt! Weeeee!
So in the end, this goes down as not the greatest second half of the hike, but without a doubt the views on Cory Pass are spectacular. Next time I’ll go the recommended way: Cory Pass first, followed by a gradual descent on Edith Pass trail. Although this way will have an 885 metre ascent in just 4.5 km, it sure would beat our random descent. Yep, that’s the way to do it. All hiccups aside, the Cory Pass Loop made for another great hike with great weather and great company :).
Start: 11:20 am
End: 6:30 pm (long day!)
Distance: 13 km