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Almost Alone in the Mountains

Almost Alone in the Mountains

Submitted by: Pat

It was July of 1976, somewhere around my 21st birthday and while on a camping trip to hike in Banff National Park and visit friends, I decided to undertake a solo weekend hike starting at Sunshine Ski Hill. The reason I was going to start at Sunshine was that friends were working there and I wanted to visit them first.
Healy Pass, Banff National Park

First things first. I had to head into Banff and register for my hike with the Park Wardens. My plan was to start at Sunshine, hike over Simpson Pass, then on to Healy Pass, Whistling Pass and Gibbon Pass. I would camp at Haiduk Lake and Twin Lakes. Then I would hike out to the highway and hitchhike back to my car.

It had been a snowy winter and the Park Warden said they didn’t know anything about the conditions on Simpson Pass. Healy Pass was considered snowbound but passable and nobody had been over Whistling Pass or Gibbon Pass so would I please come back and report on the trail conditions.

I have to admit I started out in the morning slightly hungover. The evening before my friends had tried to convince me that the conditions weren’t very good for a solo hike in the mountains. It didn’t work and relatively early in the morning I set off. Leaving Sunshine it was hard to tell where the trail was so I basically just set off straight up the hill. The snow was pretty firm until I got up on top. There I encountered lots of melting snow and boggy ground. For a time there was no trail to speak of and I just jumped from hummock to hummock to try and stay dry.

Further along the trail was pretty easy to follow and Healy Pass was mostly clear of snow. I stopped near the top of Healy Pass for lunch and spotted another hiker coming up the trail behind me. I think he wanted to be alone because he stopped down the hill from me and also took a break. He would be the only other person I would see all weekend. After I finished my lunch I headed down the pass and onward toward Whistling Pass. The weather was good and I had good views of Egypt and Scarab Lakes.

Whistling Pass was indeed partly snowbound and following a trail buried under snow was difficult . Not that it mattered much. With no firm trail I spent much of the time postholing along as best I could. Going down toward Haiduk Lake was a bit easier as I could sit down and slide in some places. I found a clear spot at the end of the lake and set up camp. A short time later the other hiker came along and he camped at the far end of the lake. We were never close enough to have a conversation.

I enjoyed the evening solitude and had a good sleep. The mostly overcast skies meant I could only catch glimpses of the stars. In the morning I packed up and headed down the trail. I had considered going over Gibbon Pass and staying another night at Twin Lakes but my experience with the other passes convinced me it would be too much work so I hiked out via Redearth Creek. I never saw the other hiker again and there were no fresh tracks heading toward Twin Lakes. Back in Banff I duly reported my safe return with the Park staff.

It was only a weekend hike but I enjoyed my brief solo trip in the mountains.