Having only an ordinary weekend to get to such a difficult spot in the rugged Victoria Cross Ranges northwest of Jasper townsite meant trying to figure out the shortest approach possible, but as I found out this didn’t mean it would be in any way easy. The bushwhack up from near Saturday Night Lake can be described as worthy fiasco material, huge areas of blowdown, some trees piled up like ladders with no way between the rungs due to dense willow growth and root tangles of other trees. So there were lots of obstacles to go around or under, the benchlands above the lake being a maze of gullies,hills and hidden patches of swampy ground.
I think it took over 5 hours of nearly nonstop slogging to finally make it to treeline and a nice level meadowlike area below Cairngorm. By then exhaustion had set in nicely and camp was made nearby. Refreshed and eager to push on, early next morning saw the ascent of the meadows soon to be replaced by gorgeous rocky expanses containing Upper Kerr Lake. It was situated in a sort of L shaped valley, a place which really funnelled the wind, but this was nothing compared to what was in store. Ptarmigan made this area their home and quite a few could be seen wandering the rockfields.
The simply stunning Lower Kerr Lake came into view around the bend and camp was made on a very exposed bench above it. I set up the tent and decided to go for a little walk to the far side of the lake to see what lay beyond. More untouched meadows and the abrupt descent to a tributary of the Snaring River, a major wilderness corridor through the northern heart of Jasper Park. I stayed high though, just taking in the view. The Victoria Cross Ranges have peaks named after people who received the Victoria Cross during one of the world wars.
On returning to camp the wind had risen dramatically and in the distance my tent was trembling and wobbling to and fro. Little waves began rolling in from the lake, the sound fading as I reached the tent in time to prevent it from literally being blown away. It hadn’t been pegged in very well, mostly due to the grainy, rocky nature of the soil. Firstly it was facing a direction which made it easier for the wind to throttle around, and since most of the pegs had been ripped up anyway, I just held on and gave it a twist. Pegs were bashed in and as many large rocks as possible were piled atop each one.
I didn’t need to be a meteorologist to figure out that the weather, she was a changin’. Then the rain came, but due to the increasing ferocity of the winds, the tent hardly got wet. Oh, forgot to mention that my groundsheet had been blown from under the tent before I got in. I’d go look for it the following morning and find it in a wet crumpled heap under a distant boulder.
The night would go down as one of the most frenzied sleepless ones ever spent in the Rockies. Blasts of wind, sounding like approaching freight trains roared off of distant cliffs before setting upon the tent hell bent. Legs braced the walls to prevent tent poles from being bent in but thankfully there were lulls between attacks. It was out there massing, building up resources, then to swoop down on the hapless tentbound schnook. Long, drawn out rolls of thunder echoed over the scene, which was incredibly loud here at an elevation of around 2400 m.
The storm passed, but by morning the winds were nearly just as intense so taking down my shelter proved a delicate matter. It was done quickly and everything had to be sat on or secured by large rocks to prevent being blown into somebody’s face climbing up the ridge on Pyramid Mountain, you know, kilometres away. All in all a very intense weekend trip, the return journey following a more or less identical route towards Saturday Night Lake and the Twenty Mile Loop Trail, which I missed by about 50 metres and had to deal with the inevitable consequences amidst a tangle of triffid-like things and impending darkness. Finally found my way out of a ravine and the trail back to Jasper via headlamp.