Kerr Lakes

Kerr Lakes

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Enrouter to Kerr Lakes
Sto­ry and Pho­tos sub­mit­ted by: John Boehm

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