Coronet Creek to Rocky River Headwaters and Beyond
I have been hiking cross country in the Canadian Rockies for quite some time, going places and seeing things which I think relatively few people do. This particular outing was chosen for its remoteness and well .… it looked like it could be done after plotting out the route on the topo maps. Of course the maps don’t show everything, it would be guesswork until I was actually out in the field. So after the nearly ill fated crossing of a nameless pass connecting Maligne Pass with the Coronet Creek Headwaters (the pack had to be lowered with some sturdy cord through a small waterfall near the bottom of the descent), it was all downhill on a very good trail to Coronet Creek Campground. I couldn’t believe all the people who came here by boat.heee heee.
Anyway it was a gorgeous place right near the very end of Maligne Lake. These were the last bits of civilization I’d be seeing for several days, then it was off into the total unknown, Warren Creek Valley.(I do believe that’s what its called). The way was open, wild and glorious, a light breeze blowing from the upper valley, the telltale scent of the Rockies’ pristine forests filled the air. The open creekside flats soon gave way to rolling forested bushwhacking along its banks, the odd bit of game trail here and there making the task a little easier. I’d clap my hands loudly from time to time or just yell, in case some wildlife up ahead might be unaware of my presence.
The going became instantly more rugged as the slope steepened and became filled with gigantic boulders, securely? embedded into some low moss like growth. I wound my way through a maze of these, and it was seemingly endless until into view up ahead came a glimpse of what was the come. A treeless moonscape spread in all directions, bleak rubble filled glaciers spilling down from the Brazeau Icefield to the south. After spending several hours of scrambling aimlessly amidst the moonscape I descended to find a nice little campsite protected by the last of the trees situated atop some old moraine and rockslide debris. Much better than it sounds. The creek roared through a narrow chasm about 10 metres down a steep scree slope below.
Sorry, did I forget to mention that I was absolutely on my own. Most of my trips are solo ones, either out of choice, or I can’t find anybody to come along once I mention that there won’t be any trail. The route I had planned would involve traversing the enormous moonscape ahead and hopefully gaining access to another watershed via a high col, which I affectionately call Moonscape Col. Its elevation was about 2700 m. I hiked 3 hours one way to get to the col, and … it went. Now all I had to do was go back to camp and get my stuff.
You didn’t think I would drag all that up there and then possibly find that there was an impossible cliff did you? The main difficulties were the rows of sloping ridges of moraine pouring forth from the central heaps of rocky wasteland. So it was basically up and down and at a fairly steep angle. Good exercise for the ankles. Yeah. A couple of glacial creek crossings were also necessary but these were easy. After much effort I was up at Moonscape Col with my gear, trying to remain erect without being blown through the gap by the terrific winds present there. An obvious glacially carved valley lay ahead and in it .… nothing but rubble. Far far ahead and below lay an aqua gem of a lake, my turning off point to gain access to Rocky River Pass. Actually, I don’t know if it has an official name. Several hours of mindless trudging brought me next to the lake and the wondrous descent of its creek through majestic little lake filled amphitheatres, each meadow rimmed and fairytale like. I thought… nobody comes here and I was glad.
The descent to meadowlands and tree line was a breeze, and after fording the creek took shelter under some trees to wait out a sudden, cold downpour. The sun returned and a rainbow spread its glory upon the lower valley. After much clambering about, the simply enormous pass was reached, a herd of bighorn sheep eyeing me suspiciously before bolting to some safer vantage point. To the east, a small portion of Southeast Lake was visible. The pass was very windy and cold, and a good trail came into use after several hours of hiking. It led me past more glorious meadows and lakes to finally descend the Rocky River to its main valley, past the confluence with the Medicine Tent. Several more days of trail hiking along the South Boundary Trail eventually ended at Jacques Lake. Whew.
Story and Photos submitted by: John Boehm
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