After a good night’s rest at Rearguard camp, we awoke early next morning to sunshine and blue skies and a promise of a great dayhike. The rain from the previous night had cleared and the forecast was good – perfect to explore the Berg Lake surroundings. When researching the numerous trails in the area, we had already decided to hike to Snowbird Pass, and our timing was ideal. The trail is normally closed to hikers during May and June due to caribou calving, but today was July 1 – the opening day for the summer season. What a great way to celebrate Canada Day!
We fully expected the Snowbird Pass hike to be quite challenging. Starting at Rearguard camp, the hike is a 25 km roundtrip distance across rocky terrain and switchbacks to the eastern boundary of the provincial park. It’s a long, strenuous day rewarded with spectacular views of the Robson Glacier, a beautiful alpine valley, and a vast icefield beyond the pass. After a hearty breakfast, we packed our lunches, snacks, and plenty of water in our daypacks, and set out on the trail.
Along Robson Glacier
The trailhead is located near the Rearguard campsite and the path starts level next to the river, winding its way through shrubs and bushes opposite the imposing presence of Rearguard Mountain. This portion of the hike is on the moraine of the Robson Glacier which, as you round Rearguard, comes into full view. As you approach the toe of the glacier, the path steepens considerably and the real climbing begins. A number of switchbacks ascend the mountainside where the view of the Robson Glacier and the rear of Mount Robson is breathtaking. Along the way, several large and small waterfalls and streams make for good resting areas.
An Alpine Meadow
As you make your way past Mount Robson, the path veers east away from the glacier onto a magically green alpine meadow with crystal clear streams and bursting with wildflowers. A truly rewarding sight after the strenuous ascent up the mountainside. It looked like a scene out of Middle Earth! On both sides the valley was surrounded by snow-capped peaks and we could hear birds chirping; marmots would emerge from their dens and curiously watch their human visitors. An unforgettable, surreal experience.
Up Snowbird Pass
As we crossed the meadow, the final destination of the hike came into view: we could see the Snowbird Pass just ahead, in the saddle between two peaks. We were all pretty tired, but having come this far, we were determined to complete the hike. After a short break, we started our final push to the end: following the trail marked by rock cairns, an increasingly steep scramble up a scree slope to the Pass. After crossing one last snow patch, we reached the end of the trail: a steep cliff and a precipitous drop to the Reef Icefield below. Looking across the vast expanse of ice separating British Columbia and Alberta, we took a well-deserved rest and quietly contemplated our achievement.
After the elation, the sobering reality of the long return hike to the campsite. We traced the same route back through the lush green valley, then descending the rocky mountain slope to the foot of Robson Glacier in the strong early evening sun. Ten hours after we had set out on our trek, we returned to Rearguard camp. Everyone was exhausted but the exhilaration of completing this beautiful and challenging route made this the best Canada Day ever.