On Saturday, June 29 2013 I hiked the Stanley Glacier trail in Kootenay National Park with my family. It was a rather warm day when we started from the parking lot - we were joined by Anton Baser and his family which made for a very enjoyable day.
The trail is very well maintained and slowly switchbacks up through the burn area beneath Storm / Stanley mountains. Because of the burn, there are TONS of berries in this section - I've never seen so many blueberry bushes! This must be heaven for Grizzlies in the fall. Along with blueberries there were bunchberries, hawthorns and many other types of flowers alongside the trail. I was kept quite busy photographing them and was glad for a slightly cloudy sky. (Flower shots work much better in gray conditions than bright and sunny.)
[Crossing the stream at the trail head]
[The hiking trail has views almost immediately - this is looking back at highway 93 towards Boom Mountain.]
[This is a hot trail on a sunny, summer day! The Stanley cliff face looms over Hanneke.]
[Taking a break after another stream crossing]
[There was so many blueberry bushes it was crazy! Bears will be all over this area in the fall!]
As we worked into the valley leading to the Stanley Glacier, Anton pointed out some of the ice climbs in the area which were tumbling threads of waterfalls in early summer. He'd climbed one of the hardest of them (Nemesis) and had a good story about leaving the rope behind due to rapidly fading light at the end of their rapels! Ice climbs along the impressive wall include Acid Howel, Suffer Machine and French Reality and apparently when Nemesis was first climbed in 1974 it was the hardest ice climb on the planet. At WI 6, it's still among the tough ones! (Info from rockies-ice.com)
[Nemesis isn't ice today!]
[Telephoto of the interesting cliffs that produce so many world-class ice climbs. It looks like there might be a system of vertical caves or chutes behind the rock wall here.]
[Looking back at the approach with Mount Whymper rising behind - I did that one solo in 2009 and loved it.]
We stopped for lunch just before the official trail ended, at an open rocky area. At this point Anton and the family turned around and we continued on up the trail. I had heard from a climbing friend that the bivy area for the Stanley Glacier climbing route was sublime and I really wanted to reach it if possible to check it out for myself. We could see an obvious trail heading up to the back of the valley where another headwall capped with trees rose up. We could also see a line of about 10 people heading up the trail so we followed them.
[Looking ahead to the upper headwall]
[Despite the dire warning of the "trail ending", there is a great trail all the way up the valley thanks to curious hikers and also climbers who go in to climb the classic snow couloirs on Stanley's north face.]
[It's really worth going the extra kilometer or two - the views are awesome!]
The trail up above the final headwall is totally worth the extra effort IMHO. It's well used and while loose, not terribly so. We managed to gain the upper headwall and I could see why this area is known as a great bivy site! I could also see how the lower Stanley Glacier could be accessed from the upper bowl on climber's right. We enjoyed the views and had lunch before treking back to the car. I highly recommend the Stanley Glacier hike - it was fairly dry even in early season with great views and lots of on-trail company. If you want to be alone on this hike go early.
[Looking at the toe of the Stanley Glacier]
[Lots of waterfalls]
[Looking west along the wall that provides some world-class ice climbs in the winter.]
[Heading back down, a glance back at the glacier]