Friday July 05 2013 was a perfect day to escape Calgary (Stampede parade day...) so a group us did what we always try to do when we 'escape' - namely bag a peak! Steven, Wietse, Dave and I would join Kevin, Kelly and Scott along hwy 93 in Kootenay National Park and ascend something there. On the drive up we debated about the original destination - Mount Wardle. We weren't too enthused about a possible 1000 vertical meter bushwhack and subsequently made a decision to tackle the much more pleasant Numa Mountain instead!
After collecting Kev and Scott from the Wardle parking area, we joined Kelly at the Floe Lake trail head and started up the excellent backpacking trail to Floe Lake and the Rockwall hike. This trail is very pleasant (for the first 7-8km anyway...) and we chatted our way along the 6km approach to the avalanche slope leading up to Numa's summit block. I stayed behind the group and was distracted constantly by the hundreds of wild flowers everywhere - honestly this is the best trail I've been on for flower photography in a long time.
[Flowers along the trail - lots of them!!]
[The approach trail follows the backpacking trail to Floe Lake and Numa Pass. It's an excellent trail for about 8km - good enough for Numa Mountain travelers!]
After approximately 6km (just over) we found ourselves looking up an avalanche slope with a nice angle for ascent. We knew this must be the right slope and started up.
[Yellow dotted saxifrage on the avalanche slope we ascended.]
[Steven ascends the slope above me. The slope was fairly stable and easy to ascend - I would recommend going into the middle of it where there's a faint track to follow.]
[Stunning scenery, looking back down the slope.]
[The Indian Paintbrush were all bright pink on Numa Mountain instead of the more 'normal' red color.]
[Taking a break]
[The scenery on Numa Mountain is very nice, thanks in part to a forest fire about 10 years ago in the area.]
Once the terrain on the avy slope opened up a bit we started a slow trend to climber's left. Scott and Kelly didn't realize that the bump on climber's right wasn't part of the main mountain and ended up gaining some extra meters. The burnt forest is pretty open and easy to navigate - as you come around on a side hill, you should start to see Numa Mountain's gentle summit bump coming into view.
We made the summit under perfect conditions - barely any wind and a warm sun. We spent almost an hour at the top enjoying the stupendous views and naming peaks in every direction. This mountain should be done more often considering how technically easy it is and how amazing the surrounding terrain is! Scott and Kevin decided to return via our ascent route due to time constraints, while the rest of us chose a more scenic and adventurous return via Numa Pass and Floe Lake. And a much longer return...
[Another look down the avy slope from higher up.]
[Above tree line and now looking up at Numa's summit.]
[Chickweed, high up on Numa]
[The guys come up the slope behind me. Numa Creek is far below now - almost a vertical mile!]
[Summit panorama looking east, south and west. The small bump at lower center is the unnecessary summit that you'll ascend if you're not paying attention... :) ++]
[Panorama looking west and north to the Lake Louise group of peaks. ++]
[From left to right - Stanley, Beatrice, Ball and Isabelle. ++]
[Looking north along the Rockwall Trail. Wolverine Pass in the far distance with South Goodsir just making the photo on the right.]
[Hungabee, Deltaform, Ringrose, Temple, Fay, Quadra and Bident are just some of the Lake Louise peaks visible to the north.]
[South Goodsir peeks over the Rockwall - Vaux just visible as well.]
[The Rockwall route goes right up this gorgeous valley. Hewitt Peak to the left.]
[Isabelle on the left]
[Vern enjoying the views from the summit of Numa Mountain]
[Group shot! (Except Kelly - but he's almost in it!!)]
Scott has been on the Rockwall trail before, and indicated that he thought there was a simple scree slope down from the false summit all the way to Numa Pass. Since this sounded so easy and since none of us had ever been to Floe Lake before, we decided it was worth the extra 4-5km to see a new section of the trail. We also assumed that the Floe Lake trail would continue to be as excellent as it had been on our approach.
As it usually happens in the mountains - a few too many assumptions are never a great thing... :) While Scott was correct that there was a relatively easy descent from Numa Mountain to Numa Pass, he forgot a small detail. That would be the 100 vertical meters you have to regain to reach the pass after descending the fall summit! Oh well. Not too bad - but you've been warned now.
[Sublime views from the false summit of Numa Mountain. Floe Lake with Floe Peak looming above it and Foster Peak on the right, high above Numa Pass. The Floe Lake approach trail runs alongside the creek just visible far below on the left. ++]
[Looking up at Numa's false summit that we just descended. We're now re-ascending to a ridge that runs above Numa Pass.]
[Looking north from near Numa Pass at an unnamed peak and a small tarn.]
[Flowers near the pass.]
[Looking back up the trail to Numa Pass. We descended from the right side of this photo from the false summit of Numa Mountain.]
[The remarkable views of Floe Lake with the imposing Floe Peak towering above made the diversion worth it. ++]
[Taking in the views from above Floe Lake.]
[Western Spring Beauty]
[Floe Lake is a wonderful place to sit for a while. Or camp! ++]
After an extremely enjoyable and scenic descent to Floe Lake it was time to tackle the 10.7km back along the trail to the parking lot. We were all feeling tired and sore at this point but we had an excellent trail to follow so it was 'robot' mode right? Wrong.
The trail condition down the headwall below Floe Lake was in dismal shape. Avalanches had washed burnt and live timber across the steeply switch-backed trail and really made a mess out of it! We had to crawl through debris before cutting down the switchbacks and cutting through it again and again. This was tiring in the heat of the afternoon - but we eventually made it through. I'm sure eventually someone will make it into the area with a chainsaw but for now you should be aware of this section of trail. It's not long but with a big overnight pack it'll suck.
The rest of the way out was easy but long after a very full day. I highly recommend Numa Mountain as an easy / moderate outing with an excellent optional depproach that serves up even more views than you've already experienced on the main mountain.
[Views on descent from Floe Lake]
[Negotiating the avalanche debris on the steep headwall.]
[Steven does some avy debris gymnastics!]
[Floe Creek is choked with the avy debris. Note how the fires finally died out way up the valley?]
[Note Wietse and Dave in the overgrowth! The trail feels a bit overgrown in spots but it's always fairly easy to follow.]
[Back on the well-maintained trail.]
[Pink Indian Paintbrush - these were lovely and all over the place!]
[Western Canada Violet]
[Just because you can SEE the highway doesn't make it close... Still kilometers to hike to the parking lot!]
[Mats of Twinflower carpet the start of the Floe Lake trail.]
[Yellow Mountain Aven]