We weren't even supposed to be here. We were supposed to scaling the mile-long scree field to get to Abbott Hut, and stand over the continental divide. But Banff had other plans for us, and rock slides forced us off our intended destiny. Following frantic last minute research, we decided to wander into the back-country following Mosquito Creek, and camp by a mirror-like lake past the great Molar Passes.
The hike starts easily, following the ominously named Mosquito creek for a few miles. The trail meanders through tall stands of conifers, occasionally skirting the creek and giving us views like this.
But we soon leave the brook behind, and cross lush Alpine meadows towards mountains with fantastic features, like this spire that beckons us and invites us into the wilderness:
The verdant valley is fed by a little rivulet, possibly a tributary of Mosquito Creek, which meanders through the soft soil, digging a surprisingly deep canyon:
The trail continues on, and becomes steeper. We encounter our last patch of life as a spring bubbles out of the rock before we take on the scree field that leads to the Molar Pass. The white stuff you're seeing on the ground is ice. Even in the height of summer, this valley is yet to shake itself free of Winter's frigid grasp.
The climb up the scree field is hard, and it suddenly gets much cooler, but this is the only way forward. All around is a barren wasteland, and the sun shines down ferociously, as we struggle with the thin air and the sharp rocks. Morale is low, and the pass seems unattainable.
But we preserve on, and enjoy a well-deserved break at the highest point. Here, a large section of the winter ice remains unfrozen, and our vantage point affords us spectuacular views of the valley we just traveresed, and the valley beyond:
A long climb down the scree field on the other side, we find ourselves in another green valley, with another creek, that we crossed using sturdy bridges such as this one:
And finally, we catch sight of our destination: a campground by a mirror lake shaded by a massive mountain.
Hiking down to the lake, we contemplate its beauty, and pitch our tents by the lake. As night drifts into the valley, we huddle in our tents, hoping the bears are prowling elsewhere.
The hike back
The next day, relieved to note that everyone in our party has survived the depredations of ursine prowlers, we trudge down to the lake, and are greeted by the sun's rays gently boiling off the mist.
Back again over the pass, and back again down the valley towards Mosquito Creek. The view is just as breathtaking on the way back.
Since we had an extra day, we took a short detour to scale one of the steep valley walls. Our destination is the ledge above the lowest set of cliffs.
A short and easy hike later (we had abandoned our rucksacks in the valley floor), we stood on the edge of the cliff, giving us a new view of the valley.
Climbing down the valley, we come across a little swamp, with a stream that surely connects back to Mosquito Creek, which we follow back to civilization.