Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Geraldine Lakes Campground

The Geraldine Lakes trail should only be travelled during dry, sunny conditions. The trail is lost on the route around the second lake in a maze of large boulders covered with crust lichens, making the hike extremely slimy and slippery. Even without the lichens, large rounded rocks are dicey on their own when wet. Although there are four lakes in the chain, the third and fourth ones are without a trail and require a tremendous amount of work to access.
          The trek to the campground presents two wonderful waterfalls, two lakes and a pond, forest, scree and two gruelling climbs. A day well spent.

Distance:             6.2 km

Elevation gain:    400 m

GPS:                N52 37 42.0 W117 54 51.8
Elevation:        1496

Geraldine Lake #1:
GPS:                N52 36 54.1 W117 55 50.6
Elevation:        1613

Top of First Waterfall:
Elevation:        1694 m

Geraldine Lake #2:
GPS:                N52 35 30.6 W117 56 23.8
Elevation:        1896

Geraldine Lakes Campground:
GPS:                N52 35 17.8 W117 56 42.0
Elevation:        1896

Trailhead: At 32 km south of the junction of Highway 16 and the Icefields Parkway is the turnoff for Athabasca Falls, which is also the south end of Highway 93a. Take this road on the west side of the parkway and drive past the Athabasca Falls parking lot for 700 m. On the left side of Highway 93a is the Geraldine Lakes Fire Road, also the entrance for the Fryatt Valley trailhead. Drive the fire road for 5.6 km, to the end of it.
The first 1.8 km takes you through a dense forest of evergreens which climbs gradually for 117 m before it reaches the first of the Geraldine Lakes. The trail sticks close to the west shoreline, creating damp feet and frustration during high water, so try to veer slightly inland to stay dry.

At the end of the first lake the path fades, becoming less and less conspicuous as the journey continues. From here on in, follow yellow markers and cairns and the bits and pieces of trail as it materializes.
Here at the end of the first lake is the first of two wonderful waterfalls encountered on this hike. Stay to the right and clamber up the side of the falls for 81 m, reaching a short valley. There is a second lake here, but it is not the second lake. Follow cairns and trail to the left side of this pond before walking alongside it through the trees. At the far left reach, the path scrambles up what feels like a perpendicular wall for another 202 m.
This is a test for boot traction, as there is nothing to grasp and the hillside is loose pebbles and scree. While creeping your way toward the next level you will undoubtedly stop to rest the lungs and legs. At this moment enjoy the moment by turning around and glancing north. Sit down and take a break; take as long as you want to take it all in.
On top of the waterfall the second lake comes into full view. There is much rock hopping and the trail is sparse. Stay low, avoiding the trails to the viewpoint up the right bank at the near end of the lake. The way to the campground is on the left (west) shoreline. The route is mainly rocks and boulders with some bits of trail through bush. As much as rock hopping is fun, it is dangerous. There is more than a kilometre of this to the campground at the distal inlet stream, so fatigue is also a consideration while playing on the rocks. The campground is primitive with four or five pads, a bear pole and a privy. Day hiking from this point is obvious but dangerous. There is no trail to the third and fourth lakes, and minor navigational skills may be required.

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