Hello friends! Day 1 of our mountain getaway was a hike up Mt. Bourgeau. As I mentioned in my previous hiking post to Rockbound Lake, this hike was at the top of the list for our hiking buddies, so it was, of course, at the top of our list!
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Distance: 28 km round-trip
Elevation Gain: 2,460 feet/1,435 meters
Summit: 9,616 feet/2,930 meters
Time: 6-10 hours (4-5 hours to Bourgeau Lake / 6-7 hours for Harvey Pass / 8-10 hours for Summit)
Location: Head west from Calgary on Hwy 1. Turn left 2.8 km after Sunshine village at the Lake Bourgaeu turnoff. You need to cross Hwy. 1.
Getting to the trailhead was fairly simple…if you follow directions and pay attention to the turnoff. I was distracted with talks of the upcoming hike, and as we were heading west on Highway 1, I completely passed the turnoff. We had to drive for another 5 minutes before I could turn around and head back east, where the trail parking lot was clearly visible! I realized that I had missed it on the first pass because of the divided highway. We finally arrived at the parking lot – gathered all of our hiking gear – and hit the trail at 9:45 am. As this was our first solo all-day mountain trek, we purchased hydration packs and a second backpack, and borrowed some hiking poles from our friends. The trail entrance is through a chain link fence, which keeps animals away from traffic on the nearby highway. The weather was foggy and cool, so we also made sure to pack lots of layers!
You immediately start out on a gradual ascent through the forest, following a soft dirt path. After a couple of kilometers, you begin to hear, but not see, a river. A little bit later, approximately 4 km in, you come across a wooden bridge guiding you over a tributary leading to the Wolverine River. We encountered park workers re-assembling the bridge. They warned us that upon our return, the bridge would be down, and we would have to cross the river…via rock hopping. We are afforded a few rewarding views of the golden larch trees in the valley below us. And even though all the plants were frosted, it was comfortable climbing weather.
Just after the 5 km mark, we encountered the waterfall – where you cross by rock-bundled steps. Here the trail turns into a series of more aggressive switchbacks, with a fairly steep ascent.
After another kilometer (0.6 m), the trail levels out and you walk through the valley in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. The sandy path, which protects the surrounding wetland environment, leads you along the final stretch (last kilometer) to Bourgeau Lake.
At the far end of the lake, you can see a waterfall at the far end, and this is the top of Harvey Pass. The winds really picked up once we reached the valley, so we did not spend a lot of time at Bourgeau Lake. We pressed onward towards Harvey’s Pass to find a more sheltered spot to eat our lunch. Harvey’s Pass would add an additional 2.5 km to the 7.2 km we’d already hiked. We were excited to get moving! The next kilometer/half mile of terrain was rugged, and steep, but offered some unique views of Bourgeau Lake and the mountain valley we just trekked below us. We then came across the avalanche path – and navigating the loose rock was a first for us!
And up and up and up…we go…until we reach an unnamed lake surrounded by another meadow. The views from here are stunning…but we have further to go! Completing Harvey’s Pass means we climb onward and upward…past the meadow…up the gently climbing path…and past another unnamed lake, until finally reaching Harvey Lake. Just before reaching Harvey Lake, you discover that you are now at the top of the ridge and the waterfall that you viewed from the start of Bourgeau Lake! And now the summit is only another 1.5 km away.
The views from the top of Harvey’s Pass were stunning! Mount Bourgeau was to the left and Mount Brett to the right. At this point, the wind was so fierce and frigid that we could not talk to each other along the path. I could not hear anything but the wind whipping through my hair and against my jacket! The air was perceptibly cooler here as well – and we added on a few layers. As we reached the rocky scramble, we could not find a defined path to the summit, so we just headed “up.” The rocks began to get slippery with snow, and the wind gusts were so fierce that we had to stop multiple times to cower behind large rocks just to catch our breath. Finally, and sadly, we decided that we could go no further. I’ve read that there are 4 or 5 false summits before reaching the infamous weather station which marks the real summit, and I know we were oh-so-close…but it was not meant to be. I took the pic below from AlbertaWOW and marked where I believe we turned around. We were probably only another half mile or so, but the wind and icy rocks were just a bit too much for our first hike. Although a tad disappointed, we realized just how far we DID hike…and that we still had some amazing photos to share!
The trail back was pretty uneventful – until we reached that first wooden bridge. You know, the one that the park workers said would no longer exist on our way back. The trail was slick and muddy on the way back – perhaps we missed some light rain while we were climbing? By the time we reached the crossing, the water was too high to just walk over the rocks, so we had to improvise by “hopping” the rocks. It was at this point that the hubby slipped halfway through and his feet landed IN THE WATER. Yikes! Although he was in and out in less than 10 seconds, his shoes, socks, and lower pants were soaked. He luckily had a pair of tennis shoes (or runners) as a back-up in his bag -in case his new-ish hiking shoes didn’t work out – but no extra pair of socks. We dried his feet as best as we could with one of the spare shirts I had in my bag, but the return path with damp feet and no socks was not the most pleasant experience for him. Even though the last piece of the forest trail felt long…we actually made excellent time and kept moving the entire trek back!
According to Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, Dr. James Hector of the Palliser Expedition named this peak for Monsieur Eugene Bourgeau, the botanist who accompanied the mission on explorations through the Rockies during 1857-60.
Overall, our (estimated) 25 km (15.5 m) hike took us a total of 6 hours, 50 minutes (including our lunch break). Not too shabby for climbing a “moderate to difficult” mountain, eh?!
Have you ever hiked a mountain?