Despite the less-than-ideal viewing conditions, this was still an impressive viewpoint. The look down the east face was impressive, with an immense, plunging gully falling away directly from the summit. From this vantage point, it appeared to be filled with evil-looking towers and teeth, ready to render you to a pulp if you were so unfortunate as to slip and take the long, fast journey down to its bottom.
My headache is this big...
Down below at the trail, Gino was waiting, so we knew we shouldn't dally too long on top. We started down, carefully picking our way through the especially large-bouldered scree near the top, down to the small chimney in the cliff band (which, btw, is marked with a small cairn). We carefully descended the chimney (again, quite straightforward and easy) without issue.
We were getting a little more sure-footed on the steep scree, and the descent from the cliff band down to the lower-angled scree slopes above the trees went quickly and uneventfully, maybe taking us 35 minutes in total. Ten minutes beyond that, we arrived back at Gino, who was peacefully sitting and enjoying the mountain scenery. He seemed not annoyed by the three-hour wait he had to endure.
Scrambling and Scree Over
After a short stint re-packing our packs with overnight gear, we once again set off, continuing our circuitous route around the "Emerald Triangle" to Emerald Lake. Heading (now south), the trail led through a deeply forested section of Burgess Pass before emerging to cross a steep and open meadow-slope, which it traversed in a delicate and delightful way (which Gino didn't like too much, as I recall). Soon after this, we arrived at the end of the Burgess Highline trail, at a three-way junction. Left was the trail down to (the town of) Field, and right (our direction), the trail down to Emerald lake. Once down this final stretch and at the shore of the lake, we would essentially be done our hiking for the day.
Beautiful bit of traversing path
Mt Field from Burgess Pass
Junction with trail to Field
With the knowledge that it was "all downhill from here", we started off down the trail to Emerald Lake, anticipating a straightforward and quick descent down to the lake. And indeed, the descending trail was very nice - well, graded, smooth, all of that. But it was certainly not straight. There are a lottttt of switchbacks - and I mean a LOT of switchbacks, on the connector trail from Burgess Pass down to Emerald Lake. So many, in fact, that we were getting quite fed up with the endlessness of them. Julian and Gino's feet were getting sore and blistered, and we just wanted the down and the back-and-forth to end.
End it did - finally - at 6pm, after maybe eighty-ish switchbacks and 3000 feet of descending. Grateful for flat ground, we turned left and followed the Emerald Lake loop trail through the grounds of the Emerald Lake Lodge. We observed the relatively clean and nice-smelling guests as we hiked by and they no doubt, in turn, regarded us in a similar but reversed manner.
The views of Emerald Lake from the shoreline were now dramatically better than when we had started off the day before. We had thought we had noticed that the air quality seemed to be getting better as we started our descent, and now, looking out over the waters of Emerald Lake, it was definitely better. Although still slightly hazy, we could clearly see all of the mountains around the lake, even the farther ones. The lake itself was a georgeous shade of deep turquoise, reflecting all in its very still, clear waters.
Finally down near the lake
Emerald Lake Lodge and Grounds
Emerald Lake Lodge and Grounds
Elegant Lakeside reception?
More turquoise than emerald
Back at the car at 6:30pm, we considered our options. With sore and damaged feet, Julian and Gino were not really in the mood for camping, and so thoughts once again turned to motels and hotels. There weren't a ton of options around here, deep in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountain National Park system. Since we were planning to continue north (part of the original smoke-escape plan) towards Jasper, we drove back along the Trans-Canada, back up past Field and over the Kicking Horse Pass, back into Alberta, ending up in the Lake Louise area (so that we'd be well-positioned to continue north along the Icefields Parkway the next day).
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Yoho Lk to Emerald Lk via Burgess Highline, and Mt Field - click map to view
Yoho Lake to Emerald Lake via Burgess Highline, plus Mt Field Scramble - Hike Data
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
Mt Field from Field
Once back in the Lake Louise area, we played the part of pampered motelliers. We ended up booking rooms at the Lake Louise inn, which, while by no means a Fairmont Chateau type of place, was still quite warm and comfortable. And we had dinner at one of the few restaurants in town, a relatively no-name but decent enough place directly above the Wilson Mountain Sports outdoor store we had recently used to get gear.