The Rockwall Traverse

When I was first told about the Rockwall traverse in Kootenay National Park (Alberta, Canada), it really didn’t register how incredible this trek would be. I’m always up for adventure, so I was just excited for the invite and figured I’d do some research as we got closer to the date.

Soon I found out some more details, like we were fastpacking 34 miles in two days, and each day we had some serious elevation gain with two passes a day to conquer. We were going with three other friends, five of us total, and I was certainly the one with the fewest miles under my belt to date. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

It was a nine hour drive from Seattle to Radiant Springs, where we were car camping the night before our trek started. We broke this into two days, making Spokane the half-way point. It’s a beautiful drive through Washington and Idaho, and as we got closer to Kootenay National Park, the scenery just kept getting…. well… more scenic!

We started at Paint Pots trailhead, and left another car at Floe Lake trailhead for us to drive back up the road to Paint Pots a few miles the following day.

Paint Pots was true to it’s name, with beds of orange and yellow muddy clay made from iron-rich water in the area.

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The trail was very low-key for the first miles, which made us all a little nervous knowing that we had two passes to climb today. It was nice to have some warm-up time and not have to conquer a huge mountain right off the bat, but again… we knew what was coming.

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It wasn’t long before we started catching glimpses of The Rockwall. I knew it was big… I’d watched a few YouTube videos of other people’s treks and seen some photos. But it’s not until you’re standing at the base of The Rockwall’s pass that you can understand the sheer magnitude of this monument. As big as it was, it seemed that every few hundred feet there was a new view… a new angle. No photo could capture this scene and be able to relay it’s beauty accurately. But I took enough photos to certainly try!

The passes were steep, and even our tenured trekking team members were mumbling under their breath. This was the hardest fastpack trek I had tackled to date, and also the most scenic.

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The views didn’t even seem real. They were more like a photo in a magazine that someone edited to make the scenery pop more.

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After about 17 miles of jaw dropping vistas and enough elevation ascent and decent to leave me with shaky legs we settled in to Tumbling Creek campground.

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It’s pretty amazing when you’ve been trekking 17 miles and when you get to your camp area there are picnic tables and bear vaults available for use. Thank you, Canada! No need to hang our food, and we were able to sit at the table for dinner and chat about the day’s adventure, and what tomorrow would bring.

Day two did not ease us in as nicely as our first day on the trail. Nearly immediately we were trudging up the first pass of the day, leaving me wondering if I would have anything left for the second pass.

The views kept coming and thankfully, regenerating my energy. Trying to find words to define the landscapes we were witness to on this trip seems impossible. Even photos don’t come close to giving this trip justice.

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Floe Lake was fabulous, and we would have stayed longer to soak in the aura here if not for the swarms on mosquitoes promising to carry us away!

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After 34 miles and 4 passes in 2 days, with views of the Rockwall along with vast meadows, waterfalls, streams, tarns, and glaciers that hold so much history,  I was left with a tremendous sense of awe and accomplishment.

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