Berg Lake Trail Biking, Hiking & Backpacking
We spent 4 days and 3 nights exploring Mount Robson Provincial Park and it was wet, wild and wonderful. We were lucky enough to get a booking for Berg Lake trail on the August long weekend this year and it was one for the books. Every turn on this trail brought spectacular views of waterfalls, glaciers, mountain lakes, rivers, glacial moraines, wildflowers, wildlife and of course Mount Robson at an astonishing 3959m in height.
While preparing for this trip, we decided to try to go lighter with our gear. Purchasing new ultralight gear is expensive so we had to decide what was most important right away and what will be our next purchase. You might remember that our tent leaked on our last adventure, so that was the first thing to buy. We decided on the Mec Volt 2 person tent. At less than 2 kg it suits our need for a tent to carry on our back, in a canoe or for car camping. It’s super easy to set up and there were quite a few of them in the campsites on this trip so that is a good indicator of a popular tent. We really liked it. We lucked out and got a discounted model so it was not too hard on the pocket book. The tent is really light in colour and bright inside on a rainy day. We also bought new Therm-a-Rest Women's NeoAir XLite Sleeping Mats at a great price. The Xlite weighs in at only 340 g, packs down super small and is very comfortable. Cushy even. I’m glad we didn’t pull the trigger on new backpacks yet as we met some great people on the hike who gave us all the info we needed to make the right purchases! I intend to buy the GORILLA 40 ULTRALIGHT BACKPACK by Gossamer Gear and Ken is convinced enough to buy the Porter from Hyperlite Mountain Gear. We got close up looks and reviews of these products from folks on the trail. I really like the fit of the Gorilla 40 as it will be best for my shorter torso and longer legs. We were lucky enough to meet Marcus Baranow of http://confessionsofaskibum.com/ and his girlfriend who were amazingly kind and open with all of their knowledge. Go buy his books! I have no affiliation with any of these brands or individuals and this information is shared freely.
Our plan was to bike the first 7km of the trail, lock the bikes on the rack, hike another 4km and set up camp at our first reserved site, Whitehorn. This meant waking up at 4:30 am in Calgary and driving all 436km in time to start the trail. You need to register with Parks upon arrival and watch a fantastic retro video produced in the 1990’s about the trail and the rules. Biking the first 7km isn’t terribly difficult, except for the fact that you are wearing a large pack with 4 days worth of food plus the tent, sleeping bags, pads and extra clothing. I was just getting over a bad cough so it was harder for me to climb some of the hills than for Ken. Even though it was an uphill climb, biking was still a much faster way to get through the first 7km and I recommend it. It rained on and off during the day but was only spitting during the biking portion to Kinney lake. Hiking up to Whitehorn the rain was at times very intense. Everyone on the trail that day was stopping frequently to either put on rain gear or take it off again when it was unbearably hot. There are no fires allowed anywhere in the park but there is a great open shelter at Whitehorn for cooking and drying out gear which we appreciated. After dinner we went to bed at 7:30pm, partially because it was raining but mostly because we started our day at 4:40 am. This is a world famous trail and it is always busy with each campground pre-booked months in advance. We love meeting new people in camp and we met a generous Dutch medical student backpacking on her own when she invited us to sit with her. Studies prove that talking with strangers can make you happier in life.
The next day we packed up to go our next campsite: Rearguard. This is a smaller site with only 5 official tent pads which is a nice change on such a busy backpacking trail. Rearguard is 22km from the start of the trailhead so it was nice to split the hike into two days since we were still carrying extra weight from our old fashioned backpacks. I started out the trip at 26 pounds and Ken at 33. My new pack will take off 5 pounds from that total plus I have a few more tweaks I can make to lighten my load. We stopped in at every little side hike and waterfall along the way and it was a super enjoyable day of hiking. We met a nice Dad/daughter duo and trio of ultra runners who had us in stitches. I was thrilled to connect with a fellow Super Hero fan who had an amazing sleeve tattoo featuring Wonder Woman and a couple of other Female Super Beings. One other couple joined us that night (Dutch too!) and the picnic table chat was lovely. We got up early for sunrise photos the next day, packed up our tent, stashed the food in a bear locker and headed out on a 22km hike up to Snowbird Pass. The hike is absolutely awe inspiring. The views at the top of the pass were surprising as I have never personally seen such a large icefield before. Hiking past Robson glacier along a switchback route is awesome, the alpine meadows that come next are amazing and the final push to the saddle to view the other side of the range was worth every second. If you are fit enough to hike 21.7km up 800m with a backpack on Berg Lake Trail , you can probably accomplish this hike of about 1000m elevation. I hiked about 52km over 4 days and biked 14km without any problems despite recovering from a sprained ankle! I will be glad to retire my heavy full hiking boots now though. My physio therapist insisted on tall boots for this trip.
After we finished the hike (almost 8 hours at an easy pace), we prepared a meal at Rearguard before hiking back 3km to our final campsite (Marmot) for the evening. We had to switch camps because it was the only available bookings at the time. I fell into bed the moment we set up the tent. On our final morning, we got up around 5:30 am for coffee and breakfast. We had great conversations with some 20 something Campers who had come all the way from Toronto. The 4 of them regaled us with hilarious stories of their misadventures and their unabashed enthusiasm was infectious. It’s not necessary to be an athlete to backpack and if you embrace the challenge you can accomplish anything! We did our best to help a nice Vancouver couple who were dealing with a knee injury. I was glad I had carried emergency tape for my ankle that I could lend her to make her way out of the park without further injury. Her hiking partner Kyle had a pretty great ultralight pack as well. The Osprey Exos is another commercially available choice with a lifetime guarantee .
The Hike out was relaxed and easy. I had just enough food left for lunch so my pack was a good 4 pounds lighter. Yes! We casually strolled all the way down to our bikes at Kinney lake, stopping for lunch and a nice dip in the lake before hopping on the bikes and zooming out the last 7km. The bike ride was flowy double track and super smooth and fun. Hikers have the right of way so I was sure to pass on the left and call out before passing anyone. We left a couple of cold beverages in our car in a cooler and those were two of the most delicious drinks ever.
Food: We dehydrated all of our own meals. Hands down favourite this time was Chana Masala - a vegetarian dream on the trail. I also brought Shrimp and Rice (we add spicy red peppers and coconut powder) and I made a black bean and rice dish. Breakfast was Mighty Tasty hot cereal but I will be switching back to Creamy Buckwheat as I didn’t like how the Mighty Tasty rehydrated with our cooking method. This trip we decided to only bring enough fuel for our Trangia alcohol stove to boil water for coffee’s and meals. No cooking, just add hot water to the thermos and wait 45 minutes. It all worked really well except maybe the cereal. I add coconut powder, peanut powder, sugar, nuts and raisins to my cereal packets (use snack size ziplocks). We had lots of dried apple, banana and pineapple to snack on as well as trail mix with M&M’s of course. You need a lot of fuel to keep moving on a trip like this but it’s ok to be a little bit hungry to save on weight.