Sunday, September 06, 2009

Banff: Wide Blue Yonder

My article on Banff has been published with photos by Yuko. Here's the full version (pdf), via my website.

"The only thing as bright as the sun is its reflection sparkling off the lake. It's one of those summer days when the sky above the Canadian Rockies is as blue as lapis. The white frosted crags of Victoria Glacier tower above, while, 700 metres below, the cool, turquoise waters of Lake Louise beckon like a delicious blueberry smoothie, the perfect antidote for a hot day."

"The main hiking trail around Banff National Park's Lake Louise starts near the iconic Fairmont Chateau Hotel ( and continues for about three hours along the shoreline until it reaches the Plain of Six Glaciers. The path cuts through rambling fields of wild flowers and shady copses of pine trees. After a few twists and turns the source of the lake comes into view, looking like the melt from a vanilla ice-cream cone. The surrounding glaciers crush minerals into "rock flour", which creates the milky run-off that gives the lake its striking emerald-blue colour."

"From here the path gradually climbs through alpine meadows, over glacial scree and a few snow patches. To cool off, people flop into the snow as the sprawling glaciers loom above like a pack of yetis ready to pounce. Victoria Glacier used to reach the lip of the lake but has receded about a kilometre in the past 150 years."

"The path leads to a Swiss chalet-style teahouse and along the way there are rock climbers scaling cliffs, groups on horseback and a few ground squirrels. The first Swiss climbers arrived at the end of the 19th century, at the Canadian government’s invitation, to guide the few tourists that made it this far into the Rockies. They left behind the Plain of Six Glaciers teahouse. It’s a perfect spot in which to relax and enjoy a slice of apple pie."

"There are few wilderness areas that can match the Canadian Rockies for a combination of remoteness and accessibility. Located in the western province of Alberta, Banff is only 1 hour west of Calgary by car. With not too much effort you can find yourself recharging your batteries with the natural energy of the Rocky Mountains while sipping tea in the shadow of a crackling glacier."

Most of this vast area was opened up by the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). From 1881 to 1885, the CPR brought more than 15,000 labourers from China to work on the most dangerous sections of the railway. For every mile of track laid in the Rocky Mountains, it’s estimated that four Chinese workers lost their lives. Overall, some 600 perished and many of their bodies have not been found.

1 comment: