Outdoor Report: Mummery Glacier is like 'being in a Lord of the Rings movie'
'Knowing the route is the tricky part, so do your homework'
This is hiking at the next level.
We went to the Blaeberry Valley, just west of the Alberta-B.C. border, and this trip takes you deep into this valley and up into the Mummery Glacier.
We've featured some pretty accessible trail walks on the Outdoor Report this summer, so let's mix it up a bit. Let's get adventurous.
Darlene Whiting is a longtime Calgarian who retired out on the Blaeberry, and she's the one who invited me out on this trip. When we got to the foot of the glacier, I asked her to set the scene for us.
"We're sitting at the base of a huge boulder, the size of an apartment building, basically, looking across to where the glacier used to be," she said. "It's just all slabs, and waterfalls, and all the peaks — I don't have the name for most of them.
"There's something almost weird, almost — I don't know — spiritual about this place. It's almost like being in a Lord of the Rings movie. And looking through the forest, out at the glacier, it almost feels a little like an outdoor church or something. You kind of get into a different place when you're up here."
Getting up there is the trick. It was kind of a multi-sport day. First of all, you have to drive up the Blaeberry Forest Road, and you'll want to have a truck or SUV to get up there, because it is pretty rough in places.
Then there's a very clear spot where you're not getting any farther in a vehicle — big washout in the road. That's where you'll end up hopping on a mountain bike (bringing your bike along shaves about two to three hours off your round trip, so it's worthwhile).
There's a bit of bushwhacking in places, water crossings and a final mountain bike climb gets you up to the old trailhead.
This is where you normally would have started, in the old days, and this is where you ditch your bike at the trailhead. That's also where it starts to get really beautiful.
You'll discover really thick cedar groves and feel like you're hiking on the West Coast. And when you come to a creek crossing where Mother Nature flexes her muscles every year — with avalanches in winter, big spring runoffs in the spring — you'll see a place that's constantly changing.
You can see the evidence of change, but you can't get up here until sometimes in June. It depends on the year.
You have to find some stones to get across on, or just come to terms with the fact your feet are going to get wet. It's up, up, up to the foot of this glacier, with waterfalls and some of those massive, house-sized boulders shuffled around by the glacier. This hike has some of the finest examples of just sheer, raw powers of nature.
There's some pretty interesting history behind it, too.
This area was really important for David Thompson back in the early 1800s, in his explorations. Also, it was briefly considered for the Trans-Canada Highway as a route, but then the avalanche activity in the area nixed that idea.
It's expansive, it's spectacular and it makes it hard to turn back.
Who's it suited for?
If you have done a number of hikes this summer, and have built up some fitness and have some route-finding skills — and you want something different taking you away from the crowds in the national parks — this could well be worth considering. But knowing the route is the very tricky part, so do your homework.