July 8, 2012
Lake Louise, AB
On the 3rd day of my solo peak-bagging trip I was short on energy due to the tiring ascent of Mount Aylmer the day before. If this was my last day of the trip I could have pushed on ascents like Mt. Cory, or even Storm Mountain, but since I decided to stay a few days longer, I chose a relatively easier objective, namely Panorama Ridge near Moraine Lake. In this trip I only made to the summit of the peak documented in Alan Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. The entire Panorama Ridge stretches more than 2 km long and the Kane’s summit is actually not the highest point. Back in the days I was following closely to the Kane’s list so didn’t bother to traverse to the true summit. Also note that there’s another (much) more popular Panorama Ridge in the Garibaldi Provincial Park of the Coast Mountains.
I was quite surprised that the parking lot wasn’t full yet by 11 am. The day started by a visit of the zoo – Moraine Lake viewpoint. After taking some familiar photos I started the 3 km hike on Consolation Lakes Trail. There were several groups of hikers on the trail helping to scare away the bears. Oh yeah, one important reason why I chose Panorama Ridge was, to get it done before the 4-person-restriction starts. This is another area subjected to a seasonal quota system. Soon I arrived at the outflow of Lower Consolation Lake. Kane says to cross the stream by logs or boulders. Oh man, it was more like a river now, more than 15 m wide. This is my first time wading a ‘river’ actually, and the water was pretty cold. The deepest part was thigh deep, thankfully the water wasn’t flowing fast, otherwise I would have lost balance (it was still quite awkward and painful).
Once on the other side of the ‘stream/river’, there was about 5 min of light bushwhacking waiting for me. I had to start yelling loudly here. Clearing the bush, I was facing the big gully, the real game of the day. This is a gully of more than 900 m elevation gain, straight line up. The higher I got to, the better the views were. It was already afternoon by the time I got here and the temperature was approaching 30 degrees. Under this condition, it was a real undertaking. There were avalanches on Mounts Temple, Fay, and Quadra, and they just sounded like thunders. Three eye-catching features can well describe the views on this slope – Temple, Quadra, and Consolation Lakes. Due to the sun and the tiring legs I had to take breaks more often. Big boulder fields on the upper one third of the slope also slowed me down quite a bit as they required concentration. I took more than 2 hours just to clear this gully…
Once topping out on the ridge, the views towards Skoki area, Protection Mountain, and Castle Mountain suddenly opened up. I had to traverse horizontally over big boulder fields to get to the summit. This part also took me quite a while. There was no register on the summit.
After admiring the views I retraced my steps down. I was thinking about doing the traverse to the true peak but I decided to go bag Tower of Babel instead so I didn’t linger any longer on the summit. However, the descent went slow. The terrain was mostly boulders, rubbles, and dirt, with very few scree run. My knees hurt on this type of terrain. By the time I got down, I had very little motivation to continue to Tower of Babel, so I just boulder-hopped to the lake shore of lower Consolation Lakes for some photos, then walked leisurely back to my car.
My round trip time was 6.5 hours on a not-so-fast pace. Overall, Panorama Ridge is a straightforward and relatively short objective, but with good views. Many folks combined Panorama Ridge with Tower of Babel to make a full day outing. Not sure how much I want to recommend this peak, but on days when you don’t have full-on motivation or energy, it’s a good choice. The next day I was still very tired so hiked up Paget Peak.