Lake Agnes Tea House

John was up and out for breakfast in 10 seconds flat. It was only 7:30 but he’d been awake for ages and had had enough….. of Matt sniffing and Kim snoring.

The remainder of the family struggled to catch up. Matt went for a short 10 minute run. 45 minutes later, a text arrived saying he’d got carried away and hadn’t been eaten by a bear. Quite honestly, we hadn’t noticed he been missing that long.

Today’s challenge was the hike from Lake Louise up to Lake Agnes Tea House, a round trip of 7km which is no distance at all.

We hadn’t reckoned with the 400m elevation climb over 3km. It was a challenge for the older Brays, stopping frequently to catch our breath. We blamed it on altitude sickness rather than being unfit and made a note to spend more time drinking tea at base camp to acclimatise before attempting mountaineering feats. Most of the climb up was through trees with just an occasional gap offering a view of the lake below.

About 3/4 of the way up you could glimpse the Tea House above the trees, but it was still a huge climb.

1km before the top, there was a chance to catch our breath at Mirror Lake. It gets its name from the reflection of the trees and Big Beehive in the water. Not a great photo, sorry!

After another 800m climb we finally arrived at Lake Agnes and the Tea House at an elevation of 2135m above sea level.

It’s the oldest in Canada, opening in 1901 and is family run. There is no electricity, supplies are helicoptered in at the start of the season and topped up by staff, on their way up, on a daily basis. Everything is made fresh on site and our soup with homemade bread and pot of tea were delicious. Walkers are asked to assist by carrying bags of rubbish back down with them. It was well worth the effort with Lake Agnes in the background

We set off intending to walk to another Tea House at Plain of the Six Glaciers. It’s elevation was lower, so we thought the extra 7km should be easier. We picked up the trail back down at Mirror Lake and stopped at the first serious incline. Sometimes you need to know when to give up!

The descent was hard on knees and calves, it was difficult to imagine we’d actually made it to the top

Back at base camp Lake Louise looked stunning in the afternoon sunshine.

Tonight’s dinner was at Lake Louise Station Restaurant. It is one of the few remaining log stations in Canada, built in 1910 and still active. Staff are rushed off their feet – meeting one train a day, the famous Rocky Mountaineer. As we dined a couple of freight trains rumbled past, they are huge and can be up to 4km long, taking 15 minutes to pass which is very inconvenient if you are waiting to cross the track while out on a run as Matt found out.

It was raining when we left but decided to take a final trip to Moraine Lake. The approach was misty and moody in the fading light however the lake itself totally eclipsed anything Lake Louise could offer. These pictures were taken at the same time, we couldn’t believe how different the lake looked from two perspectives

Tomorrow we drive the Icefields Parkway, across the Rockies, to Jasper

Mountain biking in the Rockies (part 2)

We caught our breath and headed for the hotel overlooking Lake Louise, it had taken 2.5 hours! Despite the challenge of cycling, we were pleased we had. The car parks were full and the lake was heaving with tourists.

The history of the cycle track dates back to the late 19th century. Travellers would take a month to sail to the east coast of Canada, many days travelling across the country by train before arriving at Lake Louise. The final step was the tram ride up to the Lake – we had retraced the steps of many travellers before us.

Lake Louise is the highest settlement in Canada, about 1800m above sea level. By the time we arrived at the lake, we were 2k above sea level. No wonder we were hot, sticky and a little bit smelly. Despite this, we approached the concierge with confidence and were directed to the hotel’s cycle parking. More uphill as we negotiated ramps in the spiral car park. Then there was a mad dash to buy deodorant to make ourselves more socially acceptable!

We were served by Dan, a Canadian with an Irish father and mother from Manchester, who’s very excited by his first trip to the UK in November.

Afternoon tea overlooking the lake was civilised, however whipped cream in place of clotted cream was disappointing.

John and Matt were particularly taken with the self serve dessert buffet..

The ride back took a fraction of the time, downhill all the way, woohoo! John and Matt were off like demented things while Kim was on the brakes all the way – there were some steep drops down the side.

We dropped the bikes off and Kim had strong words with the owner, re-defining flat cycling for him! He awarded her ‘Hero of the Day’ and gave her a prize to shut her up and get her out of the shop….

Mountain biking in the Rockies (part 1)

No you didn’t, we hear you cry! Yes, we did and here’s the proof!

We needed something to keep us out of mischief until lunchtime. Afternoon tea is booked at the Fairmont Hotel on Lake Louise. Kim had found an easy 7k route along the Bow River and agreed to get on a bike.

The only trouble was that John chatted to the cycle hire guy who persuaded him we could cycle all the way to the lake. It was only another 6k and there was only one hill. Let’s just say that a Canadian’s idea of a hill is different to a Kim’s. She should have listened to the guy who said it’s a 200m incline over 5k – she valiantly pushed the bike most of the way!

Beware the smoke….

Our bargain basement WestJet flight was fine,

The sky was dark grey and orange as we approached Calgary. There was a strong smell of burning and the ash settling over the city has drifted in from the wildfires 500 miles away!

Calgary Airport was interesting. Very clean and populated by elderly Canadians driving electric buggies. At no point did we see passengers in any of the buggies, perhaps it’s simply a kind way of keeping pensioners out of mischief?

Mathew heroically drove us 2 hours to Lake Louise through torrential rain. We stopped briefly by the Bow River so we could at least say we’d done some sight seeing.

Exhausted, we made it to Lake Louise Village where dinner beckoned. Fed and watered, we drove up to Lake Louise, it’s 7pm here and still very busy. Even on a fairly overcast evening, the lake is stunning

Our final challenge was the 12 miles round trip to Moraine Lake

So we’ve been up 24 hours with only a little snooze on the plane, we’ve all got colds, I wonder how we’ll feel in the morning!