Eiffel Lake larch hike – Second Trimester

As I’m sitting enjoying a tea and watching the snow accumulate, it seems like a good time to catch up on a few posts that have been patiently waiting around since… September.  What can I say, I feel like I go through phrases when I’m either really into blogging or not really feeling it.  The last few months fell in the “not really feeling it” category, probably due to the fact that work was overwhelmingly busy.  Now that things have quieted down, it’s time to catch up!

September will ALWAYS be larch season for me.  Every year, I like to do a few larch hikes: usually one I haven’t done before and one repeat.  Eiffel Lake was a new one for me and it certainly did not disappoint!  This will for sure be added to the list of hikes I would happily repeat.  In case you aren’t a local, larches are these adorably scraggly trees that only thrive in the mountains at very specific elevations.  They are only found in areas that meet their stringent criteria and don’t really look like anything special in the summer (other than the fact their needs are feathery soft!).  In the fall though, there is a 2-3 week period when they turn fluorescent yellow and drop their needles.  We don’t tend to get the deciduous trees out here that you’d see in the east so larches provide that colour change that makes fall feel special.  It’s always hit or miss which weekends will be best for larches AND have the best weather.  The third week of September is generally speaking the best bet but depending on the weather, elevation, location and aspect of the larches, they can be brightest earlier or later.

When to go?

We hiked to Eiffel Lake the second weekend in September and found most of them had started turning this year.  We were also able to avoid the crazy crowds by going earlier in September.  This still meant that we needed to arrive at Moraine Lake early and at 9am we scored the last spot in their miniature parking lot.  A side note, this year Parks Canada started offering shuttle buses from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake on the third weekend in September to help avoid the usual larch hike overcrowding.

Where is it?

This hike leaves from Moraine Lake and follows the same trail as the hike to Larch Valley/Sentinel pass until the top of the switchbacks when it branches off.  We were happy to find that once we branched off to Eiffel Lake, we left 99% of the crowds behind and had the trail almost to ourselves the whole way despite the parking lot being full (and overflowing as we saw on the way out).

 

Canoes on the dock at Moraine Lake first thing in the morning.

Canoes on the dock at Moraine Lake first thing in the morning.  The mountains in the background are part of the Valley of the Ten Peaks that you can see all along the hike.

Difficulty?

The hike is around 12.5 km with a little under 500m of elevation gain.  We did this hike with my parents who are not regular hikers and they did really well and were able to hike the whole thing.  I was 22 weeks pregnant when I did the hike and no problems with the hike.  Until I hit my third trimester, the ~12km hike with <500m gain was the magic number of what I could comfortably tolerate.  If you wanted to take this hike further, there is the option to continue to Wenkchemna Pass which makes the hike around 18km with over 1000m elevation gain.  Several of the groups we met at Eiffel Lake were continuing on to the pass so I have a feeling it’s a well-used trail.  In fact, the whole trail to is very well defined and any intersections are clearly signed.  The only confusion we had was where the lake was.  With a name like Eiffel Lake, I was expected something very large and …. magnificent?  Perhaps in early summer the lake is larger because I thought it was rather small.  Luckily, the surrounding views MORE than make up for the lack of view the lake provides.

Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O'Hara.

Almost at the lake! You can see Wenkchemna Pass on the left side and just over the pass is Lake O’Hara.

Tiiiny little Eiffel Lake.  I couldn't even be bothered to take out my fancy camera so this comes from hubby's cell phone.

Tiiiny little Eiffel Lake. I couldn’t even be bothered to take out my fancy camera so this comes from hubby’s cell phone.

Would I recommend it?

Yup! This will go down in my list of hikes I’d repeat, hopefully with the kidlet next summer!  The trail has a very mild grade, easy switchbacks and is well packed down with few roots and rocks so I think it would be easy with a backpack carrier.  The views though, are what really make this hike memorable.  Not only do you get to see larches for most of the hike, you are essentially skirting the edge of larch valley opposite the Valley of the Ten Peaks and have views of the peaks and glaciers the whole way.  Also, you can hear avalanches and rock fall come down (sometimes you can see it) as the day heats up.

From our lunch spot, this is the view looking back.  I even tried to frame scene with larches!

From our lunch spot, this is the view looking back. I even tried to frame scene with larches!

Stopping for a photo op.  Shorts and a tank top are NOT usual fall hiking clothes out here!

Stopping for a photo op. Shorts and a tank top are NOT usual fall hiking clothes out here!  I even got to test out my lighweight Columbia runners.  They were super breathable, comfortable and light and on the trail.

Pregnancy hiking tips?

For this hike I was really lucky in that the weather was outstanding.  It was bluebird and unusually hot.  Things that I found helpful for hiking in warm weather are as follows:

  • Water (and tons of it!).  Being pregnant has made me thirstier than usually and doubly so when it’s hot out.  I found the best setup was to put one 2L Platypus in hubby’s pack with a hose that I could drink out of quickly.  We would also pack another 1-2L in a second Platypus or water bottles depending on temperature and length of hike
  • Support belt.  My hips started to bother me as soon as my belly popped out and the support belt (or more technically, SI belt) helped a lot with the pain.
  • Layers.  I got hot very quickly so it was key to be able to transition from cold mountain mornings to hot afternoons by stripping layers off.
  • Snacks in excess.  I still remember this hike because I was charting my food intake to see how I was doing nutritionally.  I was pretty shocked at how much protein I (easily) consumed.  I probably had the same hunger level as I’d have going backpacking.

For a longer list of tips, check out my other post where I go into more detail :)

On a separate note, I got a lot of kudos from other hikers.  Comments ranged from “Way to go!”, to parents who pointed at their own kids and said “I did the same and look how far we’ve come!”.  I have to say, I really appreciated all the positivity and next time I’m out and see someone who is pregnant puffing along, I’ll share the good vibes!

Have you ever encouraged someone on the trail or been the recipient of kind words? I usually don’t make comments but I’m thinking I might change that.