Stanley Glacier

Elevation: 2135 m
Elevation Gain: 620 m
Stanley Glacier clings to the precipitous northeast face of Stanley Peak in BC’s Kootenay National Park. Like the peak, the glacier is named for Canada’s sixth Governor General Frederick Arthur Stanley. Aside from the peak/glacier, Lord Stanley’s legacy is well-established in Canada; in 1892 he donated a trophy to be awarded annually to Canada’s best amateur hockey team. That trophy, now awarded to the NHL champions, is the Stanley Cup.
My Ascents:
July 24 2016, August 13 2008
GPS Track: Stanley Glacier

As another weekend approached, forecasts across the Rockies looked phenomenal and I made no secret of my desire to get out to the mountains to enjoy a sunny day amidst their splendor. I, therefore, submitted a “short list” (the list was actually quite long!) of family-friendly peaks/hikes to the Boss (Brianne) for approval. After perusing my list (which contained some ambitious objectives when one considers that we planned to bring our 9 month old baby), the Boss sensibly selected one of the more reasonable options: the popular Stanley Glacier trail in Kootenay.

The popularity of the Stanley Glacier hike ensures that its rather small parking lot fills quickly on weekends. Fortunately, Brianne and I have our own little alarm clock which goes off at 6:00 am (or earlier…) every day of the week! With the benefit of an alpine start, we easily secured a good parking spot and were soon hiking. Thanks to a massive wildfire in 2003, the forest in this valley was, largely, razed and the (now) cleared slopes provide awesome views almost right away.

Brianne hikes up the switch-backed slope while fighting to keep a sunhat atop little Mera’s head. When I last hiked this trail in 2008, this slope was filled with burnt timber and fireweed. Now it’s home to a burgeoning forest!

Brianne unequivocally lost the fight to keep the hat on Mera’s head. “Ha ha! Victory for the baby!” The baby ALWAYS wins.

Brianne and a hat-less Mera pose atop the switchbacks where Indian Paintbrushes mark the entrance to the hanging valley below Stanley Peak. High above, the glacier comes into view.

Admiring the view from a bridge near the mouth of the hanging valley.

A sign in this boulder-strewn meadow used to mark the end of the official Parks Canada trail but the sign is either gone or I’m more oblivious than I used to be. Either way, I would strongly recommend continuing on beyond this point to the top of the treed headwall or toe of the glacier above. Good trails ascend to both via either side of this valley. We went up a beaten path in the scree on the right of this photo and then descended a different trail on the far left of this photo to make a pleasant loop.

A remarkable cairn! Someone had WAY too much time on their hands.

The hanging valley’s sheer walls allow for some great waterfall scenery as Stanley Peak’s snowy summit comes into view. Indeed, this valley and its many waterfalls make for some spectacular ice climbs come winter! When frozen, this massive waterfall is known as “Nemesis.”

Tired of fighting to keep the baby’s hat on, Brianne adopts a less-stylish solution to keep the sun off of her…

…the nursing cover tied around her forehead á-la-Rambo and draped over the baby carrier.

Rated WI6, “Nemesis” was among the most difficult ice climbs on Earth when it was first ascended in 1974.

Lots of waterfalls above means lots of streams below! Fortunately, these creek crossings are trivial. They can, however, be quite refreshing when you don’t wear boots that cover your ankles…

Brianne and Mera continue along as our lunch stop (the treed alpine plateau ahead) grows closer. In addition to being a great spot for lunch, this plateau is often used as bivy site for alpinists ascending Stanley Peak via the Stanley Glacier.

As we got closer to our destination, Brianne started to get tired. Fortunately, Crux was on-hand to provide a much-needed tow!

Spectacular views to accompany our lunch! The sublime alpine plateau atop the Stanley headwall provides stunning views of the hanging valley below. Click to see larger.

Crux patiently waits for scraps while Brianne and Mera chow down.

Alpine diaper change! Nothing like packing out a dirty diaper...ugh!

Numerous waterfalls cascade forth from the Stanley Glacier. The view of the glacier is much better from the alpine plateau than from the end of the official trail below, making the 270 additional vertical meters required well worth it! One can continue to hike up to the toe of the glacier but, with a baby in tow, Brianne and I had little appetite for more elevation gain on loose rubble.

Family selfie below Stanley Glacier. But where’s Mera?

There she is!

Brianne climbs a small hill to gain our alternate descent trail to the north.

Crossing a beautiful alpine stream. This really would be a great place to bivy!

Crux wets his paws to cool down on a hot afternoon.

Last views down the hanging valley as we near our descent trail (visible on the far right of this photo).

Great views of Stanley Glacier (left) and Stanley Peak (right) above the alpine plateau as we descend. I love how many waterfalls spew forth from the glacier – particularly the 4 parallel cascades in the upper right of this photo. Click to see larger.

Brianne carefully makes her way down the loose path. On the way up the other side, we swore that this path must be better but both trails are loose and steep once you’re actually on them! They look good from far but are sometimes far from good!

Mount Whymper (one of my favorite Kane scrambles) dominates the view beyond the end of the hanging valley.

Colorful wildflowers distract from the otherwise monotonous trudge back in the forest. As is almost always the case, the hike out seemed to take much longer than the hike in (although I suspect that we were actually going much faster!). Nevertheless, we soon found ourselves back at the trailhead by simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Celebrating another beautiful day in the Rockies with beer and chips! In addition to stocking these items, the Castle Mountain General Store was also a great place to release the baby after a day spent, mostly captive in the hiking carrier and car seat. As you can see, Mera is very much on the move and will soon be bagging peaks without an assist from Mom! ;-)