Helen Lake Boulders
by G.Cornell, October 2017
This is a neat, pocket of boulder-sensory-overload-of-a-valley found a short distance up the popular Helen Lake Trail. Lots of pink quartzite and spotted green blocks in a vast expanse of shattered small blocks, making hiking to each one requiring a some care and patience in summer months however getting to some climbable blocks in winter conditions may be like what I have read of the Khumba Icefall! – do not bother if there is any amount of snow covering as the boulderfield on the flat runout can be treacherous speaking from experience; up on the south facing slopes the snow burns off much more. In summer it would be a fun place to explore, hidden gems abound certainly up high.
From Hwy #93(Banff-Jasper Hwy), as you near Crowfoot Glacier there is a parking lot on the north side of the road for the Helen Lake hike – use this trailhead. From the parking lot, hike up the easy-angled trail for 15-20 minutes passing over two cute, narrow, foot-deep creeks. Continue along the trail for less than ten minutes to where a group of tree roots cross the trail and the end snout of a hillside is about 20m away and near a fat, deadish limb-heavy tree that is still standing. Follow up the treed ridge that heads up and zig-ags up(may have flagging) that will soon overlook this pocket valley of boulders. After half hour or so of hiking from the trail, an opening in the ridge trees may reveal a ridge of rock like knuckles – when you are near this, the boulders are only a few minutes hike west. Stay on the ridge of trees and don’t drop down, but wait and keep hiking as the boulders eventually come to you.
To get to certain boulders take a bit of care hiking over to what catches your eye, again much trickier with snow cover. The best way to access the upper slope boulders facing south is to just hike west and pass by some of the boulders climbed below and a obvious ridge of rubble rises across from where the slope rises up; hike along this berm west and then cross down into the tight V-gulch that touches the upper slope, cross it, and scramble up easy ground to a multitude of rock choices. Not hard to figure out.
Minor amount of boulders that have been climbed from east-to-west:
Cat Boulder, V0 – you should walk right past the south side of this boulder where the forest is only meters to behind you. The north face has two nearly identical green rock shapes and looks a bit like kitty-cat ears. North green face is fun, as is the pink NW arete and bailing off right under the tree also fun variant. Due to snow dripping the SE corner were untouched. The best descent is down the NE corner(left cat ear) but is also a fun short ascent.
Warmth Boulder, VB/0 – fun warm up that is a suntrap. It also sits just north of the trees. Fun different variations can occur.
The Pink Blob, VB/0 – low angle but fun goofy suntrap rock. Traverse left to right and up.
Ghostkeeper, V0 – this is farther to the west of the main area, found in a lower field of smaller rocks with this obvious fin-looking boulder in the middle. Walk past the main area that borders the forest and soon scramble up onto the berm-dike of rubble to the north. Walk along this west for 50m or so and once above Ghostkeeper, scramble down easily to the boulder. Traverse the whole thing, go up, whatever.
Club International, V1/2 – this is a very cool boulder with lots of future possibilities easily seen sitting a bit up the north slope just up from a tall pine. Whomever climbs the south “face” should give this rock a name, this info is just for the east face that was the first original line climbed here. Somewhere near the SE corner of black rock, go up and use the top to continue right, then dip down and traverse right until eventually findind a good black good ledge and use it mantle up. Also start below this in a hole and just go straight up on fun rock. Getting off is had on the NW side where a 2-step ledge facilitates the best descent. Climb up the descent and use neat sidepulls to head left and top-out on the lip where you find it comfortable, also fun.