Cirque Peak
Just short of 3000m (2993), Cirque Peak is a stunning viewpoint on the icefields parkway

Leila and I finally met up for one of the best hikes either of us has done yet.


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The trail consists of two segments - a fairly easy hike to Helen Lake, then a steep, but non-technical scramble to the summit.
Helen lake is 6km from the trailhead, with an elevation gain of ~500m.
The trail contours SE around the outlier ridge, then gains most of the elevation in a short time, before winding back up to the lake.
Once you hit the turn back north above the serious elevation gain, views into the Helen Lake basin replace shots of Bow Peak and Crowfoot Mountain.

On the steep climb - first view of the ridge to go around.

The path winds through the scene of a prescribed burn - now covered in wildflowers.

Leila coming around the ridge corner, Bow-Crowfoot col behind.

First glimpse around the ridge - Cirque Peak at right.

Leila and Rachel at the entrance to the Cirque/Dolomite basin.

Pano of Bow Peak and Crowfoot Mountain from trail just before turning around the ridge.

Small waterfall along the trail.

Helen Lake drainage, crossed in the meadws below the lake.

Looking down Helen Creek

Leila crossing the creek.

First view of Helen Lake below cirque Peak.

Pano of Helen Lake. Cirque Peak is above it at right, and unnamed ridge winds the rest of the way around.
The lake is an awesome deep blue colour, where it drops off after the first few feet of red and yellow rocks.


Inviting as the lake was, we had another 600m to ascend for a peak view, so we moved on.
Above Helen Lake it's a quick 100m to a ridgeline that gives you just a first glimpse of the awesome views to come.
For those not up to the peak, this is still a worthy objective.
Heading towards Cirque Peak, you pass one more lovely tarn before committing to a steep trek up sections of talus, scree, and intermediate loose rubble.
1050m from the trailhead, the summit of Cirque Peak is reached after a small step of proper hands-on scrambling.

Helen Lake and trail from the ridge

Cirque Peak from the ridge.

View back to Dolomite Peak and ridge summit.

Tarn below Cirque Peak

Awesome colours of the small tarn.

Leila checking out the scenery.

View back along the trail from a ways up the ridge.

The trail winds up light scree.

The already excellent view west from partway up.

Leila on the lower summit.

Leila climbing back to the lower summit, in front of Bow glacier.

Bow Glacier feeding Bow Lake.
A trail exists to Bow Glacier Falls, just below the small lake.

Peyto Lake below Cauldron Peak.
Cauldron Lake is tucked in behind the peak, just left of photo.

Dolomite Peak and Lake Katherine. Mount Hector behind.

Observation Peak behind an unnamed double summit.

Full panorama from the summit. The view is about the best I have seen yet.
Click here to see this pano with known points labelled.

Leila on the summit.

Glacier on the NE face of Cirque Peak

The way down took us about half the time on the loose scree.
We stopped by Helen Lake again to rinse our faces in the cool water, before finishing the trip down.
At a fairly slow pace, we spent about eight hours on the trail, six of them moving.

Leila walking down the ridge.

Trail along Helen Lake.

Last shot of the trail before dropping back into the trees.

There was a fair variety of wildflowers along this trail, most of which I failed to capture.
The coolest was the selection of indian paintbrush. This flower is on most trails, but we usually see it in red.
This trail showed an incredible selection of shades.
The meadows around Helen Lake are apparently also enjoyed by the four-legged. We saw a few hoary marmots playing as we had out lunch.

Alpine cinquefoil (potentilla nivea).

Alpine Hawksbeard (crepis nana)

Alpine Marsh Marigold (caltha leptosepala)

White Mountain Heather (cassiope mertensiana)

Indian Paintbrush (castilleja miniata)

Indian Paintbrush (castilleja rhexifolia)

Indian Paintbrush (castilleja rhexifolia)

Indian Paintbrush (castilleja rhexifolia)

Hoary marmot (marmota caligata) posing for a shot.

Hoary Marmot finding something tasty to munch on.

Photos taken by Rachel

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