Jasper’s Fryatt Valley

Day 2

After a good night’s sleep, and a cup of tea with my breakfast, I head out toward Headwall Falls and the hike to the top. Approaching Fryatt Lake I am once again amazed by the blue/green colour of these mountain lakes and feel lucky to have the sun above illuminating it in such a fantastic way.



















Another 3 km and I come to the Headwall Campground at the base of the falls. From here, I can see the challenge ahead and wonder how the trail could climb that high in just 900 metres, and what path could it possibly take?


Making the Headwall

I made it! Maybe I shouldn’t be so joyous. I’ve done more difficult hikes before. But I know what it is: disappointment, then accepting and being ok with that disappointment, then having it all turn around and come through after all. It creates an even greater sense of elation. Having met a young, heavily bearded man hiking down from the top of the Headwall, I asked, “Is it easy to navigate?” He said, “just follow the orange markers. My wife and I stayed up at the hut last night; the views are amazing.”

I listened but must have had my head down on the way up as after scrambling for a bit to a point that seemed impossible to go any further, I accepted that I had failed. “Where are the orange markers?” I exclaimed to myself in disgust. Resigned to my failure I headed back down – mostly on my butt. But just a short way down I noticed the biggest strip of orange tape I’d seen yet. I had indeed missed it.

My elation was so palpable and heartfelt that it took away my personal embarrassment. And just a few more minutes up what would normally be considered a challenging hike (now suddenly seeming soooo easy after the cliff climbing I had just attempted) and I have made it. And am I glad I did.

Looking back down the Fryatt Valley from near the top of Headwall Falls
Water pools just before tumbling over the falls
The Sydney Vallance Hut at the top of Headwall Falls, reservable through the Alpine Club of Canada


And again…

Maybe I shouldn’t keep reporting my mistakes (though this really wasn’t much of one). Heading up the trail along the creek trying to get closer to the cirque above me, I end up following a trail through the bush. I could tell it was heading toward a waterfall, but not where I wanted to be; instead hoping to push on further toward the base of the cirque ahead. So I find my way back down to where I had started.

Lunch Break Rock

I take my lunch on a rock in the middle of Fryatt Creek still above the Headwall – having nimbly leapt across a few other boulders to get there. After eating my sandwiches and fruit bars, I stretch out on the rock, nearly drifting off a few times.The sun is warm – the water I dip my feet into (having taken off my boots for some much needed foot rest) is not!


A few low rumbles cascade down from the circ above- rockslides, though I cannot see them. Then a large, low rumble from straight ahead is accompanied by a plume of dust. This must happen often as it has cascaded down a large chute, through which this scene has certainly played out time and time again. But I am lucky to have been here to see it this time.

In Pursuit of the Cirque

After my lunch and snooze on the rock, I decide to try the trail again. And there it is: hidden by the fact that it crosses a tiny stream, the rest of the trail lay before me.

Not 5 minutes later I find myself at the small upper lake. This is where I wanted to end my hike. And I’m here!


A break in the cloud – the return of the sun – and I decide to head toward the west side of the lake. Scrambling a little over huge boulders, skirting the edge of this lake made grey/blue/green by countless particles of silt washed from the surrounding Rockies, I come to a tiny beach, then yet another slide. Climbing part way up to get the best vantage point of this amazing 360 degree display of pure, raw beauty, I sit, listening to the water pass through the rocks below me, and take one more panoramic photo of the lake and the cirque behind.


This being as far into the backcountry as I shall go on this trip (but with the hike down yet to come and plenty of daylight left) I feel I am now in the twilight of my journey.

Closing my eyes and taking a number of deep breathes to smell, taste, and experience with every sense I have this amazing air, this truly special place and my luck in being able to be here, right now, I take one – then another, then another – last look before I head back.  Walking along the shore I step through the soft sand, leaving footprints for the first time in the opposite direction from which I had come.


The Rain Decided to Wait … Just For Me?

Within the minute of my standing and heading back, the clouds that had been hinting their intent, decide to endow me with the first sprinkles I’d felt all day. With good gear, and knowing how lucky I’d been to have had such amazing weather this day, I am not disappointed that the rain has come. In fact, it has solidified what I’d already known about this day: I have been blessed. So instead of chagrining the fact that the clouds have moved in and begun to drizzle cool drops over my shoulders, I in fact smile one of the biggest smiles I’ve had in a long time.

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