Elevation gain: 1,200 m
Length: 11 km return
Trailhead: Moraine Lake shoreline
“Nothing gold can stay.” Has this saying ever rung truer than when describing the beauty of golden larch trees? Each year, for only a handful of weeks at the end of September, larches morph into a glowing gold colour that pulls tourists and nature lovers alike to flood the paths leading them into the hearts of where these larches grow. With the littering of these trees throughout the Rockies being dusted with gold during these weeks, and when framed by towering mountain upon towering mountain, well, there’s no sight really comparable to it.
Last September, Tim and I made the road trip all the way from our little home in Saskatchewan to bear witness to this natural wonder, and was that drive ever worth it! We figured visiting the quintessential larch haven of Larch Valley needed to be checked off our to-do list and, taking it a step further to look down onto the valley, we decided to attempt the Eiffel Peak scramble. However, coming all the way from Saskatchewan means we had to do this scramble on a certain day, and this day happened to bring on a ton of snow. Despite this added challenge, we went on!
Tim and I had camped out in our car the night before in one of the huge overflow parking lots just off the Trans Canada highway, and woke up super early to beat the rush of crowds that would be coming to the Moraine Lake parking lot. During this time of year Parks Canada has it as law that all groups hiking trails that start at Moraine Lake need four or more people in them, so we waited at the trailhead (along the Moraine Lake shoreline) for more people. Additionally, bears are apparently a huge problem in this season too, so make sure to have bear spray readily available. Once we found a small group, we began the hike up the 10 or so switchbacks leading into Larch Valley. Good conversation kept us from realizing just how many switchbacks there were in this section.
Upon reaching Larch Valley the people we were with went at their own pace, and Tim and I were alone. And holy moly did we feel alone! We essentially had the valley to ourselves with no one else in sight, with fog and incoming snow visible from miles away. It was equal parts eerie and stunning — a mixture only the mountains can provide. We took our time walking through Larch Valley since it was both of our first time there. The gold of the larches reminded me of something Dr. Suess would write about, and the mammoths that are Mount Temple and the 10 Peaks set my daydreams ablaze — basically, I could have died and gone to heaven with all this beauty around me, and that would’ve made sense.
We hiked all the way through Larch Valley until reaching a couple of benches, where we turned left, headed through some bush and crossed the river, and scrambled up the hill to get on the main slope leading to Eiffel Peak. Because there was so much snow, we had to follow the path made by those before us in the day and divert from the recommendations in Alan Kane’s book. We headed around the left side of Eiffel Peak, instead of Kane’s reference to go to the right, and trekked along through conditions we were not anticipating.
Dark skies and white-outs of snow that blew in every so often didn’t make for the highest levels of optimism, but because the clouds opened up now and again we decided to keep going. Ultimately we ended about 200 m short of the summit, but only two out of the eight people to attempt Eiffel Peak that day actually made it up. We chose safety over the Instagram picture for this scramble, and based on the dark skies that covered Moraine Lake once we reached its shoreline again I’d say we made the right choice on ending early. On a positive note, my heart for the mountains grew three sizes this day — I was literally in awe the whole time! No other way to put it. And when hanging out at our decided endpoint the skies became blue and I was able to get some photos. There’s always next year to reach the summit.
More photos of our day are below. There aren’t as many as I’d hoped for due to the conditions, and I only took my camera out when it got somewhat sunny, but take a look if you’d like!