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Canada: Joffre Lakes

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Joffre Lakes | Canada | Americas

[Visited: October 2010]

A long but beautiful drive took us to the trailhead of Joffre Lakes. The weather seemed almost perfect for hiking, partly cloudy, a little fresh, and even though we felt the after-effects of the long hike one day before, we eagerly started off to the first of the three Joffre lakes. This was easy: just a couple of hundred metres took us to the shore. The sun had just risen above the ridge higher up, making a tree-line on the right, with fresh green colours, stand out of the rest. The water was perfectly still, giving a reflection so clear that it was not always easy to see where reality started and where the water reflected that reality. Hiking higher, we soon came to muddier parts of the trail in a forest, until the trees receded and we found ourselves in the open. Here, we had to cross a field of boulders which was a little tricky, given the slippery surface of the rocks - some of which also appeared to be loose once you stepped on it. After reaching the other end of the field, we had to climb over a muddy trail with lots of roots running across it, until a blue-green colour became visible through the trees. We soon found a sunny spot on the second lake, where we had a short break for a nibble. The water of the second lake was almost as tranquil as the first lake, and the colour no less beautiful. We were higher up here, and behind a tree-covered crest, we could now clearly see glacier-and-snow covered mountain peaks.

Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Third Joffre Lake with the impressive Matier Glacier

After hiking along the lake for a while, we crossed a creek and were in for the last stretch of climbing through the woods. Soon enough, a clear blue colour was shining through the forest on our left. At the same time, we could feel, even through the trees, that the wind was picking up - it was pretty cold here. When we reached a spot which gave us an unobstructed view of the lake, we realized that there was actually lots of wind here: white capped waves were being blown across the lake. This third lake is the largest of the Joffre Lakes, and arguably also the most impressive. For one, it has variation. In our corner of the lake, the shore was still covered by the forest, while it mostly was barren and stony. The far side of the lake is covered by Matier Glacier, and rugged terrain surrounds it. While before we had been warm, the climate here was notably colder, and we had to dress up again, especially when we came out in the open at the end of the lake and had no protection against the cold wind coming from the lake. After walking down to the far end of the lake, we decided to climb up towards the glacier, along the stream coming down the mountain. At one point, we looked up at the glacier, wondering if ice would fall down - and got an almost instant reply as a small part of the icy wall came crumbling down. After passing the small waterfall, we crossed a section with some small trees and stopped to look back at the view of the lake below us.

Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Boulder field to be crossed on the way to the Second Joffre Lake

We found a flat rock where we had something to eat, and continued further down the reach the lake again. Clouds had been coming in, and blocking the sun most of the time now, but unexpectedly, sunlight reached the lake again, as well as Matier Glacier. Looking at it again, its sheer beauty dawned on us, the white-blue light shining through the ice, the jagged top and icy arches, the the wideness of this thick blanket of compressed snow and ice on top of a rugged rocky surface, the layers visible in the ice, giving a clue of the age of the glacier. We also noticed a field of chunks of ice just below the glacier wall, apparently blocks of ice that had fallen off. Assuming the glacier had once reached the Third Lake, we wondered how fast it was receding. Meanwhile, the water was exerting an irresistible attraction on me, and I gave in. I quickly undressed, dipped in, and got out again - the water was as icy as you could imagine of a glacial lake! It was time to hike down again, I was not at all looking forward to hiking down the boulder field. When we reached it, walking down seemed to be easier than hiking up that morning, because the surface of the rocks was less slippery, but still I unfortunately slipped somewhere and got injured on my leg. After shaking off the worst pain, I continued walking which proved the best thing to do. At the first lake, I had a closer look under my jeans and cleaned the wounds, for which I had to stick my foot in the cold water. Fortunately, walking back to the trailhead was easy. Good thing is, the wounds healed and disappeared, but the memory of a great hike up the Joffre Lakes will stay.

Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Part of the First Joffre Lake
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Sun shining on Matier Glacier with crumbling ice
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Impressive Matier Glacier seen from below
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Turquoise Second Joffre Lake
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Matier Glacier overlooks and feeds the Third Joffre Lake
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Third Joffre Lake with trees and mountains
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Matier Glacier dominating the rocks at the far side of the Third Joffre Lake
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): View of Third Joffre Lake
Picture of Joffre Lakes (Canada): Waterfall at the far end of the third Joffre Lake

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