Difficulty: Moderate (some steep parts on scramble)
Distance: 11 km(trail) + 4km scramble
Elevation gain: 2000m
Time Taken: 6-7 hrs, including scramble
Cool points: Falls, crystal clear lakes, great views
What it's Not: Bad
Date of Hike: 1990, 1993
Recommendations: Bring Camera
Notes: No Mountain bikes
"Map is © Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
Department of Natural Resources. All rights reserved."
The road to the trail head is about 1/2 a km North on Hwy 93A from the Athatbaska falls. Simply turn left(West) on the follow it for about 5-6km and it will terminate at the trail head. This is actually the trail head for two trails: the look out trail, and our trail of discussion Geraldine Lakes. The Geraldine lakes is the trail that starts off to the South West.
Geraldine lakes is one of my favorite day hikes. So much so that I have been on it twice, once with my good hiking buddy Robert Lindsy, and then again with my girl friend. This hike quickly gets you into the back country, has great views and is (at least when I was there) not heavily used.
The first time I hiked Geraldine lakes was back in my university days, some where in the summer of 90(?). There were 4 of us that started the hike, my normal hiking companion Robert, his brother Ted, and his girl friend, what's her name :-). The trail head of this hike is a bit secluded, already you feel like you are away from the bustle of civilization.
If memory serves, the initial part of the hike is up a bit of a valley, through the normal spruce trees that are predominate through out the park, The trail is easy, and fairly wide (for a Jasper trail), indicating that quite a few people use it, however we only saw on other group of hikers on the trail for the entire hike.
The trail quickly brings you into the valley between mount ______ and mount ______, off in the distance you see Mount Fryatt (11024m). The trail is a bit odd, it is almost like climbing giant steps, first a long flat stretch, then a steep section, then a flat stretch, etc. Each of the flat stretches has one of the Geraldine lakes, and each of the climbs has a water fall from the creek connecting the lakes. It is at the first lake that you see the first picture took of Ted (the shortest one), Robert the taller person, and myself with the long hair. This picture always makes me chuckle when I see it, we were not striking some sort of bad ass pose here, it just turned out that way when the picture was taken. In the back ground you see the first lake, the sides of the mountain and the first water fall. The trail continues along the north side of the lake, and then up along the side of the water fall.
Traveling up the side of the water fall was a real treat, although the day of the hike was not incredibly hot, it was hot enough to be uncomfortable, but the mist of the first set of falls quickly cooled us down even while hiking.The second picture shows a portion of the first set of falls. After climbing the section of the trail along the falls you come to the second of the lakes. This lake is the largest of the bunch, and different in that the lake is surrounded by boulders from a old rock fall. Although I do not remember crossing stream at at this point, I do remember continuing along the trail on the south side of the second lake. At this point the trail is no longer the wide trail it was at the start of the hike, and it involved a bit more skill in negotiating the rocks. I suspect most hikers go to the falls of the first lake. Although it up at the second lake that we met a group traveling the other direction. They had been on a overnight hike, most likely traveling from Fryatt trail, but I am not sure. It was around this point that the Ted turned back with his girl friend as she was wearing out and had had enough.
The next two pictures (above) are of the Falls above the 2nd lake, and then looking back on the second lake, from the base of the falls. (actually my memory is a bit fuzzy, these second falls, may actually be before the second lake)
After the second lake, you eventually come to the third lake in the chain. This lake is quite small, below you see a picture of the lake. The background has the side of Mount Fryatt, and off in the distance you see either Mt Lapesee, or Mt Belanger, I'm not sure which. The second picture below show me crossing the creek, at this point it was fairly wide, but quite shallow, and very cold. The pictures shows me almost doing a face plant, I'm not sure how Robert always gets these goofy pictures of me.
Oh by the way, we are have now deviated from the trail, at this point it is about 11:00 and we decided we wanted out lunch on top of one of the the mountains, this is the start of our scramble section of our hike, which actually nearly killed me (once of fright, and once due to an accident).
We followed up a creek, which was a fairly steep climb involving some pretty simple boldering, it was during the boldering that I nearly died of fright, about a 50 meters up the steep part of the trail as I pull my face up to the top of one of the boulders I was playing spider man on, I came face to face with a marmot (marmots are like giant gopher). Now normally I would not even think of being afraid of a marmot, I'm pretty sure that they are not carnivours, but when suddenly faced with one about 3 inches from you face while hanging onto the rim of the rock, with your feet on a 4 inch ledge, and a very pain full fall (surely involving broken bones). The initial shock of the furry face in front of me nearly made me lurch off the edge I was on. Luckily I did not fall, the marmot did not decide his sunning ledge was worth defending and he just scurried off into the rocks. There are three pictures above of this section of the path the picture down does not do it justice, depth and steepness never seem to come out in pictures like this, especially with the box camera. but there are any ways. The 4th picture is another shot of Lake number 2, I think it was taken from the top of this little scramble.
Eventually you come to an upper mountain valley, with a very small lake (at least when we were there, I would not be to surprised if it dries up at times). Above, you can see that there are still patches of snow up here in the picture of me on one of the boulders, with the small lake in the back ground. Up here we also saw what looked to be like bear diggings.... but no bear came to eat us ;-). From this upper vale we when to the ridge along the side of one of the mountains, and continued up. by now it was around 2:00. We decided to stop for lunch and enjoy the view, we also decided that we would head back, unfortunately there did not seem to be a way to the top of the mountain that we had chosen given the time left in the day.
It was just after lunch that disaster nearly struck. I usually hike with my biking gloves on, they provide a bit of protection to the palm of the hands. I had taken them off for lunch, and had not put them back on when we started heading down. we were at the point of the mountain were the top of a skree patch met the jagged part of the peak, The skree was fairly steep, and my second steep my foot shot out, my hand went back to catch myself and sure enough my wrist struck the sharp rock. Although pain was not to intense, I was bleeding pretty good, it did not hit an artery, as the slash was off towards the side of the wrist, but you could defiantly see the bone down there. I am one of these people that is not to good with his own blood not being inside my body. We sat down, and tried to stop the bleeding by applying pressure.
Unfortunately we did not have a first aid kit(Can you say !), and did not bandage up the cut. The bleeding had really slowed, and more or less stopped. but I guess the combination of pain, altitude, and my basically not liking my blood all over the place was making me quite light headed. I almost blacked out a few times (I have blacked out in the past just getting up to fast from sitting in a chair). Robert was pretty concerned and we decided to bee-line it back to camp as the decent did not look to hard. 20-20 hind sight showed that to be a big mistake. The way we came up was pretty open and got us to the trail on the south side of the last lake, the route we took was through the trees, down a steep slope to the north side of the lake, where we had to travel through more trees. The result being that I ended up having to use my hands alot, this cause me to continually reopen the cut and it took longer to get back. By the time we were 3/4 of the way back we met Ted and another of our friends who did not want to go on the hike initally. So it was the four of us made it to the trail head and drove back to camp.
In camp, we went to the wash room (with running water) and began to wash off my hand, by this time the entire hand was completely black with dried blood and dirt. The area around the cut itself, must have had 1/2 an inch of dried dirt and blood caked on. I had cleaned off the hand except the area immediately around the cut which I was just getting to when, a guy comes into the bathroom. He took one look and told me to hold on, he was a para-medic, he went back and got some anti septic, and gauze. he started to clean out the cut, and that was it for me....Lights out. I came to one the floor of the bathroom, with him asking me if I wanted wanted him to cancel the ambulance. I did, promising to get Rob to drive me into the hospital... of course being young and stupid, we ate supper first after which I felt alot better, I was exhausted, so was Rob we decided that the para-medic did a good enough job for now and went to bed. next morning, at the Jasper hospital, the doctor stitched me up with 7 stitches. He told me that I was extreamly lucky the cut was not 1 inch over, or I would have severed the arteries and probably had severe trouble getting off the hill alive.
THE SECOND TRIP
The second trip us uneventful.... but we did not make it past the 2nd Lake. The weather was miserable, it rained non stop was fairlycold (well it was raining how cold could it have been) but being wet, and in 5-9 Degree C weather is not comfortable. I was out with my girlfriend and about 10 others from University, we were not out to hike but I suggested this as one of our 1/2 day activities. We made it to the second water fall. By this time one of the guys with us was shivering uncontrollably, and slurring his words (he was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt). It was not fun, and Marcell was now hypothermia, time to go down to the warmer temperatures in the valley.
So even if you are just in the mountains for a short 'walk' you should be aware that the weather does change, and it does cool when you get into the higher elevations. In this case it was not really cold, but we did not have any rain gear, or cloths that were warm when wet.
We did get a couple of pictures, At the first lake I'm out on the log jam, and then a nice group picture down close to the first falls.
Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it encase something happens
Be prepared for the weather, I knew this, but make sure everyone does. (second trip)