Helmet Falls CG to Tumbling Creek CG, 14.5 km, 900 m Elevation Gain, 750 m Elevation Loss, 7 hrs 40 min.
I arrived back at camp at 8 am an hour after I had left to find Niel and Ken just making breakfast. It was only a 12 km day so there was no rush. We headed out of camp at 9 am. First stop was a detour back to Helmet Falls. Ken and Neil dropped their packs by the broken bridge and headed for a closer look at the falls.
The side trip to Helmet Falls took about 30 minutes. With the sun high in the sky there was no rainbow effect but the sight of the water tumbling for over 350 m (1000ft) is an awe inspiriting feature of nature and an excellent example of the wonders of the natural world and one of the reasons I go hiking.
We headed back to pick up the packs and start the hike to Tumbling Creek. The day would involve hiking over two passes and crossing a snow field. The day involves hiking over two passe. The first pass involves hiking up 405 m to Limestone Summit. This pass provides an excellent long view of the Rockwall. A 300 m descent is then followed by a 376 m climb to Rockwall Pass before dropping 360 m to Tumbling Creek CG.
The soon after the little stream crossing the trail headed uphill through a series of switchbacks. The gradient of the trail was never too steep as we gained the 405 m to the first pass in 3.2 km. Neil took up position at the head of the group where he would spend the majority of the trip. I acted as the caboose so I guess that makes Ken the coal car!
We had our last look at Helmet Falls and headed around the end of Limestone Peak. There was some snow on the trail and there were plenty of muddy spots. We stopped for a break after 1 hr 15 min having covered 3.1 km.
We came out of the woods onto a fairly flat stretch and made a quick right hand turn onto a grassy meadow and the Rockwall came into full view giving us a view all the way to Wolverine Pass!
The view from the grassy meadow of Limestone Summit was so stunning it took us 5 minutes to walk just 130 m. We stopped looked at the view, took photos, and just tried to absorb the scenery that we had traveled to see. The young ladies from last night arrived just as we were starting to head off. The “oohs” and “ahhs” and exclamations of awe must have mimicked what we sounded like.
We quickly lost all the elevation we had gained dropping 220 m in 1.5 km. The ground was very wet at the low point and you could just imagine how wet this must have been only a week or so ago as the last of the snow melted. The trail was dry for the most part but there was still some wet sections.
As we reached the bottom it was close to noon so we decided to find a spot for lunch. We would settle on a nice little turquoise pond with a view south to Rockwall Pass.
We relaxed by the pond for about 35 minutes. Across the pond a couple of hikers took advantage of a large rock and stretched out and relaxed in the sun. My lunch was my typical hiking lunch. Whole wheat wraps with pepperoni and crushed potato chips. Since this was a short trip I had the luxury of fresh red peppers to add some sweetness to the meal. I finished off the lunch with a desert of a little bit of chocolate.
As we followed the trail after lunch we quickly left the valley via a small bridge for the wooded slopes to the east. This would be the steepest part of the day as we gained 200 m in the next 1.3 km. The woods ended abruptly at a small drainage presenting us with the remnants of the winter snowfield before us. Crossing the snowfield would take us up and over Rockwall Pass and lead us to Wolverine Pass. Wolverine Pass is not strictly on the Rockwall Trail. It is pass though the Rockwall heading west, the only break to the west along the length of the Rockwall.
We packed up and headed off after a good break. Ken stopped to fill up his water in a stream draining the snowfields above as the pond we had lunch at was quite silty. We crossed over a small bridge over the stream and into a lightly forested hillside where we would spend the next 35 minutes gaining most of the elevation to Rockwall Pass with only the occasional view of the Rockwall.
The forest ended abruptly is a side drainage. On the other side of the drainage was a massive snowfield leading up and over Rockwall Pass. I was a little surprised that there was no we trodden trail through the snow. We watched a couple pass and by and head into the snowfield veering to the left which was up the slope. It appeared that no one knew where the trail actually went and when you looked at the tracks they just fanned out all across the snow.
While we were putting out traction aids on the young ladies arrived and prepared to cross the snowfield. In talking with them they had only the PDF camping map of Kootenay NP as a map. As we crossed the snowfield they kept up with us and it was quiet apparent they were using us as a guide.
After a bit of debating about the route I pulled out my tablet and pulled up my Viewranger App that I had running. I used the tablet as a guide as we went across the snowfield to stay on the trail. I was vindicated by the app when we came to a dry patch of ground and found we were right on the trail. Ken uses a different app and followed his with equal success. Looking back the ladies were following a few hundred feet behind.
It took us about 50 minutes to cross the 2.0 km of the snowfield. As passed under the slopes of Mt Drysdale over to the junction with Wolverine Pass Neil had us go one at a time as there was a small risk of avalanche from the slope.
Our group had become 6 with the young ladies joining us. It was decided to spend a few minutes checking out the view from Wolverine Pass. Neil learning from lessons as a former guide takes every opportunity to either sit down and relax or remove his pack. Heading over to the pass Neil took off his pack and everyone followed suit except me. I was considering this hike as training for my Great Divide Trail hike later in the summer so I kept my pack on.
I was pretty unimpressed with Wolverine Pass. The view on the other side was dominated by trees and an angry sky. Looking back to the east we had blue skies, snowy peaks and a sub alpine vista. What made the side trip to Wolverine Pass memorable was the three hikers we met who had come up from the other side. They were relaxing having a beer and quite talkative. One of the hikers had a tattoo of Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hithchikers Guide to the Galaxy. The guy was super cool and let me take a photograph of Marvin. Anyone with a Marvin tattoo is someone worth getting to know.
We said goodby to Marvin and headed back to retrieve the packs and make our way to Tumbling Creek CG. The side trip to Wolverine Pass too a little under 30 minutes. We passed a beat up Parks Canada sign that said 3.0 km to the campground and 10.9 km to Hwy 93. My Viewranger App had the distance to the campground as 3.5 km with a further 11.1 km to the Parking lot at the Paint Pots tomorrow. Think the sign needs to be updated. It would take us 1hr 12 min to get to Tumbling Creek CG dropping a stiff 292m in the process.
We followed the trail south from Wolverine Pass. We had to cross a small snowfield Neil and Ken lead the way. Part way along my left foot slipped and I came down and pressed my right foot right up to my bum. Due to deterioration of my right knee under normal circumstances I cannot get my foot to withing 20 cm, so slamming all the way down created an intense shot of pain through my knee. As I sat in the snow I was quite worried that I may have done something serious to my knee. Getting up gingerly with the help of my poles I was quite relieved after a few steps nothing seemed to be amiss.
We were presented with a couple of well defined trails through the snow. We picked the trail to the left lower down. The trail took us to a drainage that appeared to head towards the valley where the campground would be. The trail became less defined and we got a bit uneasy about our choice. After about 5 minutes I checked my Viewranger and we were not on the trail! The trail we should have chosen was the one on the right that stayed a little higher. We just cut straight up the hill out of the drainage and quickly found the other trail.
The rest of the hike to the campground was pretty uneventful. It was surprising how long the snow lasted on the trail. I kept thinking that we had crossed the last little snow patch when another one appeared. The trail was only snow free for the last 1.5 km. The drop into the campground was short but steep. I kept thinking about how I would have to hike up this in 5 weeks.
Just mere metres before arriving at the campground we had one more obstacle to cross. A small stream was covered in snow and since we could hear the water running under the snow the concern with the crossing was falling through a snow bridge into the water. I am a little surprised I do not have any photos but a snap shot of the Viewranger tracking shows our wandering around and how far out of our way we went to find what appeared to be a safe crossing. It was a successful crossing and no one got wet.
The above screen shot from my Viewranger had some interesting information. At point “A” is where we cut up from the lower drainage back to the trail. It looks like had we stayed in the drainage we would have ended up following the small stream and ended up at “B” and we had no idea what obstacles we would have had to negotiate. Point “B” is where we had difficulty crossing the snow. We went a fair way out of our way to cross the little creek.
We arrived at the campground and chose some campsites near the bottom. The time was 4:38 pm it had taken us a comfortable 7hrs 10 min to hike from Helmet Falls CG. Had the tent set up and clothes drying by 5:15 pm.
Got around to cooking dinner at 6:15 pm. It was quite a party atmosphere with our group of six. The dining area was in a beautiful meadow with a glorious view of the Rockwall and the Tumbling Glacier. At one point Neil was waxing poetically about the virtue of stiff hiking boots. The ladies being new to hiking where keen on learning insights about backpacking. I completely disagree with Neil. I am prefer hiking shoes and have carried loads over 70 lbs comfortably. I did have boots on this trip as Ken had recommended boots for the snow crossings but I would have just as happy in shoes and gators. The added benefit of my shoes is that they would have been dry in the morning. I chose not say anything as I was happy to sit an observe the flow of the conversation without really partaking in it.
Drank some more wine. Ken tried to share his whisky but did not get many takers. Think it is because it is more an “Old Guy” drink. Headed to bed just after 8 pm. I was living large in my Zpack Duplex 2 person tent. going solo it gave me a ton of space. I read for a little while but I am never very successful reading in a tent and was quickly turning out the lights on a fantastic day on the Rockwall.