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 first set out to find Niel and Ken just making their breakfast. It was only a 12 km day so there was no rush. We headed out of camp at 9 and the 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 a awe inspiriting 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 to begin the hike to Tumbling Creek CG. The day would involve hiking over two passes and crossing a snow field. The first pass is a 4 m hike up 405 m of elevation to Limestone Summit. The view from Limestone Summit provides an excellent view of the Rockwall. A quick 300 m descent is then followed by a 376 m climb over 4 km will bring us to Rockwall Pass before we finish the hike by dropping 360 m to Tumbling Creek CG.
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 steadily gained elevation. 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 came to an open areas on the side of short hill and had our last look at Helmet Falls. The trail then plunged into the forest to take us around the end of Limestone Peak. There was some snow on the trail and plenty of muddy sections along the trail. 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 of trail and made a quick right hand turn onto a grassy meadow and the Rockwall came into full 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 had 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. For the most part the trail was dry was still some wet sections that kept us paying attention to where we put our feet.
As we started heading uphill towards Rockwall pass we decided it would be good time to stop for lunch. We setttled on a nice little turquoise pond with a view south to Rockwall Pass.
We relaxed by the pond while eating our lunch for about 35 minutes. Across the pond a couple of hikers took advantage of a large rock and stretched out to relax 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 little bit of chocolate.
We packed up and headed off after a good break. Ken stopped to fill up his water in a stream that drained the snowfields on Rockwall Pass as the pond we had lunch at was quite silty. We crossed a small bridge over the stream and headed into a lightly forested hillside where we would spend the next 35 minutes gaining most of the elevation to Rockwall Pass. The forest ended abruptly at a small drainage presenting before us the remnants of the winter’s snowfield. 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 to the wes, the only break along the length of the Rockwall.
As I looked across the snowfield I was a little surprised that there was no well defined trail through the snow. We stood and watched a couple pass by and head into the snowfield. The veered off to the left which was up the slope. When we walked out onto the snow there were footprints fanning out in all directions it appeared that no one knew where the trail actually went.
While we were putting out traction aids on the young ladies arrived and prepared to cross the snowfield. They had no GPS devices and had only the PDF camping map of Kootenay NP to us as a map. As we crossed the snowfield they trailed behind but never let us get too far ahead. It was quiet apparent they were utilizing us as their guides.
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 to guide us 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.
It took us about 50 minutes to cross the 2.0 km of the snowfield. As we passed under the slopes of Mt Drysdale heading 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 ladies joining up when we had finished crossing the snowfield. The group decided to spend a few minutes checking out the view from Wolverine Pass. Neil drawing on his experience as a former guide takes every opportunity to either sit down and relax or remove his pack. Before heading over to Wolverine Pass Neil took off his pack and everyone followed suit except me. I considered 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 a long uninspiring valley topped by an angry sky. Looking back to the east where we had come from there were blue skies, snowy peaks and a sub alpine vista. What made the side trip to Wolverine Pass memorable was the three hikers we met. The trio had come up from the other side and were enjoying a beer while they got ready to head back and were quite talkative. One of the hikers had a tattoo of Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The guy was super cool and even 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. I think the sign needs to be updated. It would take us 1hr 12 min to get to Tumbling Creek CG dropping a stiff 292 m 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 of my bum, 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 which was lower down the slope. The trail took us to a drainage that appeared to head towards the valley where the campground would be. Quickly 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 main 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 located the main trial.
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 would appear. 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 a small stream ending up at “B”. We have no idea what obstacles we would have had to negotiate so it was a good choice to get back to the main trail. 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. I chose not say anything as I was happy to sit an observe the flow of the conversation without really partaking in it.
During dinner I had my beer and of course drank some more wine. Ken tried to share his whisky with the group 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.
Rockwall North Day 3 – To Paint Pots