Lake Agnes Canada
Last week, we posted about our serene walk around Lake Louise.
After we checked out Lake Louise, we also did the “moderate” walk up to Mirror Lake, Agnes Lake, and to Agnes Lake Teahouse.
Let me describe some of my symptoms to you during this walk:
- Dizzy spells, to the point of tipping over and needing to steady myself on North Nomad or a tree.
- Tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. I hadn’t struggled to breathe like this since my childhood asthma attacks.
- Pounding headache, mostly around the sinuses.
- An unprecedented exhaustion from exercise.
I was a little shocked at them, as I’m a healthy person who does regular and fairly intense exercise. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so bloody unwell during a hike that wasn’t as hard as ones I’ve done in the Blue Mountains!
When we were back at home after our travels, I Googled my symptoms. Dr.Google came up with altitude sickness. Either it’s a sheer coincidence that the symptoms were the same (very likely), or I had altitude sickness at an embarrassingly low altitude (possible, but not probable).
But don’t let my lack of toughness deter you. It is one of the most stunning hikes we’ve been on in the world. There aren’t many places where you get iridescent blue water, glaciers, and snow capped mountains in the midst of summer weather. Nor a teahouse to welcome you at the Summit!
Looking objectively at the hike, it can be a tricky one. If you’re relatively fit, the difficult in it lies in not the length itself, as it’s a quick hike, but in the height. It climbs high quite quickly, and if you have sensitive inner ears like me, you may get unbalanced and dizzy.
There are several ways you can hike to reach Lake Agnes and the Teahouse. The route we took was to walk past the right of Lake Louise, and follow the signage up to Lake Agnes.
At one juncture, you’re given the opportunity on the signs to take the shorter route or the longer one.
We took the shorter one (which was harder, and steeper) on the way up, and the longer one on the way back. If you’re unfit, take the longer one.
We noticed a group of rather immaculately dressed, tiny Japanese ladies doing the walk with a tour guide. They paused every few minutes to check out the most boring of leaves and flowers – we finally figured out that they needed regular breaks but may have been trying to save face.
This gave me some comfort that I wasn’t the only one struggling!
At this stage of our trip, North Nomad had been off the cigarettes for at least 3-4 months, so he had this new found lung capacity that he’d not had for years. So he fearlessly climbed the ascent.
Aside from the trail being quite busy with people, there were also horse riders, which means at parts you have to dodge horse droppings – so don’t wear your finery, if that wasn’t already obvious from the mention of the elevation.
We made it to Mirror Lake, the first stop in this hike.
It’s surprisingly serene. We must have hit a lull in the tourists.
The lake reflects the trees and the clouded sky, and the stillness gives a sense of a mirror. As a few more tourists come up to pause and reflect by the lake, the squirrels , chipmunks, and birds come out.
Usually I get a bit rabid when I see people feeding animals and yell at them, but I was feeling too unwell for confrontations. And all of these animals were very used to begging for food and were quite adept at it.
We carried on to Agnes Lake and the Teahouse.
Now, this was worth all of the fuss.
The lake is perfectly still. It sits at an elevation of 7,005 ft, with the teahouse overhanging the lake.
Together with Mirror Lake and Lake Louise, Agnes Lake is referred to as one of the “lakes in the clouds”. Staring across the lake into clouded mountain tops, the name makes sense!
The Teahouse is full with people, and has tempting nachos and hot chocolates, along with over 100 different types of loose leaf tea.
All of the ingredients are fresh, and the employees hike up daily with food to prepare.
Alas, we had not intended to come this far, so we’d brought no cash with us – and the teahouse only takes cash.
The positive is, we have something left to do next time we visit this area!
- We had a hell of a time trying to find parking for our RV, and had to park a couple of kilometres away from Lake Louise in a random RV parking lot and walk up. If you don’t want the stress of trying to find parking, get there early!
- This place is extremely popular. You’re not going to be doing a wilderness hike on your own here. If crowds deter you, again, you may wish to try this early in the morning. Our visit was around 11amish, and it was very busy.
- The Teahouse only takes cash – we learnt the hard way. BYO snacks if you get hanger quickly, and cash!
Teahouse Hours of Operation:
June 4 to September (Labour Day Weekend): 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
September to October (Canadian Thanksgiving): 10:00 am to 5:30 pm
Closed: Thanksgiving until early June
Currency: Canadian and US cash or travellers cheques
Location & Getting There: http://www.lakeagnesteahouse.com/getting-here.php
Have you ever experienced altitude sickness? What’s the highest elevation you’ve experienced?
You can connect with South Nomad, Jessica, over at Google+.