July 3, 2012 ·

Miles Hecker

In North America, most of our scenic icons have been developed for the benefit of the population at large. Hop in your car, drive down the paved road and park. Get out of your vehicle, walk a hundred yards at most, down a paved or graveled trail and behold the wonders of the natural world.

Fortunately, some of our picturesque jewels, still remain out of sight, over the hill so to speak. Invisble to the cars and buses rolling down the ribbons of asphalt which criss cross our land.Mount Assiniboine, also known as Assiniboine Mountain is one such jewel.

Mt. Assiniboine lies on the border between Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, in British Columbia, and Banff National Park, in Alberta, Canada, was established in 1922. Unlike most parks,Mount Assiniboine Provincial Parkdoes not have any roads. Mt Assiniboine threrefor can only be reached by a six hour hike of 27 km (17 mi), or helicopter.

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If you are stout of body, you can embark on the epic17 mile hikeinto the base of Mt Assiniboine. If you’re stout of wallet you can book ahelicopter flightfor $150.00 Canadian each way.

Once you make it to the base area, accomodations vary greatly. You can bring your own tent andcampat the Magog, Og Lake or Obrien Meadows campground for $10 per person / night.

You can stay in one of the fiveNaiset Hutsfor $25 per person / night. Propane stoves and solar powered lighting is provided in theWonder Lodge Cooking Shelter.

If you really feel like living luxuriously, you can book a stay atAssiniboine Lodge. Rustic heated rooms or cabins, with nice soft beds and hot water showers can be yours for a price. Three home made meals a day are also included in the package for $260 per person / night.

We stayed in the Naiset Huts when I visited Mt Assiniboine in 2001 and had a great visit.

The main attraction for most photo enthusiasts heading to Mt Assiniboine is the world class alpine scenery. There is however substantial wildlife in the area. Grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk and mule deer are all abundant, as are harder to see species such as wolves, coyotes, wolverines, badgers and martens.

Birds are also very common in Mount Assiniboine Park, with ninety-three species having been sighted. The most commonly spotted of these many species are northern harriers grey jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, white-tailed ptarmigans, pine grosbeaks, rosy finches, pine siskins, boreal chickadees, chipping sparrows and white-crowned sparrows.

My personal favorite spot to photograph sunrise on Mt Assiniboine is a small pond in the swampy area one crosses on the trail to Nublet Pass. It’s waters are usally calm and mirror like while the larger surface of Lake Magog is rippled most days at sunrise. The shot at right shows my wife set up on this pond at first light. I also enjoy the view from Nublet Pass. It can be seen in the above photo. Nublet pass can be reached via an easy hike which is 1 mile each way from Assiniboine Lodge and the huts.

Another very worthwhile stroll to take while at Mt Assiniboine is the hike up to Marvel Lake overlook. It is about 1.5 miles each way and gains 700 feet in elevation. The view of Lake Gloria and Marvel Lake from this overlook is quite impressive.

First Light

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Assiniboine Sunrise

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Mt. Assiniboine was first climbed in 1901 by James Outram. I would not consider climbing the mountain unless you were a very accomplished mountaineer and in great shape. The easiest route up from the Assiniboine Lodge side is a 5.5 technical climb on rotten rock.

The biggest problem the would be photographer is likely to encounter in the Mt Assiniboine area is weather. When one is located at a north latitude of 50.8° and an altitude of 7200ft., the weather can be quite dicey. I have known people that have visited the area in July, stayed for three days and never saw the top of the mountain. On a typical year the best time to photograph this locale would be the last week in July and first week in August. The weather can be better in early September, but the mountain is far more photogenic with a nice covering of snow, earlier in the season.

Last but not least, plan your trip well in advance. The destination, though remote is quite popular. I would recommend booking your spots at the huts or lodge at least 8-10 months in advance. The same is true of your ride on the helicopter, if you choose it as your means of travel. No matter what mode of travel and accomodation you choose, I can assure you your visit will be memorable.



About Miles Hecker

Miles has been involved with photography for over forty years. He teaches digital photography at Casper College in Casper,Wyoming. His photos have won awards fromNatures Best magazine,, The Luminous LandscapeandWyoming WIldlife . Miles’ photos have been published in American Vignette, Backpacker Magazine, Natures Best Images, Popular Photography, Wyoming Audubon, and Wyoming Wildlife. He is co-founder ofWyoFOTO LLC.


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July 2012


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