I heard the distant rumble and looked up from the trail. I quickly took this photo as fast as I could.


It's a relatively small avalanche but I'd never seen one before. They are the stuff of legend, especially in the minds of those who don't live in snow country. I can't place a particular TV drama from the sixties but I know that where I first heard the shout "Avalanche!".

We were out about two hours on a trail leading from Lake Louise towards the Victoria glacier. It was very cold but sunny. We had been told to expect avalanches with the sun warming up the ledges. The trail leads to the Plain of Six Glaciers. The avalanche we saw was snow falling off the top of the Lefroy Glacier.

Everywhere you see evidence of avalanches past such as this one.



  1. Seeing an avalanche sure is humbling – there’s a whole lot of world that would kill you if you were standing under it right now. Nothing personal in it, you’re just not that significant…

  2. I worked on a film about backcountry safety and awareness, particularly concerning avalanches. They are exciting, perhaps also because they can be so deadly. There is a lot to know about these things, and anybody who goes up into a mountain should be informed about the risks that may great them.

    The trailer may be viewed here: http://rockymountainsherpas.com/ftp/FineLine_Teaser1.mov

    I’m glad that boingboing.net’s staffers were safe.

  3. I was once hiking out of a pass (on a road closed for the winter) after ice climbing when we heard what sounded like a semi-truck barreling down on us. We knew the road was blocked off and way too icy for a truck to be on it. When we turned around we saw a small avalanche about a quarter of a mile away (we were in a safe position and it was too small to reach us). What an impressive site and sound.

  4. That trail is great to see avalanches in July, too, as the summer sun heats up those ledges. As a kid my family spent many summers in the Rockies, and that was a favourite trail we hiked many times. Ah… memories.

  5. Dale sez:
    I can’t place a particular TV drama from the sixties but I know that where I first heard the shout “Avalanche!”.

    Ah, you would be thinking most likely of Lassie!

  6. TAKUAN, remember one man’s “out of bounds” is another’s “backcountry”.

    I’ve skied backcountry for many years, and there is nothing more humbling than hearing the rumble of thousands of tons of snow.

    You pick your days and slopes and always remember the beer is flowing in the pub even if the conditions are too sketchy. It’s still safer than the drive there.

  7. Avalanches are one thing our planet has which many other planets have too. Cosmically a more widespread phenomenon than life itself, the avalanche…

  8. Wow I’m glad you were far away to just snap a picture. I’ve lived around the Banff area for 10 years and (luckily) never same this close to an avalanche. Did you make it to the tea house at the end the Plain of Six Glaciers trail?

  9. Dale,
    Good to see Canadian landscape making the cut on Boing Boing.
    We hike and ski this area frequently and dearly love it too.
    We also love our trips to SanFran, so the homestead envy is mutual.

  10. The first photo captures the avalanche pretty nicely. I’ve seen an small avalanche happen from a gondola, and it was still a pretty frightening occurrence. Great photo Dale.

  11. I was just a few hundred miles from Lake Louise when I saw my first avalanche. I was backcountry skiing up a ridge for some tree skiing, when the bowl beneath us avalanched. It was probably our tracks that activated it. The “whumph” sound that precedes it by a few seconds is the eeriest sound you’ll ever get stuck in your head.
    Not to be rude Dale Dougherty, but your backcountry knowledge makes you sound like a heli skier :-)

  12. I hiked that trail in summer. It was a really hot day. The view of six plains at the end was very nice. And we missed the tea house.

  13. Nice! I was in the same area a year ago, my fourth trip to the Canadian Rockies. Avalanches in this area are fairly common — almost a daily occurrence in the summer, from what I hear from the teahouse staff. Here’s a pic I took from near the teahouse:


    The Plain of Six Glaciers trail extends a km or so beyond the teahouse. The extension does get close to the avalanche area but I don’t think any avalanche paths actually cross the trail though. Interested readers may click the grid-like icon between the arrows at the page referenced above to see more pictures from our hike in the area.

  14. My favorite thing about avalanches is that from far away they look like waterfalls, except that you can hear the crashing of multi-ton rocks and ice resound for miles. Here’s a picture from one of our family trips through the Canadian Rockies a few years ago.


    Last year I was studying abroad in the UK and mentioned the Rockies to a random traveler sitting across from me. He said he had worked at Lake Louise Lodge and that there were three tea houses in the area, one of which was up a trail a ways. Now I hear about it a second time from an unrelated source. I guess I’ll have to hike up there next time I’m in the area.

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