Possibly the best hike I’ve ever done. Two glorious valleys, a pass, a summit with a 900 m drop off, four lakes, alpine meadows, waterfalls, snow fields and ancient subalpine forest. And it’s a loop!
We started at the Chester Lake parking lot. Hiked up Chester Valley to the lake before continuing on above the lake to the glacial scraped upper valley before arriving at a frozen lake at the base of an intimidating pass between Chester and Headwall valleys.
We ascended steep and somewhat loose scree before encountering a cornice at the pass. As we continued upwards towards the Fortress the scree was good and the incline
reasonable. A small bit of scrambling before the summit and the huge 900m precipice of over the edge to Fortress Lake.
After soaking in the panorama and the sublime views down Chester and Headwall valleys we descended down and began our descent into headwall creek valley just above the Chester/Headwall pass. Staying away from the path of the Cornice, we navigated our way down through loose scree and slabs to the upper reaches of headwall creek valley. An immense alpine setting with flowers, meadows, mossy streams and ancient boulders.
As the views opened up down valley we encountered two pristine lakes fringed with snow ledges, talus slopes and small spruce.
The trail below the lakes has been trashed by an avalanche over this winter and shows flood damage throughout from 2013. We were still able to follow the trail by jumping over deadfall and crossing avalanche debris.
Entering the humid forest brought us back to earth. The green, the huge subalpine firs, the sound of creeks and thrushes. We continued our descent to the maze of trails connecting the Headwall creek valley to Chester creeks before arriving back at the parking lot 9 1/2 hours later.
A panorama of Headwall valley to the left, Mt. Chester at Centre and Chester Valley to the right.
Dizzy air hights
The ridge of The Fortress
Descending towards Headwall Lakes Valley
Looking back at the Headwall/Chester Col
The cornice on the col
Arriving on flat ground in the upper reaches of headwall valley
Descending headwall valley into the meadows and streams
Looking back towards The Fortress.
Alpine Rock Gardens
Alpine Meadows next to a stream
Boulders in the meadows
Boulders in the meadoes
Headwall creek as it follows down to the lakes
Looking back at the Upper Headwall valley and the Fortress
Upper Headwall Lake (waterfall)
Upper Headwall Lake
Lower Headwall Lake
Headwall creek bursts forth fromfrom the side of the mountain
Headwall creek flowing into lower headwall lake
Hiking along lower headwall alke
Huge trees in the humid subalpine forest
Back at the parking lot
The peaks surrounding Chester Lake and it’s plateau
Walking towards Chester Lake
Looking back on Chester lake as we ascend the scree slope to the upper alpine reaches of the valley
Looking back down upper Chester Valley
Upper Chester Valley
The lawns of upper Chester Valley
Looking back down valley
The Fortress on the left
A huge boulder split in two just before the ascent route to the pass
A small ridge before ascending the pass
A melting lake in the upper reaches of Chester Valley
The Chester/Headwall Pass from Chester Valley. Our route ascended the slop to the left of the snow slope
Looking down to the melting lake
Ascending to the col
Looking back down the Chester Valley
Upward to the Fortress
The Fortress calls
The summit block of the Fortress
Looking over a cliff close to the summit over the Fortress Ski Hill, Lodge etc.
Looking down Headwall Valley from the Fortress
The Fortress summit views
The Fortress summit views
Panorama from the summit of The Fortress
The view over the 900m cliffs down towards Fortress Lake