Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. In the midst of the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise is a beautiful lake fed by a glacial run-off. Its turquoise colour is created by minerals carried down from the mountains. Unlike many of Banff's undeveloped lake environs, this one features the Lake Louise Hotel on its foreshore. The luxurious, expensive hotel caters to a great number of tourists from all over the world1, almost all-year-round.
The Tea House Hike
One of the popular summer pastimes of visitors to Banff is hiking. In the Lake Louise area, shorter hikes are the norm. However, one longer hike promises at its end a bit of a prize; some very good tea.
Standing at the foot of Lake Louise, if you scout the area with a good pair of binoculars, you may see a small wooden building with a red roof to the right of the lake, very high above. This is one of the fabled mountain 'Tea Houses'. The only ways to reach them are by foot, horseback, or helicopter.
There are two tea houses on the mountain. The Lake Agnes tea house is the red roofed one, and The Plane Of Six Glaciers tea house, which is the one described in this Entry.
If you decide to make the trek towards the tea house, be aware of what you're up against. The trail is six kilometres long, and has a total change in elevation of 1,200 feet. Though this is often described as a moderate trail for experienced hikers, be forewarned that at the lake you are already at an elevation of 5,500 feet. This means the air is much thinner than at sea level. Do not over exert yourself on the climb - taking it slowly is the best advice. Bring plenty of water, though drink it sparingly or you will make yourself feel sick. Walking the trail takes about two and half hours to the tea house. The downhill journey takes one and a half hours.
On reaching the tea house, be sure to treat yourself to some of the fabled tea. Though the prices are rather exorbitant (at tiome of writing) - C$1.75 for a cuppa, up to C$5 for a slice of pie - you must understand that there are logistical problems involved in running a tea house on the side of a mountain. Also, remember that the mix of exhaustion and mountain air make the tea taste better.
If you feel extremely bold, it is rumoured that another tea house exists higher on the mountain. A trail from the tea house leads onto the Victoria glacier that feeds the lake.
Tea House Logistics
Running a tea house 1,200 feet and six kilometres from any conventional source of delivery has its problems. How do they get the tea, and all the other provisions up there? The answer is that a helicopter delivers their supplies at the beginning of every season. The cost of the helicopter is what primarily drives up the price of the food and beverages. Staff live on site during the summer months and hike back down in the autumn.