This is a trip I have had my eye on for a while. From the topo, it looked look it might be an enticing loop. It is an approximately 32 km mostly trail-less route with an elevation gain of ~1100 m and loss of ~1000 m, beginning at Tangle Falls and ending at Nigel Creek trailhead. It takes you from Jasper National Park into Banff Park. And it is without a doubt one of the most spectacular hikes I've ever done. The alpine vistas, solitude, and wildlife were remarkable. And I got to spend some quality time with my sister.
You follow the trail to Wilcox Pass from just south of Tangle Falls, ignoring any cairned creek crossings you see. You finally cross a footbridge and soon encounter a low rock ledge as views open up towards Wilcox and beyond.
At the small rock ledge, you break off into the trees towards Tangle Pass. It doesn't take long to reach a wide plateau with Tangle Pass visible ahead. It's a long walk through willows and up to the pass. It is easiest to begin the ascent on the left, and then cross over to the right side before the rocky drainage gets too steep.
There were great views in three directions. Behind was the Columbia Icefield, ahead was the Beauty Lakes basin, and to the right was our route over a snowy col.
We stopped for a while to take some pictures of a bighorn ram, framed by Sunwapta Peak, before beginning our descent down the scree field to the left of the stream. The descent was easy on soft, stable scree, and we had to traverse a bit to the right to get through the rock bands to another scree slope.
Once at the valley floor, we were struck by the magnitude of this wide alpine valley. Behind us was a high, thin waterfall coming off Tangle Ridge. Anvil-shaped Sunwapta Peak dominated the north-west end of the valley, while a long, gradual climb terminated at a snowy col to the south-east.
I struggle to adequately describe the long walk to the col. Ever improving views, colorful rock and tundra, and a moulting mountain goat accompanied us as we worked our way across the moraines.
Beyond the pass was a punchbowl lake, still mostly frozen. From the northeast ridge, you could see down a tributary into the Brazeau.
We went over the southeast col that forms the border between Jasper and Banff National Parks, and down a wild, rocky valley dominated by a massive rock wall on our right. The valley turned boggy and mosquito-infested only briefly, before bringing us to the head of the gully that drained the valley.
The best route, which we didn't quite nail on the the descent, would have been to stay very high on the scree slope to the west side of the creek to avoid being trapped in the gully.
Some bushwacking then allowed us to bisect the horse trail on the northwest side of Nigel Creek. We crossed the creek after a while and bashed through high willows towards the hikers' trail on the opposite side of the creek, and it was an easy final couple kilometres to the trailhead. I carried a stupid amount of camera gear, but I used all of it. It took us over 30 minutes to hitch a ride back to my truck. The highway was busy, so that was a lot of rejection!
Very nice write up, area looks stunning. I am looking of including this in a trip I have planned this year.
I therefore have a few questions about your trip.
Where do you figure are the best places to camp along the rout, I assume somewhere shortly after punch bowl lake?
Is it possible to day hike to Wilcox Lake?
Do you have a GPS track of this area?
General rout info that might be helpful and anything I might want to know?
My Itinerary would look like this
Hike to punch bowl lake area and set up camp
Hike to Cataract pass set up camp.
Day Hike to Endless chain of Lakes. (N of Cataract Pass)
Hike to Cline Pass and camp at wolverine or shortly before connecting the Brazeau trail.
Day 5 Hike to Nigel trail head.
Any Information or suggestions are appreciated
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