logo

Nigel Peak & Mount Wilcox

Summit Elevation (m): 3211
Elevation Gain (m): 1800
Trip Time (hr): 9.5 
Total Trip Distance (km): 19
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: Some travel next to a glacier on Nigel, but if dry the route is only moderate scrambling. Note that this is a two peak day involving both Nigel and Wilcox and a lot of height gain and distance.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps


My brother, Rod, decided that he needed some exercise this fall so he flew down from Winnipeg for some peak bagging fun on Thursday September 13 2007. After looking at the weather forecast I decided that we should try something with a fabulous view. We settled on Nigel Peak with an option of also doing Mount Wilcox if we had the energy. Early Friday found us bombing down the highway, with a clear sky beckoning. On our way past Mount Temple I was very pleasantly surprised by the lack of snow on the scramble route. I commented to Rod that he may want to conserve some of his energy because tomorrow was likely going to be another big day.

Nigel Peak & Mount Wilcox Route Map

Nigel Peak

After a pleasant drive down the ice fields parkway we arrived at the Wilcox campground and proceeded up the well used Wilcox Pass trail. After about 5 minutes we cut off trail onto some very steep, grassy slopes. Once at the top of this steep slope we could clearly see our objective and headed towards it. You can clearly see the scree trail to the left of a deep channel in the slope. To the right of the trail and left of the channel is the best route up. This will involve bits of slabby terrain mixed with bits of scree bashing. The good part is that the scrambling is quite solid as long as you stick to the slabs. The bad part is that as soon as you wander off the slabs you will hate life.

First full view of our ascent slopes and peak above Wilcox Meadow.
Some hands on scrambling to avoid scree.

Without rushing, but maintaining a good pace we topped out at the col after about 2 hours from the car. The views were amazing in all directions and we were still 400 vertical meters from the summit! A trail could be seen clearly going up the north bowl towards the northeast ridge which we would follow to the summit. There was no snow in the bowl so we proceeded easily across and up the well defined trail.

Incredible fall panorama looking west and down hwy 93 at left includes Saskatchewan, Hilda, Athabasca, Boundary and Andromeda.
At the col, looking ahead to the traverse left before ascending along the left hand skyline ridge to the summit above.

Once on the northeast ridge things got a little bit more interesting. For the sake of saving weight in my pack (because we were planning on two peaks) I left my crampons in the car and only had my ax. This was OK except for a few places on the final ridge where crampons would have felt more secure. The fresh snow was hiding where the glacier started so I carefully probed with my trekking pole before each step. The only problem areas were a steep snow slope just to climber’s left of the ridge crest and right at the very top under the summit cap. Both areas weren’t too bad but a slip and slide would have you plummeting down the east glacier  and potentially over some nasty drop offs. The snow was soft enough that I think we would have stopped in time to avoid any really serious falls but you never know.

Rod completes the traverse – the trail in the scree clearly visible at left.

Once on the summit we were treated to some of the best views I’ve ever had in the Rockies! My summit panoramas show at least 22 peaks over 11,000 feet including, Cline, Forbes, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest, Alexandra, Athabasca, Andromeda, Snow Dome, Columbia, Kitchener, North Twin, Twin’s Tower, Stutfield, Stutfield NE, Alberta, Woolley, Diadem, Fryatt, Edith Cavell, Warren and Brazeau.

Forbes, Saskatchewan, Arctomys, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest (Lyells), Farbus, Oppy, Alexandra, Hilda, Athabasca, Boundary, Andromeda, Snow Dome, Columbia, Kitchener, North Twin and Twins Tower (R).
Another incredible summit panorama west and north includes Brazeau, Warren, Sunwapta and Tangle Ridge (R to L) on the right and many of the Columbia Icefield and surrounding large peaks to the left, including Alexandra, Athabasca, Andromeda, Snow Dome, Columbia, Kitchener, North Twin, Twin’s Tower, Stutfield, Stutfield East, Alberta, Woolley, Diadem, Fryatt and Edith Cavell (L to R)!
Another panorama showing the summits south and west including Cirrus, Wilson, Chephren, White Pyramid, Amery, Forbes, Saskatchewan, Arctomys, Rudolph, Edward, Ernest (Lyells), Farbus, Oppy, Alexandra, Hilda, Athabasca, Boundary, Andromeda

Once we got to the lower scree slope on Nigel we began traversing towards Mount Wilcox to try our second peak of the day.

Nigel Peak
56 photos
First full view of our ascent slopes and peak above Wilcox Meadow.
First full view of our ascent slopes and peak above Wilcox Meadow.
There is going to be a LOT of photographs in this trip report - thanks to incredible views like this smacking us in the face every direction we looked!
There is going to be a LOT of photographs in this trip report - thanks to incredible views like this smacking us in the face every direction we looked!
Mount Athabasca.
Mount Athabasca.
Looking back across Wilcox Pass towards Athabasca (L) and Snow Dome (R) with the Athabasca Glacier in between.
Looking back across Wilcox Pass towards Athabasca (L) and Snow Dome (R) with the Athabasca Glacier in between.
Some hands on scrambling to avoid scree.
Some hands on scrambling to avoid scree.
Some hands on scrambling to avoid scree.
Some hands on scrambling to avoid scree.
Mount Saskatchewan.
Mount Saskatchewan.
Incredible fall panorama looking west and down hwy 93 at left includes Saskatchewan, Hilda, Athabasca, Boundary and Andromeda.
Incredible fall panorama looking west and down hwy 93 at left includes Saskatchewan, Hilda, Athabasca, Boundary and Andromeda.
Not even close yet...
Not even close yet...
At the col, looking ahead to the traverse left before ascending along the left hand skyline ridge to the summit above.
At the col, looking ahead to the traverse left before ascending along the left hand skyline ridge to the summit above.
Gorgeous Wilcox Lake to the NW of the col. Tangle Ridge and Sunwapta in the distance.
Gorgeous Wilcox Lake to the NW of the col. Tangle Ridge and Sunwapta in the distance.
Rod comes up to the col.
Rod comes up to the col.
Little did I know that only 8 years later I would have climbed all the peaks on this icefield except for Andromeda!
Little did I know that only 8 years later I would have climbed all the peaks on this icefield except for Andromeda!
View to the south down hwy 93 with Mount Saskatchewan stealing the show above and a brilliant tarn stealing the show below.
View to the south down hwy 93 with Mount Saskatchewan stealing the show above and a brilliant tarn stealing the show below.
The only snow we encountered near the traverse was right above the col.
The only snow we encountered near the traverse was right above the col.
Looking carefully you can spot the trail across the scree bowl above, rising left to the left hand skyline ridge.
Looking carefully you can spot the trail across the scree bowl above, rising left to the left hand skyline ridge.
Brilliant fall colors keep distracting me!
Brilliant fall colors keep distracting me!
Rod is barely visible at left, starting the traverse to the NW ridge.
Rod is barely visible at left, starting the traverse to the NW ridge.
Looking over Wilcox Pass towards Engelhard, Alberta, Woolley, Diadem and Mushroom Peak.
Looking over Wilcox Pass towards Engelhard, Alberta, Woolley, Diadem and Mushroom Peak.
Rod completes the traverse - the trail in the scree clearly visible at left.
Rod completes the traverse - the trail in the scree clearly visible at left.
Looking up the NW ridge from the bottom.
Looking up the NW ridge from the bottom.
Rod gains the NW ridge behind me (lower right) while the views just keep getting better and better.
Rod gains the NW ridge behind me (lower right) while the views just keep getting better and better.
The NW ridge.
The NW ridge.
Looking down a steepish section of the NW ridge at Rod and my tracks, which are either on or just beside Nigel Glacier.
Looking down a steepish section of the NW ridge at Rod and my tracks, which are either on or just beside Nigel Glacier.
Athabasca with Boundary in front, Andromeda, Snow Dome with Columbia just peaking out above, Kitchener, North Twin, Twins Tower and Stutfield.
Athabasca with Boundary in front, Andromeda, Snow Dome with Columbia just peaking out above, Kitchener, North Twin, Twins Tower and Stutfield.
Looking SE towards Cirrus Mountain with Mount Stewart and the White Goat Wilderness at left and Mount Forbes and Saskatchewan to the right.
Looking SE towards Cirrus Mountain with Mount Stewart and the White Goat Wilderness at left and Mount Forbes and Saskatchewan to the right.
Sunwapta (L) with Brazeau at distant right.
Sunwapta (L) with Brazeau at distant right.
Views from Athabasca (L) to Snow Dome, Twins, Stuts, Woolley, Diadem and Sunwapta (R).
Views from Athabasca (L) to Snow Dome, Twins, Stuts, Woolley, Diadem and Sunwapta (R).
Looking over the Icefields Center and Sunwapta Lake at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.
Looking over the Icefields Center and Sunwapta Lake at the toe of the Athabasca Glacier.
Incredible colors and soaring peaks.
Incredible colors and soaring peaks.
Looking over the lovely Wilcox Pass towards the Woolley / Diadem area.
Looking over the lovely Wilcox Pass towards the Woolley / Diadem area.
The White Goat Wilderness Area lies to the SE and includes few named summits. The big summit at left is Mount Stewart.
The White Goat Wilderness Area lies to the SE and includes few named summits. The big summit at left is Mount Stewart.
Warren, Henry Macleod and Brazeau to the north.
Warren, Henry Macleod and Brazeau to the north.
Sunwapta is a huge mountain and very colorful.
Sunwapta is a huge mountain and very colorful.
Poboktan Mountain isn't ascended often and is a beautiful peak to the north.
Poboktan Mountain isn't ascended often and is a beautiful peak to the north.
Woolley (L) and Diadem (R).
Woolley (L) and Diadem (R).
Mount Fryatt just right of center is still one of my favorite 11,000ers. Mount Smythe is the striking peak at left.
Mount Fryatt just right of center is still one of my favorite 11,000ers. Mount Smythe is the striking peak at left.
It's still hard to believe I climbed the scary looking south ridge of Twin's Tower!
It's still hard to believe I climbed the scary looking south ridge of Twin's Tower!
The Athabasca Glacier looks extremely broken this late in the season.
The Athabasca Glacier looks extremely broken this late in the season.
Mount Athabasca.
Mount Athabasca.
Three of the Lyells, Rudolph, Edward and Ernest (L to R) and the rarely ascended Farbus on the right.
Three of the Lyells, Rudolph, Edward and Ernest (L to R) and the rarely ascended Farbus on the right.
Forbes (L) peeks out over the shoulder of Saskatchewan (R).
Forbes (L) peeks out over the shoulder of Saskatchewan (R).
An incredible view of the highest peak in Banff National Park - Mount Forbes, with the Monchy Icefield running in front of it and Hooge Peak on the right
An incredible view of the highest peak in Banff National Park - Mount Forbes, with the Monchy Icefield running in front of it and Hooge Peak on the right
Mount Amery is a near-11,000er.
Mount Amery is a near-11,000er.
Distant panorama down hwy #93 includes Hector, Bow, Chephren, White Pyramid and Sarbach (L to R).
Distant panorama down hwy #93 includes Hector, Bow, Chephren, White Pyramid and Sarbach (L to R).
Wilcox Lake would be a lovely spot to whittle away a warm afternoon.
Wilcox Lake would be a lovely spot to whittle away a warm afternoon.
This view is probably a top 10 for me, especially for a scramble this close to a major highway with such easy access!
This view is probably a top 10 for me, especially for a scramble this close to a major highway with such easy access!
Panorama to the north, east and south over rarely ascended summits, many of which are unnamed.
Panorama to the north, east and south over rarely ascended summits, many of which are unnamed.
Skirting along the Nigel Glacier on descent.
Skirting along the Nigel Glacier on descent.
Rod comes off the glacier traverse.
Rod comes off the glacier traverse.
Looking back at the glacier / ridge to the summit.
Looking back at the glacier / ridge to the summit.
Rod exits the giant scree bowl towards the descent slopes to the first shoulder.
Rod exits the giant scree bowl towards the descent slopes to the first shoulder.
People have descended to Wilcox Lake from here, I wish I would have thought of that!
People have descended to Wilcox Lake from here, I wish I would have thought of that!

Mount Wilcox

After scrambling up Nigel Peak we headed for Mount Wilcox. The hike across the Wilcox Pass meadows was extremely pleasant with the fall colors in full force and the spectacular views towards the Columbia Icefields combined with a very warm, windless day. We spotted some massive mountain sheep along the way.

This is a very popular area, look at the massively worn trail! If you can, hike this area in September during the week. Mount Wilcox ahead at center.
Two more, large rams lolling in the warm sunshine – exactly what we felt like doing!

I had calculated that we had roughly another 600 meters of height gain to get back up Mount Wilcox after descending Nigel Peak all the way back to the meadows. Rod concluded quite quickly that 1800 meters of height gain the day before doing Mount Temple was probably not a good idea for him personally but that I should feel free to “go ahead”! So, leaving Rod to a nice snooze in the meadow I made my way slowly up towards Mount Wilcox.

I continue on towards Wilcox solo.
The terrain gets a bit more ‘moderate’ from the lower shoulder to the summit.

I was surprised, and a wee bit disappointed, by the massive trail snaking its way to the top of Mount Wilcox. It did make my life a bit easier, as I was feeling my legs by the time I got near the summit but it also made it seem a bit ‘touristy’. I did meet a couple people on the way up and down but not too many on this fabulous day (probably because it wasn’t the weekend). If you follow the trail and the cairns you will end up traversing most of the mountain on climbers right, until you get to the summit ridge where you will go over a few exposed moves – the only moderate scrambling you’ll experience – before finding yourself on the summit with a killer view. A nice switch from Nigel Peak was that I could clearly see Mount Bryce from this angle, where I couldn’t see it from Nigel, and therefore ‘only’ counted 22 11,000ers instead of 23. Bummer. 🙂

Vern on the summit of Mount Wilcox.
Incredible views over Wilcox Meadows with Nigel Peak on the left and Hilda, Boundary and Athabasca on the right.
Views from several points along the SE ridge of Wilcox are better than from the summit. The view includes Athabasca, Andromeda, Sunwapta Lake, Athabasca Glacier, Bryce and Snow Dome (L to R).

The funny part about Wilcox is that the views are actually a bit better from the lower, south summit area, and even from about half way up than they are from the apex. Once you’re on the summit, part of the mountain itself blocks your view towards the lower ice fields near the tongue of the Athabasca Glacier. Of course the views of North Twin, Twins Tower, Woolley, Diadem and Alberta are awesome from the summit.

Mount Andromeda also has many routes including some brutally tough ones like “Andromeda Stain” up a visible coulior of snow, ice and rotten rock to the left of the summit. Androlumbia shows up just to the right.

On my way down the mountain I ran into Rod on his way up. He got bored and started hiking to meet me, lucky for him he was at one of the best view points (about half way up the ridge) when I met him so he didn’t have to go any further. After some photos and a moderately long break we headed back down through the gorgeous Wilcox Pass meadows and back to the parking lot.

Last views of Athabasca as we drop down the meadow with the shadows growing long but the sun still very warm and pleasant.

Our round trip time including all breaks and both summits was around 9.5 hours. I would highly recommend saving yourself 6 hours of driving to bag a ‘small’ peak like Mount Wilcox and combine it with Nigel Peak, providing you are up to a day of 1800 meters in elevation gain and probably 18 km of distance.

Mount Wilcox
39 photos
Back down near the Wilcox Meadows trail, Wilcox rising at far right.
Back down near the Wilcox Meadows trail, Wilcox rising at far right.
The Wilcox Pass area is known for it's Mountain Sheep.
The Wilcox Pass area is known for it's Mountain Sheep.
This is a very popular area, look at the massively worn trail! If you can, hike this area in September during the week. Mount Wilcox ahead at center.
This is a very popular area, look at the massively worn trail! If you can, hike this area in September during the week. Mount Wilcox ahead at center.
Two more, large rams lolling in the warm sunshine - exactly what we felt like doing!
Two more, large rams lolling in the warm sunshine - exactly what we felt like doing!
I continue on towards Wilcox solo.
I continue on towards Wilcox solo.
Looking back at Nigel (L) from the start of Wilcox's SE ridge.
Looking back at Nigel (L) from the start of Wilcox's SE ridge.
There are many viable paths up the lower part of the SE ridge on Wilcox. Sunwapta just peeking out on the far right.
There are many viable paths up the lower part of the SE ridge on Wilcox. Sunwapta just peeking out on the far right.
A veritable highway to the summit on this popular peak.
A veritable highway to the summit on this popular peak.
These views are incredible!
These views are incredible!
Who cares how popular it is, when you have views like this!! Nigel on the left.
Who cares how popular it is, when you have views like this!! Nigel on the left.
The terrain gets a bit more 'moderate' from the lower shoulder to the summit.
The terrain gets a bit more 'moderate' from the lower shoulder to the summit.
Incredible exposure and views off the SE shoulder looking down at the Athabasca Glacier and Mount Andromeda (L) and Bryce (R).
Incredible exposure and views off the SE shoulder looking down at the Athabasca Glacier and Mount Andromeda (L) and Bryce (R).
Continuing on looser terrain to the summit - still traversing under the SE ridge proper.
Continuing on looser terrain to the summit - still traversing under the SE ridge proper.
Summit views of Nigel Peak - we were just up there a few hours ago.
Summit views of Nigel Peak - we were just up there a few hours ago.
Great views of Engelhard, Alberta, Woolley and Diadem (L to R).
Great views of Engelhard, Alberta, Woolley and Diadem (L to R).
Vern on the summit of Mount Wilcox.
Vern on the summit of Mount Wilcox.
Mount Kitchener (C) and Snow Dome (L).
Mount Kitchener (C) and Snow Dome (L).
A wider view north over hwy #93 and the northern Columbia Icefields area.
A wider view north over hwy #93 and the northern Columbia Icefields area.
I climbed North Twin, Twin's Tower, Stutfield and Stutfield NE (L to R) in 2012.
I climbed North Twin, Twin's Tower, Stutfield and Stutfield NE (L to R) in 2012.
Incredible views over Wilcox Meadows with Nigel Peak on the left and Hilda, Boundary and Athabasca on the right.
Incredible views over Wilcox Meadows with Nigel Peak on the left and Hilda, Boundary and Athabasca on the right.
Looking over Wilcox Pass towards Sunwapta (L).
Looking over Wilcox Pass towards Sunwapta (L).
Mount Athabasca is one of the most popular 11,000ers with routes all over the mountain including 4 or 5 routes up the north face.
Mount Athabasca is one of the most popular 11,000ers with routes all over the mountain including 4 or 5 routes up the north face.
North Twin and Twin's Tower are among the highest peaks in Alberta and the Canadian Rockies at just over 12,000 feet and just under respectively.
North Twin and Twin's Tower are among the highest peaks in Alberta and the Canadian Rockies at just over 12,000 feet and just under respectively.
The mighty Mount Bryce looms over the Athabasca Glacier headwall in the foreground.
The mighty Mount Bryce looms over the Athabasca Glacier headwall in the foreground.
Mount Andromeda also has many routes including some brutally tough ones like "Andromeda Stain" up a visible coulior of snow, ice and rotten rock to the left of the summit.
Mount Andromeda also has many routes including some brutally tough ones like "Andromeda Stain" up a visible coulior of snow, ice and rotten rock to the left of the summit.
Sunwapta is just under 11,000 feet.
Sunwapta is just under 11,000 feet.
Nigel Peak.
Nigel Peak.
Mount Wilson (L) is a beast of a mountain and Mount Murchison to the right of it is the newest member of the exclusive 11,000er club
Mount Wilson (L) is a beast of a mountain and Mount Murchison to the right of it is the newest member of the exclusive 11,000er club
Tangle Ridge to the north, with the radio equipment visible on the summit.
Tangle Ridge to the north, with the radio equipment visible on the summit.
Tangle Ridge (L) and Sunwapta (R) from the summit of Wilcox Peak.
Tangle Ridge (L) and Sunwapta (R) from the summit of Wilcox Peak.
Looking at a moderate scrambling section of the upper ridge on Wilcox as I descend.
Looking at a moderate scrambling section of the upper ridge on Wilcox as I descend.
The view includes Athabasca, Andromeda, Sunwapta Lake, Athabasca Glacier, Bryce and Snow Dome (L to R).
The view includes Athabasca, Andromeda, Sunwapta Lake, Athabasca Glacier, Bryce and Snow Dome (L to R).
Rod takes in the views.
Rod takes in the views.
Great late afternoon views along our exit via the Wilcox Meadows.
Great late afternoon views along our exit via the Wilcox Meadows.
The creek water tasted so good after a full day of scrambling in the sun!
The creek water tasted so good after a full day of scrambling in the sun!
Rod descends back to hwy #93 with impressive scenery all around him.
Rod descends back to hwy #93 with impressive scenery all around him.
More scenery around Wilcox Meadow.
More scenery around Wilcox Meadow.
Last views of Athabasca as we drop down the meadow with the shadows growing long but the sun still very warm and pleasant.
Last views of Athabasca as we drop down the meadow with the shadows growing long but the sun still very warm and pleasant.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.