Boundary Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2871
Trip Date: August 20 2011
Elevation Gain (m): 880
Round Trip Time (hr): 5
Total Trip Distance (km): 8
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 2 – You fall you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: Mostly hiking and easy scrambling with some very loose terrain and minor exposure along the summit ridge. Only attempt if dry.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE2
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

Since school was just around the corner (where does time go?!) and Hanneke, my wife, was on call for the weekend, we decided that the weekend of August 19-21, 2011 would be a good weekend for a father / kids adventure. After some debate, the kids and I decided that Yoho would be a cool place to camp and the Burgess Shale guided tour would be a pretty awesome thing to try! Of course, since I’m a peakbagger and we had another two days to do other things besides the shale tour, I found us a nice peak to bag on Saturday, August 20.

Boundary Peak Route Map

So Nakagawa had posted a report of a trip up Boundary Peak in Jasper National Park with amazing views of the Columbia Icefields and especially Mount Athabasca. When I queried him about details he mentioned that it was ‘easy scrambling’ so I filed it away as a possible hike for the family some day. That day came sooner than I thought it would! So was right. Boundary is an easy scramble, but it is still a scramble, not ‘just’ a hike. With almost 900 meters of height gain and lots of it on extremely loose and unstable terrain with exposure near the summit on the final ridge, this is not just a walk in the park – it’s a grunt in the park.

We parked in the parking lot at the beginning of the Icefields tour bus / approach road. The sign by the road says no walking but we ignored it and walked to the climber’s parking lot. Next time I’ll just drive around the arm and park in the climber’s lot. It saves about 100 meters of height gain and roughly 1 km of walking but more importantly you don’t have 18 buses / minute passing you on the way down.

(Update 2016: For the past two years, the climber’s parking lot has been closed and replaced by the new staging area for the buses. Now you really don’t have a choice but to walk up the road and I’m not even sure this is technically allowed.)

Great views back towards Wilcox (L) and Nigel Peak (R) which I did with my brother in a day back in 2007.

Right before the bridge at the climber’s lot we turned up to climber’s left and scree bashed mostly on an obvious trail all the way to the peak. We briefly considered taking the northeast ridge instead of the north scree face to the summit but on hindsight I’m glad we didn’t. The final few hundred meters of height gain is on brutal scree – looser than I’ve experienced in a while! We found a pretty cool fossil on the way up which inspired the kids to keep going – thank goodness. I was very impressed with them. Between Boundary and the Burgess hike they did 1700 meters of height gain and 30 km of walking in two days. Not bad for a 10 and 12 year old. They’ll be hiking me into the ground soon… 😐

Up to this point we were only hiking, but there’s some easy scrambling and limited exposure to get up onto the summit from here.
Panorama from Hilda on the left to Wilcox and Sunwapta on the right. The first ascent of Athabasca ascended across the north glacier from right to left to the ridge in the foreground, which was followed to the summit. This route is very rarely repeated thanks to modern global warming.

The views at the summit make this minor bump totally worth it. Boundary is the same height as Wilcox with slightly more limited views (since it’s so close to Athabasca). Of course the views of Athabasca are amazing the whole day. We spent over an hour at the summit in warm and windless conditions.

Looking north up hwy #93 over Mount Wilcox and the Icefields Center at center. Sunwapta to the right of Wilcox and Nigel at far right. Kitchener at left.
Sublime view of Nigel (L) and Hilda (R) with Hilda Tarn at center. Mount Stewart at distance center.

Boundary Peak is an outstanding scramble with amazing views, done with my kids. What could be better than that? I highly recommend this outing!

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