Jewell Peak (Twin Towers)

Summit Elevations (m): 2315
Trip Date: July 05 2024
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 5
Total Trip Distance (km): 17
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something.
Difficulty Notes: Easiest lines are moderate at most.
Technical Rating: SC6-
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

I don’t have many front range Kananaskis peaks left on my list – or at least my list of desired peaks. While nabbing Skogan Peak the weekend before, Wietse told me about a route he’d heard of for the unofficial “Twin Towers” or as I prefer, “Jewell Peak”. (Twins Tower is a much more impressive 11000er in Jasper that doesn’t deserve to share a name with such a lowly set of front range peaks IMHO. Also, there’s only one peak here as far as I’m concerned.) He’d followed it a few weeks previous and shared the track with me. Two things interested me about this route as opposed to the more commonly used traverse from Grant MacEwan Peak. First – it utilizes a bike approach which always gets my interest. Second – it avoids a difficult down climb or tedious by-pass from Grant MacEwan Peak. A third – albeit minor – bonus was that I didn’t have to tag Heart and Grant MacEwan again.

Jewell Peak Route Map – I dropped my bike at the “Start Streamwhack”. Many folks might stop biking at the “Stoney Trail / Jewell Pass Trail Jct” instead.

Friday, July 5th was stampede parade day in YYC – a perfect day to travel in the opposite direction to the west! After parking in an already busy Barrier Lake parking lot, I started on my bike over the dam on the Prairie View Trail. There was a bear warning for the area but I didn’t think twice about it. In summer time it’s rare not to see some sort of animal warning or caution at busy Kananaskis parking lots.

After a short pedal involving some steepish uphill riding I was at the Stoney Trail junction. I followed a good road downhill to another junction where I stayed straight as the main trail rose to my right. Arguably the main trail would be much easier biking but wouldn’t be much quicker. After quick single track excursion where I walked my bike for the most part, I rejoined the main trail again. It was a glorious summer bluebird morning. It felt very good to be out and about with birds chirping and nobody else around yet.

At the Jewell Pass Trail junction I hesitated. The steep, narrow, rough single track looked a little intimidating for the 2-wheel steed but I knew that many folks bike it as part of the “Razor’s Edge” mountain bike route. I decided to wear my big person pants and started huffing, puffing and let’s be perfectly honest – pushing, my bike up the trail. Once starting I decided to go as far as possible with the bike which ended up being where the streamwhack starts – just after crossing a fairly new bridge over the stream.

As I started up the stream I thought it seemed a little bushier than I was hoping for. That thought didn’t really leave me until treeline. You’ve been warned. This wasn’t even close to the worst bushwhack I’ve done or will do this year, but there are very few sections of clear walking up this creek. It wasn’t hellish, but I had to keep my head on a swivel, always looking ahead to avoid deadfall in the creek and choose the best side to hiking along. Any time I was tempted too far from the creek bed I regretted it and ended up traversing back. It was still a glorious day and I became “one with the bush” as one does in these situations. Slow down. Make good choices. Relax.

Eventually I came to the junction with Wietse and Grant’s route. They had copious amounts of snow in the creek, while I didn’t. They went up a north slope directly to the summit of Jewell Peak. The direct route looked steep and way too hot in morning sun for my liking so I decided to stay in the nicely shaded creek bed a little longer. My route worked perfectly. As I rounded one last corner and came into warm sunshine I could see an easy looking route up a NW bowl directly under both summits high above. There wasn’t much to do but head up, so that’s what I did.

On ascent I managed to find nice rock ribs to make the scrambling fun and efficient. I decided to traverse to my right in order to ascend the lower west summit first, ascertaining that the easiest descent line was direct from the highest peak (Jewell). Once again, my route choice worked perfectly and soon I was following cairns and a trail in scree up climber’s left of the east ridge of the west summit. One could ascend the east ridge directly but I wasn’t in the mood for anything difficult today. I popped out on the first summit and enjoyed a few minutes to myself before noting a climber traversing over it behind me. He obviously came from Grant MacEwan and continued to down climb the more serious east ridge while I descended the easier route and started the short traverse to Jewell Peak.

Jewell Peak sported great views over Barrier Lake to many familiar front range summits including Mary Barclay’s, Baldy, Heart and Yamnuska. I spent a few minutes at the summit, sucking in the warm mountain air before starting a leisurely descent of NW slopes to the upper creek far below.

Views from the west peak include Pigeon (L), Heart, Grant MacEwan, Prairie View and Jewell Peak (R).
Views from Jewell Peak include (L to R), Baldy, Mary Barclay’s, Lorette, Skogan, Gilligan, McGillivray, Pigeon, Grant MacEwan, Heart and Prairie View lookout (R).
Great views of Barrier Lake with Prairie View lookout at center left and Baldy at right.

Descent of the creek followed my ascent line as much as possible. I was surprised to startle a fairly large black bear along the creek as I was filling my water bottle. Thankfully they were just as startled as me and ran quickly in the opposite direction! It was now pretty darn hot and I was happy to exit the bush to my bike and start riding downhill with a fierce breeze on my face.

Exiting through the series of approach trails I passed many people before whipping into the parking lot and completing another wonderful, short outing close to home. I highly recommend this route for people who don’t want to bother with the more convoluted Heart Mountain / Grant MacEwan traverse or prefer a bike approach to walking. I do NOT recommend it for anyone with a fear of light streamwhacking or medium sized black bears.

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