Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: ~1400 m, including Hector Pass wandering View map Download GPS track
Little Hector is the unofficial name given to the peak to the north of 3394 m Mount Hector. At 3125 m in height itself, however, Little Hector is not exactly little and neither are the spectacular views it grants from its summit. It's been on my radar for a couple years, but the moderate rating by Kane and some frightening photos of the crux kept me from tackling it sooner.
We started hiking where Hector Creek crosses the Icefields Parkway, following a good trail on the south side of the creek. After about 20 minutes we reached a series of waterfalls. We followed a steep but good trail to the left of the first waterfall before reaching some cliffs to the left of the second. Here two possible routes presented themselves. I knew from a bit of pre-trip research that most people scramble directly up the cliffs - a scramble on the easy side of moderate, apparently - but that an easier route, on decent trail, existed to the right of the rock face. We found the easier trail in a patch of bushes heading towards the waterfall, scrambled over a few trees and short rock steps, and were relieved to find that web photos that showed people crossing the creek at a cliff were exaggerated; we crossed just above the falls on a wide flat area with no difficulty. While there was a sense of exposure in a few places we found this route to be nothing more than a hike, the crux in fact being a scramble over a couple of small thick trees growing on the trail.
Above the waterfalls we continued steeply ascending on trail, shortly reaching a more level section with a view to the east of a scree slope that leads to Hector Pass. I knew the shortest route to Little Hector headed to the right near this point, but we chose instead to continue towards Hector Pass. At the top of the scree slope, when the summit of Little Hector was visible 90 degrees to our right (exactly south of our position), we turned towards it and ascended over gentle slabs and firm rubble to reach a small plateau at the base of the peak. Bits of trail and cairns along the way indicated others have taken this route too, and well constructed bivy sites near the plateau suggested to us that Mount Hector is likely approached from this point. A short ascent on firm terrain then brought us to the base of Little Hector's treadmill scree slopes.
As we ascended the treadmill scree the real crux of the day became apparent: The wind! What had started as a nice breeze was now a strong gusty wind and we found ourselves fighting both it and the unstable scree to maintain our balance. Near some cliff bands about halfway up the wind was as loud as a freight train and we had to shout to communicate with each other. These cliff bands were also a bit difficult to navigate through, and this combined with the wind had Sandra call it a day here. She sheltered behind a cliff at this point while I dashed to the summit 250 m higher, then made my way back to her to descend together to a nice bivy shelter below to have lunch. Here the ridiculous force of the wind gusts became apparent. At one point the wind ripped my hiking pole from my hand, hurtling it 20 m across level ground like a missile, and just as we finished lunch a very large chunk of Little Hector came crashing spectacularly down. Obviously this wasn't caused entirely by the wind, but it probably played a role!
Despite the wind we decided to explore Hector Pass, hoping to get Sandra a good view of Hector glacier. This goal had us take a particularly annoying and difficult route through rubble, we never did get a great view of the glacier, and what was meant to be a short excursion turned into a 1.5 hour mess! Oh well. Once down in Hector Pass we were able to follow nice slabs and grassy areas down to where we'd left the trail to climb Little Hector, and from there forward everything went smoothly. Now that we know the headwall isn't a problem we'll be back to summit Mount Andromache, but on a day with little wind!