Zenfolio | Matthew Clay | Jimmy Junior, July 29, 2018
Visitors 33
33 photos

Distance: 7 km
Elevation gain: 825 m
Download GPS track

After a rather terrible trip up Nigel Peak the day before, Alison, Sandra, and I were in need of a much easier trip today. We chose Jimmy Junior, a small peak rising between Mount Jimmy Simpson and scenic Bow Lake.

We parked in the Bow Lake parking lot – already nearly full at 8:30 am – and began quickly hiking along the lakeshore trail. We had a couple GPS tracks to let us know where to enter the forest and begin the ascent, but there were multiple points at which it made sense to enter the bush and we didn’t concern ourselves with precisely following the GPS track.

While the bushwhacking is described as light online, in actuality it is quite thick; moderate bushwhacking by Alberta standards for sure. Andrew Nugara, who uses this as his descent route, describes it very well when he states “with a little routefinding and a ton of luck it is possible to [ascend] with a minimal amount of heavy bushwhacking”. Assuming we did ok with the routefinding, the luck fairy was apparently on vacation today.

We emerged from the bush at a field of krumholtz and immediately spied the obvious gully that would take us to the upper plateau. Sandra and I contoured around the krumholtz while Alison marched directly through it, but both routes converged on steep hard packed mud and rubble below the gully. The gully itself was incredibly steep hardpack, brushed clean of rock and scree with the exception of some sparse pebbles. I chiseled steps into the lower half using my hiking poles and toes while Alison and Sandra used bits of bedrock to the right as sporadic foot and hand holds. I eventually joined them and together we made it to the top. Contrary to what we’d read on the web, this was NOT a hike by any standard and it is quite debatable whether it was even an easy scramble. Looking at photos in those reports now I can see that at the time there was a fair bit of scree in the gully that could’ve provided traction, but its recent increase in popularity has scoured it down to hardpack. For comparison, it’s now nearly identical in slope angle, exposure, and terrain to the nasty section near the cliff band on Little Hector, which is rated as a moderate scramble.

Above the gully travel became very easy and straightforward and we made our way to just below the summit block with no issue. That section really is just a hike. Just before the summit we encountered the expected crux of the trip: A short, 2 m scramble. This proved to be a bit more difficult than it sounds as the teeny downsloping footholds were covered in dust and pebbles and there weren’t really any good handholds, but Alison and I made it up with just a bit of hesitation while Sandra elected to stay behind. Using the definitions of easy and moderate scrambles in Kane’s book, this was a moderate scramble. An easy one, for sure, but you’ll need your hands to get up and down this little section.

Fortunately for the non-scramblers, the view from just below this scramble section is pretty much the same as that from the summit. Reaching the summit only expands the view to the northeast, which is dominated by an outlier of Mount Jimmy Simpson and Observation Peak. The best view is towards Bow Lake and the Wapta Icefield and this is nearly identical from the summit as from just below the scramble step.

After a short summit stay and a longer break with Sandra we started back down. We’d been watching a large group wander around the plateau above the gully for quite some time and when we caught up to a couple of them they explained that many members of their group were seriously anxious about descending the gully and the majority were looking for an alternate route down. They too had been under the impression that this was an easy outing and had gotten in a bit over their heads.

When I noticed the main group head out of sight to the left and not reappear I decided to investigate, shortly spying an easy way down the cliff band they had found. I waved Alison and Sandra over and we made our way down to the meadow below. Sandra and I are pretty sensitive to exposure and neither of us felt any hint of it here, there wasn’t a single scramble move, no loose scree, hardpack, or rubble, and only one point where we chose to use our hands for balance. There is a small degree of routefinding involved to keep it in the realm of hiking or very easy scrambling, but that’s about it as far as difficulty goes. Alison built a cairn at the base of the cliff to mark the camouflaged start to the route; it’s photographed and described in the photos.

From where we emerged at the base of the cliff we made our way through flowery meadows to where we’d exited the forest on our ascent, then roughly retraced our route back down to the lake. While our experience in the gully had been rather horrific, our descent route would make this a very pleasant easy scramble to just below the summit block, and if the short moderate scramble move to reach the summit is too difficult, the view is nearly complete from just below it anyway!

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Banff National Park, Bow Lake, Icefields Parkway, Jimmy Junior, hiking, scrambling