MT. WILCOX                 9375 ft. / 2884 m

Location:   Alberta, Canada
52.245561 N    117.242711 W

Sections

Overview
Mt. Wilcox Trailhead
Climbing Season in the Columbia Icefield
Mountain Conditions and Weather in the Columbia Icefield
Red Tape, Fees and Legalese in Jasper National Park
Camping and Backpacking in Jasper National Park
Mt. Wilcox Miscellaneous Information
Disclaimer – Hazard Warning
Columbia Icefield Centre
Maps
Mt. Wilcox Acknowledgements and Photo Credits
page one
Mt. Wilcox - Overview

Mt. Wilcox is located in the Sunwapta River Valley, along the northwest end of Wilcox Pass. It is surrounded on three sides by larger peaks which include Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda, Snow Dome, Mt. Kitchener and Nigel Peak. These larger peaks form the eastern edge of the Columbia Icefield, which can be viewed by taking an easy scramble up Mt. Wilcox. The panoramic view from the summit of this strategically-located peak is hard to beat by climbing a relatively small mountain. In fact, Alan Kane, author of the best-selling guide book Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, claims that Mt. Wilcox "offers the best view in the entire Rockies for the energy expended."

Mt. Wilcox lies on the southern end of Jasper National Park, and provides scenic frontage for travellers driving along Highway 93, the Icefield Parkway. This highway is actually located right at the foot of the mountain, and travellers are treated to an excellent, close-up view of its rugged cliffs, gullies, sharp ridge and scree fields. For hikers exploring the beautiful, vast , undulating Wilcox Pass, with its lush carpet of colorful wildflowers, mosses and high-altitude flora, an easy scramble up the ridge of Mt. Wilcox is the perfect way to cap the day. The peak, and the long, sloping pass that runs up to its long ridge, are seen directly behind the Columbia Icefield Centre. It is actually one long ridge with three rugged summits, all within close proximity of each other, with the middle summit being the highest. The rock is loose, and rockfall down its rugged West Face is common.
         Mt. Wilcox, seen from Wilcox Pass in late spring with receding snow, which can linger into summer
Discovery
The mountain, and the adjacent Wilcox Pass, are named after the explorer Walter Wilcox, who in 1896 led an expedition north over Bow Pass, along the Saskatchewan River, becoming the first travellers to reach Sunwapta Pass. At the time, the present-day Athabasca Glacier extended right to the slopes of Mt. Wilcox, and the party found its further progress blocked by the huge canyon north of the mountain. Further exploration was carried out east of Mt. Wilcox, through the pass and onward past Tangle Ridge.
Mt. Wilcox Trailhead

From Jasper, Alberta, head south on Highway 93, the Icefield Parkway for approximately 103 kilometers to the Columbia Icefield Centre on your left. You will see Mt. Wilcox on your left well before reaching the huge parking area of the Icefield Centre. The peak can be climbed by approaching Wilcox Pass directly behind the Icefield Centre, up loose scree slopes punctuated with short cliff bands. A much more pleasant approach, however, is to continue south along the highway for another 2.7 kilometers and turn left into Wilcox Campground, which is the actual trailhead for the Southeast Ridge scramble route, as well as Nigel Peak's Northeast Ridge route.
Note: Ascents can also be made by climbing Mt. Wilcox from the opposite end on the North Ridge.

If travelling north from Banff, drive approximately 186 kilometers from Banff to Wilcox Campground, turn in to the right and park. The campground is generally the best trailhead to access Wilcox Pass. The approach is made by climbing straight up the lower slopes of Wilcox Pass through the trees, staying left of the small stream and drainage that pass through the campground, and finally arriving less than an hour later on the broad expanse of the Pass itself. Two peaks will be seen on the edges of the pass; Mt. Wilcox to the north and the larger Nigel Peak to the east. Both are a pleasant hiking distance from the lower end of Wilcox Pass.

Photos by Eric Klaszus
            Left:  Mt. Wilcox seen from the north;   Right:  Climbers on the North Ridge of the mountain
Climbing Season in the Columbia Icefield

The mountain can be climbed year round, but the main climbing season runs from June until September. Very few ascents are made of this peak in winter due to brutally cold temperatures, frequent storms, heavy snowpack, and avalanches. It's a pretty lonely place in the winter, and the rate of traffic on the highway slows to a trickle as well as a result. The Columbia Icefield Centre is closed from October until May, resulting in even less human presence in this wild and beautiful area.

Even summer climbs can be subjected to storms and winter conditions, which have resulted in dumps of snow a foot deep on the highway in the valleys (during the month of July), heavier snowfalls at higher elevations, and even occasional frostbite injuries to climbers during the summer months. Winter conditions and spring avalanches often continue right into June. Often, a very cold wind will blow across the Athabasca Glacier, chilling the entire area, even in summer months.

Few winter ascents of this peak are made in light of numerous objective hazards, bitter cold temperatures accompanied by high winds, and frequent storms which render visibility at zero for about one of every three statistical days. In winter, avalanche danger is also possible in some lower areas sloping up into Wilcox Pass from the west, the trailhead area included. The peak is best climbed from late June to September, which means in summer conditions. A May ascent can be expected to be done in winter conditions with heavy snow, and accompanying avalanche conditions. Spring blizzards are possible here, and not to be taken lightly.

Photos by Eric Klaszus
           Left:  Scrambling trail on Mt. Wilcox;   Right:   The rolling terrain of Wilcox Pass in the spring
Mountain Conditions and Weather in the Columbia Icefield

Climbing conditions
Rescue Dynamics offers current climbing conditions, as well as weather reports and a host of other mountaineering related services. Current climbing conditions can sometimes be obtained by calling Park Wardens in Jasper National Park at (780) 852-6155 or (780) 852-6181 at the Sunwapta Station. Park Wardens climb often in this area during training, while performing rescue operations as well as for personal recreation, and they often have recent and accurate information with regards to climbing conditions in the Columbia Icefield area.

Various sources for weather reports, forecasts and warnings for Jasper
A weather report, five day forecast, and much more. An automated telephone weather advisory and forecast for the Jasper National Park area is also available by calling (780) 852-3185. Weather conditions for the area can also be obtained unofficially by calling the Columbia Icefield Centre at (780) 852-6288 during the months between May to October. Weather, forecasts, meteorological links, satellite imagery and other neat stuff can be found on the Environment Canada website. Simply click on any of the links on the left hand side of the main page. Note: the Weather Office link in the middle of the page doesn't work, but all other links work on this useful site, and if you are heading out it is worth investigating.
     Seen here are some typical views from Mt. Wilcox and Wilcox Pass, looking towards the Columbia Icefield  
Red Tape, Fees and Legalese in Jasper National Park

Campers and backcountry hikers and skiers in Jasper National Park can reserve campsites with Parks Canada. Some trails are subject to quotas, so reservations are good insurance to guarantee a camping spot during the busier months of the year. Reservations can be made three months in advance.

Backcountry camping requires a permit as well at $8/night (maximum of $30) and a $10 reservation fee. Annual wilderness passes are available for $42 and are valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. Contact the Jasper Parks Visitor Centre for more information on this at (780) 852-6176 or see the Jasper National Park Home Page (which contains links to fees, trail reports, and avalanche reports)

Up-to-date Park fees and camping fees can be found at Parks Canada Fee Page - Jasper National Park. A National Park Pass is required if you will be stopping anywhere in Jasper National Park. They can be purchased at any entry point to Jasper or Banff National Park, or at any Ranger Station, $8 per person or $16 per vehicle. Open fires are not allowed anywhere in Jasper National Park, except in restricted locations at approved campsites.

Photo by Eric Klazsus
Emergency Phone Numbers in Jasper National Park

Royal Canadian Mountain Police
(780) 852-4848.
P.O. Box 1800      600 Pyramid Lake Road, Jasper, AB.

Jasper Hospital (780) 852-3344
518 Robson St.   Jasper, AB.

Fire & Ambulance (780) 852-3100
Jasper Firehall, Patricia St.    Jasper, AB.

Park Warden Office (780) 852-6155 / 56
Maligne Rd. Jasper, AB. (km 2)

Sunwapta Park Warden Station (780 )852-6181
Mile 45, Highway 93 (Icefield Parkway)

Pobotkan Creek Warden Station (780) 852-5383
Highway 93 (Icefield Parkway)

Search and Rescue (780) 852-3100

Emergency calls can be directed to the Jasper Park Warden
at (780) 852-3100
or by calling the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at
(780) 852-4848
Camping and Backpacking in Jasper National Park

Columbia Icefield Campground
The Columbia Icefield Campground is located 1 km north of the Icefield Centre. There are enclosed cooking shelters with wood stoves and picnic tables. A pay telephone and bulletin board is at the entrance to the campground as you drive in. Outhouses are maintained regularly. There is no running water on a regular basis other than an outdoor hand-pumped fixture.

Wilcox Campground
Camping also is available at Wilcox Campground, 2.7 km south of the Columbia Icefield Centre on Highway 93. It usually opens in mid-June and is open until October. In the spring plenty of snow will still be around, sometimes blocking access to the campground. When the Icefield Campground is not plowed out, Wilcox Creek campground, or even Jonas Creek Campground, located well north of the Icefield Centre in Jasper National Park may be options, although the drive is significantly longer if accessing Mt. Athabasca or Mt. Andromeda via the Icefield Centre / SnoCoach road.

Sites in both campgrounds cost $18 - $20 per night. You must self-register. There are bivy sites on the mountain: pick a spot which will be safe from avalanches or slides. Technically, mountaineers bivouacking on Mt. Athabasca require a backcountry permit, available from Park Wardens at the Ranger Stations or the Icefield Centre for $6 a night. Hiking, trekking, scrambling and backpacking information in the Canadian Rockies is available at The Canadian Rockies.com. There is a backpacking information page available, just click on this link: Backpacking Jasper National Park.
                                          Views of Wilcox Pass in summer and early autumn  
                                                                  MT. WILCOX continues on page two