August 6, 2016

Whistlers Peak (Jasper, AB) Hike Report

View of the Tramhouse from just before the trailhead.
The Jasper National Park brochure recommended this as a "Difficult" hike of 6.8 Km from the trailhead to the Jasper SkyTram.  Several other posts indicated it was 6.8 Km to the actual Summit, but the trail from the Tram to the Summit was listed as 1.4 Km.  Estimated hiking times ranged from 3-6 hours.

Approximately the first third looked like this.

Even through official local sources, I couldn't find consistent information on what to expect, how much time we should *actually* plan for, how much of it was covered vs. exposed, etc.  I did find several references to 1200-1300 meters of elevation change, which daunted me a bit, but I told myself it wasn't much more of an average increase in elevation per mile than the Lassen climb, with, at the worst estimate, just 1.7 extra miles of climbing (and no need to save anything for the descent, so lower mileage overall).

Eventually, the trees started breaking for intermittent views. (Jasper town)
It ended up being a great hike.  So,  in the hopes that someone else may find this information (what I would have liked to know ahead of time) useful, here's my public service hike report.
The second-third of the hike was more or less like this -- mostly shaded.

Apparently, a woman died hiking this trail in May of 2010 -- but that was due to an avalanche while she was off trail, which wasn't an issue for us since there was no snow on the mountain in early August.  But, despite being close to town and supported by the SkyTram at the top, this hike is, as the link notes, a back-country trail, and all of your standard preparedness recommendations should be followed.

Failed timer-shot at the rock flow field.
The trailhead (no bathrooms) is at the P14 area marked on this map.  The short road up to the trailhead off the main SkyTram road is marked with a green hiker sign, and is dirt and gravel for less than 250 meters around the curve.

We headed out at around 10:45 AM and it was 59F.  The first 2/3 were more or less covered, but the last 1/3 was fully exposed, and possibly took 50% of the time due to the elevation, exposed sun, and climb.  Our data claimed 4.2+ miles with 3,350+ ft of elevation gain.  Much less than was claimed in the literature, but we had two GPS synched devices, so, take that for what it's worth.

It felt like there were flat parts and then hard climbs... but the data says otherwise...
Apparently, despite our assumption that there were flats and hard climbs interspersed, it was mainly all a climb.  And, yet, we recommend it.

If you take the SkyTram down (1/2 price), you'll arrive back in the parking lot for the tram and will have about 1 mile of hiking back down the road and up the gravel to the parking lot.  We heard that you could cut through the Hostel (off the main road) and it would be easier, but we heard it afterwards, so we can't comment one way or the other.

We clocked 3h01 to the tramhouse/restaurant/water/bathrooms including all stops for pictures, water, etc. and didn't do the climb to the summit because we arrived at the tramhouse hungry.  Also, lunch service was 2+ hours slow.  We were keeping a decent clip for reasonably fit hikers with trekking poles, but I'm short and I tend to slow us down, so take those numbers for what they are worth.  Certainly, we only experienced 1000M+ climb based on our devices' measurements, so the 1200 or 1300 are, in our opinion, an exaggeration with a missed fact (I don't think it was that much elevation even to the Summit), or perhaps, most likely, just a tall tale.

The Summit Hike, available from the tram.  2.8 Km return total.
Overall, this is probably on my top 10 hikes ever.  Very enjoyable to go through 3 different climates and enjoy a solitary hike (we were only passed in the opposite direction by runners and downhill hikers who had obviously taken the tram up).  Enjoy the hike!

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