Having done all of the more popular backpacks I decided to head out to Athabasca Pass this year, as one of our two annual longer backpacks we do every year. This area is rarely visited, probably because the trial is mostly in the trees, and the pass itself is actually still below treeline. But you do get to walk out on the open at Scott Gravel Flats and along the river here and there. It feels very remote and you are sure to have solitude. We only saw two other solo hikers and the Wardens.
We had been told that the Middle Whirlpool River by Middleforks campground had changed its course and that the bridge no longer spanned the river. The River has actually moved from before the Warden Cabin, to between it and Middleforks campground. It consists of a short deeper section and a larger washout section. Both were quite manageable to cross on logs and/or vegetation.
We were also told that there was a re-route to a new ford of the Whirlpool rather than Kane Creek. It starts at KM 38.8 were there used to be a bridge that spanned the Whirlpool River and took you to the east side. That bridge is now gone. Instead you 'bushwhack' on a new trail cut and marked by Parks to just upriver of where the last channel of Kane Creek enters the Whirlpool and then you ford the Whirlpool there. In this area the current is not strong. It was knee deep for us but we had no problems crossing. This crossing looked very preferable to the old Kane Creek ford and I am glad that Parks intends to keep the trail on this reroute. It then continues up the side of Kane Creek to meet the main trail.
As well of note the bridge that used to span the canyon near Scott Campground used to get over to Scott Glacier is gone. It was cut down by the Wardens because it was unstable.
When we were out there we saw the Wardens on the Saturday we were hiking back out on. They were constructing a new log 'bridge' over the shorter section of the new course of the Middle Whirlpool River. They had also cut down all the blowdown between the trailhead and the beginning of Scott Gravel Flats. This made hiking these sections more enjoyable.
We had only two days of sun but thankfully one was the day we got to the pass. It has been raining so much recently that all three lakes were present even in September.
Our itinerary was:
Day 1: ~21km to Middleforks Camp
Day 2: ~10km to Scott Camp (and were supposed to go to see glacier but could not so just rested instead)
Day 3: ~10km to Kane Meadows Camp
Day 4: ~16km day hike to Pass and back
Day 5: ~26km march back to Simon Creek camp (not marked on new Gem Trek map, but its on the far side (from trailhead) of Simon Creek)
Day 6: ~15km march out (it only took us 3.5hours!)
I would not recommend camping at Athabasca Pass. It looked wet, and why haul your pack further than you have to? Kane Meadows is a nice campground for the area.
Now for some pictures:
A lot of creek crossings look similar to this.
Washout section of Middle Whirlpool River
Washout section of Middle Whirlpool River
Scott Gravel Flats on the way in.
Canyon that used to have the bridge over it. I guess there must be somewhere on the flats you could try to ford. But right by the campground it looked thigh deep or higher, and the current was quite strong.
There was much forest. Some of it was like this with moss in the undergrowth and was quite nice. Some was terribly boring.
Where the bridge at KM 38.8 used to be over the Whirlpool River.
Start of the reroute by that bridge. There is no bushwhacking, and the trail is faint but easy to follow.
Nearing the ford and looking up valley at Mount Brown in the center of the photo.
New 'bridge' near the ford. 5 whole logs! But only one piece of twine holding them altogether.
Fording the Whirlpool at the new crossing parks has marked off.
Heading up to the pass the trail is faint as well in places. Mostly muddy and very wet.
The Committee's Punch Bowl at the top of Athabasca Pass.
Third southern lake.
First northern lake.
Scott Glacier on the return.
The end of Scott Gravel Flats on the return.
The Wardens making their new 'bridge' over the shorter section of the new course of the Middle Whirlpool River. Works very well. Just hold on to the branch stubs as you cross the lower log.
View of River on last day. This is about as good as that section gets.
All in all I'm glad I went, but I wouldn't repeat this one.
Further info and pics at my blog: