Last day was first day in reverse. I still wasn't sure which way I'd head back -- I was more than little intrigued with loop return via Cline Pass down to Brazeau & left decision for the morning. Overnight I did not sleep well -- weather changed and it warmed up; it was hot even out of sleeping bag. In addition wind howled whole night; constant flapping of tent fly wouldn't let me rest. I got up at first light, made coffee and broke up camp (in constant company of mosquito swarm - do they ever rest?). I thought about it & decided to head back the same way. Main reason: Uncertainty of Brazeau ford specially in light of overnight warm-up and likely swollen river level. Morning was very clear with good light; already familiar with sun position on Cataract Pass trail I knew I'd get sun behind my back all the way down, which would result in some very nice photos. So back the same way it was. I was a bit weary of steep and unavoidable snow leading to Cataract Pass, but that actually worked in my advantage. Very easy to cut steps and before I knew it I was on the top. After crossing Alberta boundary back into JNP and that insane looking Lake at head of Brazeau Watershed came into view it was only 7:30am. I had time & took extended break at the pass, then slowly descended and diverged off trail to visit the lake which is simply awesome -- would be good bivi spot too! Then made my way back down very young Brazeau river with SLR around my neck enjoying every bit, eventually packing up camera gear just before Nigel Pass. Crossing was still easy, but water was at least twice as much as it was only 2 days ago -- result of warm temps; I was glad for decision to abandon the loop. After turning on Nigel Pass trail trail got busy -- Brazeau loop backpackers, Nigel Pass day-hikers etc etc. It was hot but I still enjoyed return hike back to trailhead. Pics that tell the story of last day:
[Nearing Cataract Pass after much easier and faster ascent from bivi spot than expected]
[Views really open up at other side of the pass & I took 30min break here with 2nd breakfast; very warm and in T-shirt despite the elevation]
[Very young Brazeau river just below the lake, its ultimate source]
[Descending canyon separating upper and central part of the valley. Brazeau River is on the other side. It is also possible to stay on upper terrace then scramble rock roughly just past this snowdrift]
[Simply delightful hiking in soft mid-morning light. Alpine doesn't get much better than this]
[That savage looking rock on east side; it is visible for most part as you hike Nigel Pass trail, but this is different perspective]
[Approaching the boulder field, only potentially problematic part of Cataract Pass trail. There are 2 parts to it: First you have to go around this giant boulder on the right (some people simply wade here). Then you follow bit of cairns up and over large slide center right; there are many variations]
[Descending Nigel Pass with view of Parker Ridge / Mt. Sashatchewan at west side of Icefields Parkway]
Was back at car ~2:30 pm at full heat of the day; it was probably +30. When you go on backpack, even on day-hike, it is really good to leave some snack/treat in the car. I had bag of cherries and really pigged out driving back, followed by enormous ice-cream at Sask. River crossing.
Terrific backpack into amazing area & I am quite sure I will be back to continue exploring, in particular alternate viewpoint of Afternoon Lakes valley and loop return via Cline River. Summertime Rockies at their best!