Trip Number: 12100A
Staff: Richard Gross
- Visit a remote and rugged wilderness area and hike off-trail
- Explore without a pack on layover days
- Look for big horn sheep, bears, and cougars
- Delicious camp meals
- Group campsite first night
- All group gear
Skip the crowds in Jasper and Banff and join us in the most remote part of the Canadian Rockies
on this trekking adventure named one of National Geographic Traveler's "50 Tours of a Lifetime." We'll explore the remote eastern
region of the Willmore Wilderness, camping with spectacular vistas. Hiking days
are mixed with layover days to saunter, climb, or relax. We'll seek out the
most remote places by hiking off-trail visiting places few people get to see.
Our companions will likely include mountain goats, grizzlies, bighorn sheep,
caribou, wolves, cougars, and very few homo sapiens. A food drop in the middle
of the trip will lighten our load on days we move camp.
Photo: Ray Rasmussen
We will explore the Willmore Wilderness Park in Alberta, Canada. Located just
north of the two well-known Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, Banff and Jasper,
it is 4,600 sq. kilometers (1840 sq. miles) of vast wilderness area. First established
in 1959 as a Wilderness Provincial Park, in 1965 it was renamed Willmore Wilderness
Park and remains one of the few pristine wilderness areas in North America.
The mountains in Wilmore climb to 10,000 feet and we'll be above tree line
much of the time. Lakes, rivers, and streams will be our constant companions.
There are many rivers, creeks, and lakes within the park boundaries. We'll also
get the chance to learn and experience some of the history on the Canadian Rockies
visiting cabins and graves of the early outfitters and trappers from the early
We will carry food in bear canisters and will have a packer food drop so that we can reduce our pack weight.
Willmore is made for enjoying with a day pack so we can explore and climb the
mountain ridges more freely, and we'll build in plenty of time for that. We'll
also spend a good deal of our time off-trail exploring and route finding to
visit places even backpackers don't get to see.
August is the best time of year for the trip. It will be warmer and there should be fewer bugs. Stream and river crossings should be easier than earlier in the season. While we hope for sunny and warm days, weather is unpredictable and we could have rain and even a bit of snow up high. All that is part of the adventure.
Photo: Ray Rasmussen
Participants should plan on arriving at the trailhead on the evening of August 4th. The leaders will arrange for a campsite nearby.
We begin the first day following the Wildhay River which flows between the
Berland and Persiommon mountain ranges. We'll then continue west to explore
the peaks and passes including Jack-Knife, Hardscrabble and Glacier passes,
Brewster's Wall and Sunset Peak. We will choose our route and schedule as we
hike giving us the flexibility of deeper exploration. Our exact route will be
determined by the scenery, wildlife, and weather.
We will alternate backpacking with day hikes up Eagles Nest, Jack knife, Hardscrabble and other inviting passes.
On the last day, we will hike back to the cars and allow sufficient time to
return to civilization. We'll try and get back to Rock Lake by early afternoon
so we have time to drive back to Edmonton if you flew in. It would be safer
to plan on staying in Edmonton overnight and fly out the next morning. We're
not likely to get to Edmonton before 7:00 p.m.
Our trip begins at the Willmore Wilderness Rock Lake Campground where we will meet for dinner the night before we begin our hike.
Rock Lake is a five hour drive (300km/180 miles) from Edmonton, Alberta or
500 km (300 miles) from Calgary Alberta.
The leaders will be meeting in Edmonton and will drive to the campground. The leaders will assist participants in sharing rides from Edmonton.
More details about carpools and transportation will be sent to participants.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Ray Rasmussen
The night we meet at Rock Lake will be a potluck dinner. There will be places to pick up food along the way to Rock Lake and we'll crank up the stoves at the campsite.
All meals and snacks for the trip, from breakfast on the first hiking day to
lunch on the last day are included in the trip price. The food on the trip is
delicious, hearty, and memorable. Many of the meals that are planned are suitable
for vegetarians and the leaders will accommodate vegetarians. Please let the
leaders know if you have any particular food requirements. Our delicious meals
will be lightweight backpacking food. As usual on Sierra Club trips, all members
help with cooking and cleanup chores, with each person (as part of a team) assisting
for a number of days.
This trip is rated 3 and is targeted to experienced backpackers. While we
hope for sunny and dry days, we must be prepared for any condition, including
multiple days of rain. We will need to be prepared for warm sunny days, cold
nights, rain, or even a bit of snow. We will be crossing streams and may be
hiking in wet terrain. You may have wet boots some of the time.
Some days may be long but we will also have a number of layover days where we will do hiking with daypacks to explore the mountains and high meadows. The leaders have a strong appreciation for lazy days in the mountains as well so you will always have the option of enjoying the beautiful scenery around camp on layover days.
Trip members should be in excellent physical condition and have recent backpacking
experience. You should be able to hike six hours in a day with a 45-pound
Equipment and Clothing
Trip participants are expected to furnish their own personal gear. The leaders
will provide a complete equipment list with the letter of approval sent to each
participant. The Sierra Club provides group equipment including pots, cooking
utensils, stoves, fuel, a cooking tarp, satellite phone, bear canisters, repair
kit, and first-aid kit. Please feel free to contact the leaders with any questions
Photo: Ray Rasmussen
Willmore Wilderness Provinvial Park was established in 1959. Since then there
have been many contentious issues related to wilderness in Alberta and Willmore
in particular. Advocates for the Park and wilderness feel strongly that a management
plan that addresses key concerns for the Willmore, including wildlife, watersheds,
wilderness protection, fire programs, trail system maintenance, and recreation
is urgently needed. There are periodic pressures for inappropriate resource
development such as commercial recreational use. Recreational developments including
a downhill ski operation, golf course and alpine village, as well as new roadways
for off-road vehicles have been proposed in and near Willmore Wilderness Park.
It is currently under consideration for being an UNESCO World Heritage site. There is controversy around that proposal since it would limit development.
There are very few regulations in the park and that has led to some overuse by hunters and packers in the areas near trailheads.
The leaders plan to have a local activist talk about these issues before the trip and they will send out information prior to the trip.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
This is Marta and Rich's 14th trip together. They have led numerous arctic trips that have included areas that were previously unexplored.
Rich Gross has been leading Sierra Club National Outings in Alaska, Canadian Arctic, Rocky Mountains and California for 23 years. He is also an avid mountaineer, having climbed a number of long alpine routes in the United States (including Alaska) and Canada. His very first backpacking trip was a Sierra Club outing in Yosemite, during which he made many mistakes resulting in his being cold, wet, tired, and incredibly thrilled. He has a particular love for the Arctic because it makes him feel small and insignificant. His other passions include music (he sings in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus). His 21-year-old son, Zack, has come on a number of the trips led his first Sierra Club trip last summer. In his real life, he works fo a non-profit organization that finances and develops low-income, multi-family housing.
Marta Chase has been leading Sierra Club National Outings in Alaska, Canadian Rockies and Arctic, Washington, and California for 16 years. An experienced backpacker and leader, she was also an American Youth Hostel leader. Her delicious backpacking meals have made her famous among trip participants. She will be bringing her husband along on the trip. He is a great help and loves to carry 80-pound packs. When Marta isn't out traveling, she is a consultant in the medical diagnostics area.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips