Little Hector

Banff
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Little Hector

Distance: 8.6km
Elevation: 1,250m
Time: 5-8h

Difficulty Rating:

Scrambling up Mount Hector gives way to a commanding and up-close view of Hector glacier from the summit of Little Hector. The view provides a scenic punch to the glacial lakes, mountains, and icefields surrounding the peak.

Getting there

From Lake Louise, take the Icefields Parkway north for 20.3km. At this point, there will be an unsigned pullout on the left-hand side of the road.

About

When to do

Late July - September

Backcountry Campsites

No

Toilets

Mosquito Creek Campground

Pets allowed

Yes - On Leash

Scarmbling Rating

Grade 2

Exposure

Some

Family friendly

No

Route Signage

None

Crowd Levels

Low

Route Type

Out and back


Elevation


Detailed Description

Little Hector is the unofficial name given to the peak to the north of 3394m Mount Hector. At 3125m in height, Little Hector is not exactly little, and neither are the spectacular views it grants from its summit.

While this is mostly a class 1 scramble, there are a few parts that are class 2. On our map you can see a section in yellow – this is the standard route up and back, which, although being a fine route, misses out on a lot of scenery and is arguably a less intuitive route.

Our description, and the route shown in green on the map, shows a variant route with more exploring and what we feel are better views, especially down exploring Hector Pass.

From where you parked your car in the roadside pull-out, cross the road and go right, hiking back towards where Hector Creek crosses the Icefields Parkway. From here, go left into the forest, following a good trail on the south side of the creek.

After about 20 minutes you will reach a series of waterfalls. Follow a steep but good trail to the left of the first waterfall before reaching some cliffs to the left of the second. Here two possible routes present themselves. Most people scramble directly up the cliffs – a scramble on the easy side of moderate. There is also an easier route, on a decent trail, to the right of the rock face which we recommend. Find the trail in a patch of bushes heading towards the waterfall. Scramble over a few trees and short rock steps and you’ll likely be relieved that crossing the creek at the cliff was easier than anticipated. You will cross just above the falls on a wide flat area with little difficulty. While there is a sense of exposure in a few places, this route is really nothing more than a hike with the crux being a scramble over a couple of small thick trees growing on the trail.

Above the waterfalls, continue to ascend steeply on the trail, shortly reaching a more level section with a view to the east of a scree slope that leads to Hector Pass.

The shortest (and standard) route to Little Hector heads to the right near this point, and is likely the best route for your first trip. This route is shown in yellow on the map.

An alternative is to continue towards Hector Pass to have a look – a worthwhile excursion. With overlap on the route to Mount Andromache, this is the route in green on the map. At the top of the scree slope, when the summit of Little Hector is visible 90 degrees to your right (exactly south of your position), turn towards it and ascend over gentle slabs and firm rubble to reach a small plateau at the base of the peak. Bits of trail and cairns along the way indicate you’re not the first to take this route, and well constructed bivy sites near the plateau suggested a possible approach to Mount Hector from this point. A short ascent on firm terrain brings you to the base of Little Hector’s treadmill scree slopes.

As you ascend the treadmill scree the real crux of the day will likely become apparent: the wind! What starts as a nice breeze can develop into a strong gusty wind which may lead to you having to fight both it and the unstable scree to maintain balance. Near some cliff bands, about halfway up, the wind was as loud as a freight train and we had to shout to communicate with each other. About halfway up are some cliff bands that can be a bit difficult to navigate through. This combined with the wind makes this a common turnaround spot. The summit is in fact only 250m higher.

The summit of Little Hector offers sublime views and there is a nice bivy shelter below the summit, where you can get out of the wind to have a break.

From the summit, you have three choices:

  • Descend the way you came up (no route-finding, good views – 4.7km back to car)

  • Descend the standard route (quickest – shown in yellow on the map – 4.4km back to car)

  • Descend to explore Hector Pass (longest way, shown as green on the map – 7.1km back to the car with 160m of additional ascent).

If you do decide to explore Hector Pass, be warned, the route can be particularly difficult through the rubble, and can extend an already long day. This being said, there are lovely views but for the extra investment of time and effort, are perhaps not worthwhile. If you do decide to descend via Hector Pass, you will eventually be able to follow nice slabs and grassy areas down to where the trail left to climb Little Hector earlier. From here, everything should go smoothly.

Insider Hints

  • If you want a really beautiful add-on, consider stopping by Moraine Lake at the end of the day. The crowds usually depart around dinner time, so you can make a quick stop and park at Moraine Lake, an impossibility earlier in the day.

  • Mosquito Creek Wilderness Hostel is a good base just north on the 93N highway. HI Mosquito Creek a charming little hostel, with an outdoor firepit and friendly staff. The Mosquito Creek campground is next door.

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