Mt. Gimli is a striking pillar of rock, towering high in the Valhalla range. This hike is tough, but rewarding. The trail leads up to the base of Gimli where it wraps around to a final ledge. Here, hikers can look down into the Mulvey Basin lakes, or just spin and spin and take in the panoramas of jagged peaks and sky.
Trailhead: Bannock Burn Road
Distance, Round Trip: 9.5km
13km up Bannock Burn road. There were some rough patches on this access road and 4WD is probably necessary. Overall it took us 2 hours to drive from Nelson.
As soon as you step out, it’s pretty clear where you’re headed:
Into the woods
The first part of the hike is just an uphill slog through the woods. The elevation gain is steady and we felt our calves burning as we marched on. The trail crosses a creek and then slowly climbs up towards the tree line.
As the trees begin to thin, Mt. Gimli becomes visible again:
Up to the saddle
The next section of trail takes you out of the trees and towards the base of Gimli. The trail winds up sub-alpine slopes and wildflowers start to proliferate. Soon the valley falls away and you are walking up a ridge with views all around.
There is a saddle on the south shoulder of Gimli where mountaineers were camped. We stopped here for a rest and to keep an eye on the weather. Thunderstorms were rumbling far away and the sky was dancing between with sun and rain.
Along Gimli’s edge
We decided to carry on and follow the trail along the base of Gimli. The climatic mid-point of this hike is the ledge overlooking Mulvey Basin.
This last segment of the trail is narrow and skirts a steep slope. Caution is required.
In order to reach the ridge, you must scramble over a field of boulders. These rocks have the same dark zebra-stripes that ripple across Gimli. The boulders are the size that seem to require both hands and feet to navigate. All good fun.
The trail ends at the steep sharp cliff over Mulvey Basin. The views are spectacular and terrifying. The drop into Mulvey Basin is 300m so you’ll want to be careful.
Sadly, I was not careful and upon digging my lunch out of my pack, a pear went rolling off down into Mulvey oblivion.
Bad weather down
Throughout this entire hike, we’d been keeping a close eye on the sky. A thunderstorm bypassed us that morning, and all day we could see sheets of rain moving in the distance. It’s a tricky balance: you don’t want to be caught up on the exposed ridge in a thunderstorm, but you also don’t want to turn in early and miss a good hike for no reason. We kept evaluating the weather and making back-up plans. Luckily, we got up to the ridge early enough to miss the worst of it.
By the time we got back to saddle, bad weather was coming in from the south-east. We hiked back fast and made it under the protection of the deep forest before the storm hit.