For me, this hike was my first return to the Sunshine Meadows area since I hiked Citadel Pass as a teenager; for my brother, it was an off-season return to familiar skiing grounds.
Healy Pass had been on my to-do list for years for me, spectacular mountains and meadows are a combination akin to Talwin and Ritalin but I wasnt sure I was up to its 655-metre climb. Instead, we decided to start from Sunshine Village, which during the summer is accessible via an $18-per-person shuttle from the Bourgeau parking lot below. It saved us 500 metres of climbing.
We left the ski resort at 10:00 a.m. and reached the maximum elevation within less than two kilometres: an observation point on Wawa Ridge. Unfortunately it was still too cloudy to see very much at that point. From there, it was a quick descent from Sunshine Meadows along the forested north side of a mountain, and then across the small meadow at Simpson Pass, which is on the Alberta-B.C. border and populated by small mammals.
Then, a short climb into Healy Meadows, where the trail was muddy and indistinct, but still findable. At this point the clouds cleared enough that I could see the massive pyramid of the Monarch. I couldnt stop taking photos of that mountain. From Healy Meadows it was a short hike to the junction with the main trail to Healy Pass.
Overall, the Simpson Pass/Healy Meadows trail was lightly used at most, eight people were hiking it that day and in primitive shape. In comparison, the Healy Pass trail was in excellent condition and heavily used; its the backpackers route to the Egypt Lakes region. Day hikers were definitely in the minority.
From the junction, we climbed steeply (gasp!) up a trail through meadows to the northern edge of the Ramparts (the Monarchs northern ridge), where Healy Pass is. Within the last few hundred metres before the Pass, the view beyond the pass Mount Ball, Haiduk, the Pharaoh Peaks, and all the Egypt Lakes suddenly appears. Wow. The view behind is no slouch either: the Monarch and Ramparts and, if youre lucky, Mount Assiniboine (whose peak was under cloud that day, unfortunately but we saw plenty of it from Burstall Pass).
We returned to the parking lot via the main Healy Pass trail. It was a better trail, but it was very steep I would have hated climbing it and, except for the final couple of kilometres before the pass, in a deeply forested valley with poor visibility (and GPS reception). Paying the money turned out to be a good idea.