A few weeks ago my friend Chris and I embarked on the Akamina Ridge hiking trail in Waterton Lakes National Park where we knew the basic details: 20 km loop, plenty of gorgeous views with the elevation gain and spending time in BC's Akamina Kishinena Provincial Park along the trek. There were no updated trail reports that could be found online or any warnings at the trailhead about any adverse conditions that would require additional equipment. As it turned out, and we agreed at the end of the day, that had we known what conditions the descent held (and a significant portion of the ascent mind you) we would likely not have gone through with the day's hike... This was the best and most character building hike I have ever experienced.
Let's back up a bit though. Akamina Ridge is part of a hiking challenge called the Triple Crown which also includes the Crypt Lake and Alderson-Carthew trails. Having completed Crypt Lake last year, we chose to start with Akamina as it was the longest (may as well just get it done, right?!) and the trail didn't require additional shuttle or ferry coordination to access the trail head (more on those details in future trail report posts).
To participate in the Triple Crown challenge you simply need go to Pearls Cafe in Waterton and sign your name in to a binder for the summer season and complete the three hikes - taking photos as your evidence of completion - between May and September. About a dozen or so people already signed in prior to the binder but as the completion board above shows no one had finished it yet this year.
After checking in at the cafe we made our way to the trailhead which is about 13 km off the main entry road in to the town of Waterton. On the way in we saw the local wildlife enjoying an early morning roadside salad ;)
Happily the bear sighting was the only large animal we encountered throughout the day!
At the trailhead parking lot there were two other groups at the trailhead heading out. As it turned out, later in the day it was important to have the tracks of the groups ahead to navigate the descent.
The trail starts off relatively calm with a gentle elevation gain and a wide trail. A little less than 2 km in we enter in to British Columbia!
About a kilometer past the Alberta-BC border there's a junction to go check out Forum Falls which is less than a kilometer off the main trail and is certainly worth it. It seemed that in the thick of summer this would be a very popular place to visit for sure.
Along the trail before Forum Lake there were a few small bridges over streams. Some we used - others there were alternative options that were used.
Back on the trail we started seeing a snow piles in the shades of the trees... then we arrived at an opening in the trail not long before Forum Lake. Then there was a lot more snow!
The snow pack lead to Forum Lake that still had ice floes on it! Beautiful spot though. Then the trail really started to show us what we had in store for the ascent. Steep, snow and scrambling.
Once we reached the ridge it was time to trek to the peaks after some much needed lunch and enjoying the views all around.
There were so many beautiful lichen, flowers and a small group of trees holding on despite the wind above the tree line!
When we nearing the descent we could see down to Wall Lake. Taking in the views was amazing but then reality set in that there was a lot of snow below still and we'd likely have to go through some. Little did we know...
Once off the trail it felt like the longest drive back to the town of Waterton for some much needed pizza and ciders. We shared our stories with the staff that were avid hikers wanting to know the conditions. One of the staff told us that she and a group of her friends had done all three of the Triple Crown trails in ONE DAY last year. Phenomenal feat but that's certainly not something I would like to attempt.
It was a long day on a trail that I would most certainly do again - but far later in the season to avoid the potential of so much snow pack in the earlier part of summer.