Waking up at 4:30 am, driving nearly 3 hours to then hike 20 km and returning back to the city is crazy for plenty of people - but not to my friend Chris and I! He only has certain days available for big hikes throughout the summer due to family/work/life scheduling commitments. Meanwhile, I am usually bound to the city as I’m currently still car-free but am almost always up for hiking opportunities. So when our schedules align (usually by planning months in advance) we are able to tackle what may seem impossible to others.
The Carthew-Alderson trail (or Alderson-Carthew trail depending on the direction taken) is part of the Triple Crown trio of trails in Waterton Lake National Park including Crypt Lake and Akamina Ridge (the latter which I've blogged about here). The Carthew-Alderson trail is a one-way, ~20 km trek that is rated as difficult by most trail rating sites. Although the terrain is a well marked and used trail with no serious scrambling, the distance and elevation gain, inevitably windy peak with plenty of shale to traverse could be tough for some to handle. Pre-booking a shuttle from Waterton to the trailhead at Cameron Lake, which is about 15 km from the townsite, is recommended and available through The Tamarack. We had booked the 8:30 am shuttle which brought us to Cameron Lake just a few minutes after 9 am. After a short informative trail orientation by the friendly shuttle driver and pictures on the dock with the very smoky conditions we were on the trail by nearly 9:30 am.
The trail begins immediately with a steady incline that turns into long switchbacks through the forest. The quick gain in elevation is a bit surprising and only 4 km in there is Summit Lake.
Not needing a break yet we quickly had a look and got back on trail. The trees began to really thin out and it wasn't long before we were on the exposed switchback traverse before the final ridge walk to the actual summit.
Heading back on the ridge walk turned into a quick run as the wind was blowing fierce and it was fun to quicken the pace with very little effort. We passed some other hikers who had decided to eat their lunch on the ridge which made no sense to me as the view was hidden in the smoke and the wind was whipping around. To each their own, I guess.
It didn't take long before we reached the middle Carthew Lake. There are three in succession and I bet on a clear day all would be popular with hikers enjoying the views. There were some flat-ish rocks not far from shore that were relatively blocked from the wind by a rock wall behind us, however, that didn't stop the wind from picking up tiny bits of gravel and launching them into my lunch.
The rest of the trail was a gentle descent back into the treeline and a look in to Alderson Lake.
I couldn't possibly finish this post without a mini-rant about the surprising amount of piles of horseshit throughout the trek. Why aren't riders required to pickup (or at least move off the damn trail!) their horse’s poops?!
Rant complete and back to trail goodness. The descent felt like it will never end when suddenly the trail opens up and the town of Waterton is right there!
Back in town we head to 49 North Pizza for a celebratory cider before heading back to Calgary. Great way to spend a Saturday and now I just need to decide what to hike next?!?
Oh! And lastly here are some screen shots of the Strava tracking and iPhone Health app: