August 5, 2015
Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
Buchanan Peak is a less-impressive summit in Waterton Lakes and draws considerably less amount of interest than its neighbours. Most folks claiming this peak are the hardcore peak-baggers or “Listers” going after Alan Kane’s scramble list. And I should say if you’re not up for those then don’t even bother with this diminished peak. Adding this peak to the nearby Mt. Alderson and Mt. Carthew (to make the ABC loop) will add at least 3 hours with considerable amount of difficult scrambling. I myself isn’t a lister going after Kane’s book, but I am a peak-bagger so skipping Buchanan Peak isn’t an option after summitting Mt. Alderson in the morning.
There’s some confusion as where exactly Buchanan Peak is. The conclusion I got from various sources was the highest peak behind Mt. Carthew is the high point on “Buchanan Ridge” while the low bump (more like just an extended shoulder) is the official Buchanan Peak. To make sure I can climb this peak I’d have to ascend both just to make sure… And that adds quite a bit more work as that low bump was quite painful to reach. Firstly I had to descend to the two Carthew Lakes on the well-maintained trail but that’s not over yet. I had to keep descending (for a total of 300 vertical meters from Carthew/Alderson col) to the connecting Alderson/Buchanan pass. I met a group of hikers coming up from the Alderson Lake side and they warned me there’s a big bear on this trail. Thankfully by that point I was almost down to the broad pass already so not going to continue any further down to meet that beasty.
To gain the lower slopes I had a section of short-lived, but very dense bushwhacking to overcome, followed by a section of loose scree to bash up. But thankfully after those painful work the rest was nice and easy. It didn’t take me long to arrive at the official, lower summit of Buchanan Peak.
My next business was to ascend the connecting ridge towards the higher, unofficial “Buchanan Ridge”. I think probably the government map was mislabelled as the official summit looked nothing like a separate peak but rather just an extension from this highpoint nearby. But nonetheless since I ascended both I can safely claim this peak now. The connecting ridge to the higher peak had some route-finding through difficult, down-sloping terrain. I tried to stay close to the ridge crest but that’s not easy. I ended up traversing on climber’s left side for a long while before finally could regain the ridge. This summit offered better view than the lower bump, but not much better.
After taking another necessary break I soon focused on the final objective of this day – Mt. Carthew. Its north ridge looked complicated and intimidating but since it’s covered in Kane’s book I doubt I’d have any problem with it.