August 5, 2015
Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
Mt. Carthew is one of the easiest scrambles in Waterton Lakes with a very popular trail leading to the alpine and nothing but a scree walk to the summit from its south ridge. But for those doing the Alderson-Buchanan-Carthew traverse it’s a entirely different game. The ascent via Carthew’s N. Ridge is only for the experienced folks comfortable on exposed, difficult scrambling terrain with excellent route-finding skills. Indeed, the connecting ridge looked fairly nasty but after summitting Mt. Alderson and then Buchanan Peak I was there already so had to give it a go.
Even the descent down from the higher point by Buchanan Peak was not trivial. I should have stayed lower on skier’s right side of the ridge crest but by staying on the crest I had to overcome one awkward and super exposed section near the Buchanan/Carthew col. After this bit of excitement the real fun began as I slowly and steadily overcame one rock band after another. In general the easier line existed on climber’s right side but at least for the first few challenges staying directly on the ridge crest was still manageable, until I hit the crux wall.
Looking ahead there’s this one pitch of vertical wall that looked at least mid-5th class climbing. Looking around climber’s left I couldn’t find an obvious way up neither so started traversing (and losing height) towards the right side. Had I gone fully to the right I would hit easier terrain but there’s a place that looked reasonable about midway down the ledge so I started going up. It turned out to be a sustained pitch of 4th/low 5th class climbing so not recommended. On the bright side since I was capable doing these stuffs this was a faster route choice for me. Once above the challenge the rest was relatively straightforward to my 3rd peak of this day.
I didn’t linger any longer than necessary before starting the descent down the south side. There’s a beaten path leading the way and it was fast going. I thought I had to ascend up and over the false summit but once getting close I saw a path on an obvious scree ledges so went diagonally down. It was nice and easy and soon I joined my mom at Carthew’s shoulder and resumed the descent. We took a few short-cuts down the scree as it’s considerably faster. Once back on the trail the real plod began (7.6 km), but at least mostly down-hill.
Back to Cameron Lake, I was shocked to see how many tourists were there – at least 100 of them if not more. I don’t know if Waterton is often this busy on a Wednesday or maybe people just came down here to escape the bad weather in central Rockies… Since this was my first time going into the “core” area of Waterton Lakes (the Red Rock Canyon was just on the edge), I did some tourists thing too taking numerous pictures of the Waterton Lakes.
Now what?! A long, tiring and tedious drive back to Edmonton… Overall I found Waterton to be a truly gorgeous area and I’d hope to come back sooner than later.