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Buchanan Peak, Southwest Ridge
Waterton, Alberta
September 4, 2005

Starting from the townsite, Dinah and I ascended the Southwest Ridge of Buchanan Peak. We thought we were climbing Buchanan Peak, but the topo map we used (see the map at the end) turned out to be wrong. We only reached the Southwest Ridge, and what we thought was an unnamed peak was actually Buchanan Peak. Despite being a minor peak, our trip held some interesting scrambling, but nothing more than moderate in nature.

From the townsite we hiked up the Carthew-Alderson trail and reached Alderson Lake in about two hours. A few minutes later the trees thinned so we could look for an ascent route. We stayed on the trail until just before a waterfall. After we left the trail and dropped down, we stepped across the stream that flows below the falls. Hiking up the other side of the drainage we soon encountered dense forest. After a short but brutal bushwhack we appeared on a scree slope that led to a shoulder on the ridge.

The shoulder ended in a crumbling cliff band comprising huge boulders. On close inspection we realized it would present no problem. Indeed, we could pretty well ascend wherever we wished. Fascinated with the boulders, we sought out an interesting route through them. Afterwards we emerged on a broad scree slope, featureless except for a few fissures. From there it was a plod to a high point on the ridge.

From the high point, we followed ridge towards a peak that we didn't realize was Buchanan Peak. We soon ran into exposed, down-sloping rock so we returned to the high point. Belatedly, we realized we should have dropped below the ridge. We considered going back and trying it, but we were both tired of the Waterton wind that day. We returned the same way.

It took us 3:50 to ascend and 2:40 to descend. Not included on the map is the hour we spent on our attempt up the unnamed peak, actually Buchanan Peak. I didn't realize the error until years later.

MOVIE (posted on YouTube)
KML Track


View from the trail to Buchanan Peak (centre) and the unnamed peak


Dinah watches a grouse zip by her


We headed to the end of the ridge


Crossing below the waterfall


Hiking up the lower slopes with Mount Carthew in the background

The shoulder partly hides Alderson Lake

View of the ridge from the shoulder


Working our way up through the boulders


Looking back

Lots of places to scramble up (mouse over for the view up)


Carthew Lakes in the background

Standing on a chockstone in a large fissure


Looking back from the chockstone

On the high point


Starting for Buchanan Peak


Looking back at the high point


As far as I got before I turned around


Heading back down the scree


Dinah emerges from a short tunnel through the boulders

Coming down the scramble section. Carthew-Alderson trail lies below.


Heading back to the trail


82 H/4 Waterton Lakes

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