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Mount Carthew
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
August 5, 2022

Distance: 17.8 km
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 1050 m

Ever since the Kenow wildfire swept through Waterton Lakes Park in 2017, I've been curious to see the aftermath. Dinah and I have climbed several peaks in the park but none since the fire. In 2004, we climbed Mount Carthew using the southwest ridge, but now we returned to take the usual route: Carthew-Alderson Trail to the pass and then ascend the southeast slope.

We arrived at Cameron Lake to find it bustling with tourists and hikers. Two shuttle buses had just dropped off passengers keen on following the trail back to Waterton Village. We would find little solitude on Carthew-Alderson Trail but were eager to hike. Setting a quick pace, we started up the trail, pushing aside slower hikers who got in our way. Just kidding. We politely asked if we could pass, and they kindly obliged.

As the trail switchbacked up the slope, we were struck by the surreal landscape. Gone was the lush, green forest we saw years ago, replaced by dead, gray trees. But the forest floor was a green carpet of vegetation that displayed new life. As we climbed, we gazed through the skeletal trees to view Cameron Lake below and the mountains on the other side. There was little to block the views or the sun beating down on us.

After the switchbacks, the trail levels off and passes Summit Lake. We followed the trail as it gently climbs Carthew-Alderson Pass. The forest landscape may have lost some of its allure since the wildfire, but above the treeline, the mountains and lakes remained pristine.

From the pass, Kane suggests two ways up Carthew: climb directly to the summit ridge before traversing to the summit or take a shortcut along ledges. We chose the latter. We left the trail and as we climbed, we looked for the ledges shortcut. We found an obvious trail above a snow patch that matched the route in Scrambles. But after hiking a hundred metres, the trail faded and we lost traction on the steep scree slope. Finding it tedious, we backtracked and decided to look for a better track.

After climbing up the slope, we came across a trail leading to a wide ledge. At this point, Dinah's arthritic knee was bothering her, so she turned around and waited for me on the pass. I continued up the ledges trail. It was a fine trail except for a few narrow sections that required care. I soon reached the ridgetop and hiked 600 m to the summit. I spent several minutes looking around and taking photos before heading back to join Dinah on the pass. We sat and had lunch before returning to the parking lot, back through the transformed terrain.

GPX and KML Tracks

The hike begins at Cameron Lake

Starting up the trail

Going up the first switchback

Red Monkey Flowers flourish by springs along the trail (mouse over for a close-up of the flowers)

Forum Peak (right) appears above Cameron Lake

After the switchbacks the trail levels off

Bear grass is beginning to blossom

Summit Lake

After the lake, the southwest ridge and Carthew-Alderson Pass appear

A hoary marmot approached us on the trail  

The trail swings around to reach the slope below the pass

Many of the trees along the trail are curiously bent

Hiking the long stretch to the pass

Looking back from the pass. Chapman Peak appears above Lake Wurdeman in Glacier National Park.

On the pass, we continued along the trail. The summit is right.

Carthew Lakes appear below

Starting up the ridge after leaving the trail

Far below, big horn sheep gathered on the trail

Climbing higher, we passed a deep hole

Mount Alderson rises above the lakes

I started up the ledge trail

Dinah headed back to the pass

The trail runs alongside a cliff band

Looking back along the trail from near the ridge crest

Dinah got a shot of me just when I reached the ridge (the spec in the centre, mouse over)

Looking at a false summit after gaining the ridge

The alternative route climbs the point behind before traversing the ridge

I made my way along the ridge to the summit hidden behind the last bump

Looking at the last couple of hundred metres to the summit

Standing on top of Carthew

Mount Rowe in the foreground. Behind it right, is Lineham Peak, the third peak of Hawkins Horseshoe

Bertha Peak and Alderson Lake

Returning to the pass (I'm at the bottom, centre). Upper arrow shows my ledge traverse. Lower arrow shows the trail we attempted.

After joining Dinah on the pass, we headed back down the trail

82 G/1 Sage Creek, 82 H/4 Waterton Lakes

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