Triple-Summit of Mt. Blakiston, Mt. Hawkins, and Mt. Lineham

For our final day in Waterton Lakes, Allison and I had planned an ambitious off-trail route along the Hawkins Horseshoe.  The goal was to climb/scramble to the summit of Mt. Blakiston (at 9342’, the highest point in Waterton Lakes National Park), then spend the rest of the day ridge-walking to reach Mt. Hawkins (8676’) and Mt. Lineham (8857’).

The previous evening, we’d filled out a “Hazardous Activity Form” with the park warden. Based on what I’d read online, our route would include some fairly dicey scrambles and short vertical free-climbs (nothing more than ~20 feet). So we figured it would be reassuring to know we had a search party coming the following day, just in case we were to get stranded overnight.

Allison scrambling up the side of Mt. Blakiston

We parked our car at the Lineham trailhead and departed at 7:20am. After following the trail for about an hour, we reached a large avalanche chute on the south-facing slopes of Mt. Blakiston. This is where we left the trail and began the long, grinding climb to the summit.

The south face of Mt. Blakiston, with our route highlighted in red (photo taken from Mt. Lineham)

The initial hour or so of climbing wasn’t too bad. But not surprisingly, the incline began to steepen as we climbed higher and higher. The biggest challenge was route-selection, since Allison and I have very different “climbing styles” (I prefer scrambling up fields of loose scree; she prefers picking her way along solid rock ledges). Eventually we had little choice but to attack the scree – sprinting up the slope and sliding two steps back for every three we took forward.

Allison really wasn’t a fan.

Just as I was contemplating the prospect of an extended stay in the dog house, we reached a rocky ledge a couple hundred feet below the summit.

Stopping to rest after the scree climb

The final stretch to the summit was challenging in a very different way. At first glance, we seemed to be facing an impassable line of cliffs. Yet thanks to some invaluable advice I’d acquired online, I knew that there was a non-technical route through one of the couloirs just adjacent to the vertical drop-off on Blakiston’s eastern face.

Sizing up the final approach

This final 80’-100’ of near-vertical scrambling was easily the toughest stretch we faced all day. There were plenty of good handholds, but we had to be constantly wary of the crumbly, sedimentary nature of the rock (and since I was climbing below her, there was also the occasional falling stone to dodge).  When we made it to the top, I stopped to snap a picture of where we’d ascended:

Looking back at the couloir (down and to the left)

We made it to the summit at 11:40am – more than four hours after starting up the trail. We spent a half-hour or so taking pictures, eating lunch, and recovering from the strain of the climb.

The summit of Mt. Blakiston, approximately 4,200’ above our car at the trailhead

Allison admiring the view to the north of Blakiston

From Blakiston, we followed the long, winding ridgeline across to Mt. Hawkins. Most of this was pretty straightforward, although there was one section that required us to drop below the ridge and skirt around some jagged rock formations. In the meantime, we got to enjoy some spectacular 360° views of the ice-capped Canadian Rockies.

Hiking along the ridgeline toward Mt. Hawkins (just right-of-center, with the reddish peak)

For most of the afternoon, we would be following the “Hawkins Horseshoe” – the winding ridgeline that connects Mt. Hawkins with Mt. Blakiston and Mt. Lineham. In the above picture, a portion of this horseshoe can be seen as a reddish ridgeline (behind Mt. Hawkins) stretching off to the left. It encircles the four sparkling “Lineham Lakes” in the basin below.

Allison standing atop the summit of Mt. Hawkins, looking back at Mt. Blakiston (center)

From the Hawkins Horsehoe, one can see Mt. Hawkins (red peak, left), Mt. Blakiston (gray/yellow peak, left-center), Mt. Lineham (gray peak, far right), and a few of the Lineham Lakes in the basin below

Along the way, we discovered a short section where an “official” trail came up to the ridgeline…so we stopped to talk with a few day-hikers who were there resting.

Allison looking out over Mt. Blakiston (left) and Mt. Lineham (right)

The final climb to the summit of Mt. Lineham was relatively easy, and we reached the top at around 4:00pm.

Stopping for a picture atop Mt. Lineham

From here, we COULD have simply retraced our steps to where we’d met up with the Tamarack trail, then followed that back to civilization. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, we decided to scree-ski (video demonstration) down the southern slopes of the mountain.

2,500 vertical feet of fresh scree

On the way down, we spotted a half-dozen bighorn sheep moving around on some rocks. They weren’t nearly as timid as the mountain goats, so I was actually able to get a decent picture.

Bighorn sheep

We had to do a little bushwhacking to find the Rowe Lakes trail, but from there it was only another two miles down the trail and one mile along the road to reach our car. We made it back at 6:30pm, for a total trip time of 11 hr, 10 min.

Published in: on August 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Don’t mind me…I’m just sitting here with my mouth hanging open and having some mild chest pain!

  2. Matt and Allison, With all that dangerous hiking and screeing; we are wondering if we will ever have any great-grandchidren from you two! 🙂
    We love you and be very, very careful. G’Ma and G’Pa R.

    • I already told them that’s why we had four kids…surely some of our grandchildren will survive.

  3. Seeing your G’Ma and G’Pa is just so cool!

  4. I mean, seeing your G’Ma and G’Pa gives you that reminder HERE is just so cool! 🙂

    • They’re looking out for us, haha.


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