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)  

Bear Hump and Crypt Lake

On Wednesday afternoon we arrived in Waterton Lakes National Park.  We had already reserved a campsite in the town of Waterton, so we wasted no time in setting up camp.  Being in town, it’s not the most scenic (think lots of RV’s and no privacy), but it suited our needs in terms of the hikes we wanted to do.  And it is on the beautiful Waterton Lake, which makes up for the crowdedness a little.

Our campsite at Townsite Campground

On the recommendation of a couple of fellow hikers we met earlier on the trip, we decided to use the remainder of the afternoon to hike the short Bear Hump trail to an area that overlooks the town and Waterton Lake.   It was a steep but short climb (.9 miles) and did offer a beautiful view of the area.

Matt looking out over Waterton Lake from the top of Bear Hump

Matt and I atop Bear Hump

We had decided to tackle the Crypt Lake Hike on Thursday, and left the dock (you have to take a boat over to the trailhead from town) at 9 AM.  It only takes about 10-15 minutes to ride across Waterton Lake to the trailhead.  On the way, we passed the Prince of Wales Hotel – a famous landmark in Waterton.

The Prince of Wales Hotel

The Crypt Lake hike winds through the woods for the first few miles as you hike switchback after switchback. Between miles 3-5, however, you encounter 3 different waterfalls (Twin Falls, Burnt Rock Falls, and Crypt Falls), each one getting progressively bigger.  Crypt Falls was nearly 600’ tall, formed from the runoff of Crypt Lake.  Matt and I got to see it from both the top and the bottom, which was pretty cool.

Crypt Falls

Now the last mile is where the fun really began.  To actually get to the lake, you have to get around a pretty sheer cliff, and the designers of the trail decided to do this by making the trail about 2 feet wide as you follow the cliff around.  They were nice enough to put a cable in case you felt the need to hold on.  But the best part was the tunnel through the mountain.  To get around the curve of the cliff, you have to climb a 9 foot ladder into a short tunnel through the mountain, which spits you out on the other side so you can then reach the lake.  Pretty epic.

Matt ascending the ladder into the tunnel

Upon reaching the lake, we wasted no time in hiking to the opposite end to avoid the hoards of hikers on the near end.  Plus, there was a small glacier to walk on!  Oh, and the U.S./Canadian border is somewhere on the far end of the lake, and getting to cross a border without a passport is a rarity these days. Anyway, we enjoyed a hot backpacker’s lunch before walking back around the lake on the opposite side and heading back down the trail.

Me (Allison) cooking lunch

Walking on a glacier!

We got to cross through the tunnel and around the cliffs again on the return trip.

Hugging the cliff

Matt walking along the cliffs with Crypt Falls in the background

Crouching through the tunnel

Hiking the switchbacks

Partway through the hike we decided to take the Hellroaring Canyon loop back to the dock to get a change of scenery.  It was a beautiful canyon, though hard to photograph due to the amount of trees.  However, we also got a surprise visitor along the trail – a bear cub romping through the forest.  This one, we think a grizzly, was smaller than the two yesterday and very interested in finding berries.  So interested, in fact, that after we scared him off into the woods the first time, we encountered him again eating berries 50 feet from the trail.  This time, he was not inclined to be scared off. He just kept an eye on us as we passed by.  We took time to photograph what we could see of him between berry bushes, then moved on to avoid encountering the mother bear.

The bear cub eating berries

The rest of the trail was uneventful and we headed back on the 4 PM boat to Waterton.

Published in: on August 19, 2012 at 1:06 am  Comments (3)  

Family Fun

A couple of weeks ago Matt and I headed out to Lake Pleasant, New York in the Adirondacks for a Christian family camp.  We met Matt’s family at Camp of the Woods for a week of fellowship and adventure on and around the lake.  Since this blog has been about documenting Matt and I’s outdoor experiences, we thought we would include a little of what we did at the camp, since this camp lended itself to adventure of that nature.

Upon arrival, Matt immediately decided he was going to participate in the camp’s triathlon – a 2 mile canoe race, a 1.1 mile swim across the lake, and a 5k.  The canoe race took place on Monday, and Matt was paired with another participant. The swim took place on Wednesday, and for that he was required to have 2 spotters in a canoe paddle alongside him (his dad and I got nominated for that job). Finally the 5k took place on Friday and both Matt and I ran it.  Below are pictures of the three events:

Matt and his canoeing partner at the finish.

Matt and his fellow swimmers getting ready to start.

Matt and I at the start of the 5k.

The girls in the family decided to take a canoe, hiking, and cliff jumping day trip on Tuesday.  And on Wednesday morning, Matt’s dad, sister, and I took a sunrise canoe trip out to a lake.

Meredith, Caroline, and I (Matt’s mom is taking the picture at the front of the canoe).

Cliff jumping!

Steve, Caroline, and I at 6 AM out on the river. (I can’t believe no one wanted to get up and go with us)

The family also spent a considerable time on the beach, eating ice cream, and playing putt-putt, shuffleboard, basketball, soccer, frisbee, softball, real golf, and tennis (they had various camp tournaments for most of these events, in addition to just playing them for fun).  Matt and I even managed an evening kayaking trip, which was my first time in a kayak.

Eating ice cream on the beach.

Matt always managed to beat me at putt-putt. (Can’t you tell I’m furtively watching his stroke to determine his secret?)

The boys playing basketball.

Finally, on the way home from New York, Matt and I decided to make a stop at Niagara Falls, Canada to check out the beautiful falls we had heard so much about. We took a Maid of the Mist tour in addition to just walking along the shore and taking in the view.

American Falls at Niagara Falls.

Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls.

Rainbow as we stood on top of Horseshoe Falls.

Published in: on July 15, 2012 at 6:14 pm  Comments (1)