Distance: 20.5 km
Elevation gain: 900 m View map Download GPS track
With an apparent choice between fresh snow, showers, and flurries to the west and north of Calgary and sun and wind to the south, Sandra and I chose sun and wind and headed to Waterton National Park to hike up Lakeview Peak. We parked at the end of the bison paddock access road (don’t turn off the main road and you’ll easily arrive there), climbed over a fence, and started hiking along the official Horseshoe Basin trail. As we gained elevation we started to encounter snow patches, but the snow was supportive and didn’t present a problem, and before long we arrived in some beautiful meadows to the south of Lakeview Ridge. The colorful Waterton rock and vegetation was absolutely beautiful here and we slowed down a bit to take it all in and to scan carefully for bears, having been following the old tracks of one for a while.
My plan had been to ascend the southwestern end of horseshoe-shaped Lakeview Ridge, hike along its entire length, and descend its southeastern end. With the wind howling, however, this seemed like a lousy plan, and so we instead continued following the official trail as it turned north and headed up a drainage. I knew the trail climbed to a col at the end and that it would be an easy ascent from there and figured we could re-assess the wind situation once on top.
As we neared the head of the drainage I was repeatedly distracted by what appeared to be a very easy ascent to the west. I eventually realized that the peak I was admiring was Dunwey (Rogan) Peak, an easy ascent detailed in Nugara’s scrambling guide. Had the wind been less intense I would’ve aborted my plans for the relatively tiny Lakeview Ridge and ascended it instead, but I guess it will now serve as an excuse to revisit this beautiful valley in the fall!
The trail up to the col had some very long switchbacks with deep isothermal snow, but we found ways to shortcut around those areas, and we were soon standing on the col in a strong and gusty wind. The official trail headed to the west at this point before crossing a steep snow slope and descending, but we turned to the east and started up Lakeview Ridge, the summit of which was just 500 m distant and 150 m higher. We stuck just below the ridgecrest to avoid the worst of the wind gusts and this traverse was little more than a hike.
The views from the summit were very nice, but we couldn’t really enjoy them as the wind was incredibly gusty and strangely omni-directional. I never knew if a 70 km/h gust was coming from the north, west, or south and so it was difficult to brace against. Continuing along the ridge was out – it would’ve been downright unpleasant – but we didn’t really want to head back the way we came either. I considered heading down into the basin to the east, but the bush the trail had passed through on the way was impenetrable and I wasn’t sure what awaited us below, so we decided to continue on the official trail.
This turned out to be a terrible mistake. While to the north of the col the official trail initially passed through some beautiful meadows, it soon intersected and followed the Waterton National Park boundary for 8 km. This of course meant that it didn’t follow the most logical route or visit anything interesting, but was rather a boring straight line. The worst part, however, was that Parks Canada has mowed the trail and its surroundings with some sort of industrial lawnmower device. Trees and bushes have been shredded into a tangled mess of debris that has covered the trail. Even in areas where they made a half-assed effort to clean it up there were still dozens of broken branches every meter to tangle with. The mess was disgusting to see, terrible to hike through, and as it was 5 m or more wide, exposed us to the hot sun. Never, ever, bother doing this part of the Horseshoe Basin trail!
Despite the debacle of continuing along the official trail and the high winds, this was a very nice and easy hike through colorful and varied territory. I’ll definitely be back to ascend Dunwey Peak, and maybe even find time to complete the hike along the length of Lakeview Ridge.