The weekend of June 19-21 found Wietse and I in pursuit of some Waterton Lakes National Park peaks. Originally we were going to attempt a wrap of our remaining Kane Peaks in Jasper National Park but the weather had other plans.
Since I still had one Kane Peak left in Waterton and the weather forecast for that area of Alberta was much more favorable than Jasper, we changed our plans. As the weekend drew closer I was not feeling too optimistic about it. The weather forecast was calling for very windy and cloudy conditions. Waterton is one of the windiest places I've climbed and with the forecast calling for 40-60 km/h gusts on the ground, I was expecting 100 km/h gusts on the ridges and peaks we would be traversing.
One thing I've learned over the past 8 years of climbing mountains is that you should always take weather forecasts with a big grain of salt - especially if they're bad. Almost without fail the weather will be different than forecast! We left my house around 6AM and after setting up our camp in the Crandell Lake campground, we were at the trail head around 10:30. Amazingly there didn't seem to be much wind and the clouds were high enough not to impede our views too much either.
The trail to Akamina Pass was mostly dry and we arrived at the pass within about 20 minutes of the car. The cut line didn't look too appealing but we reluctantly turned off the wide trail and began a wandering route over, around and under the dead fall that was littering the cut line trail. Yes, there is a trail going down the cut line, and no, it's not maintained at all. Give it another 10 years and I don't think that this route will go very easily.
After being on the cutline for about 20 minutes or so we came to a section that dropped a bit before going up a seemingly impossibly steep hill. Once we started up this hill I think I officially discovered the steepest terrain that wasn't a cliff that I've been on! :-) It was actually quite a hill that would make an excellent black diamond ski run provided you had a lot of snow.
[Right at the Akamina Pass sign you should turn left onto this cut line. It's somewhat overgrown but not too bad.]
[After hiking along the cutline for a bit you'll turn the corner to your right and be looking ahead at this really steep hill. It's even steeper than it looks!]
Once above tree line the views started to open up. The snow also started to be a concern until we realized that it was very supportive. For the rest of the trip up to the crux we were on firm snow which made the going easy and fast. The crux step looked steeper and steeper the closer we got but soon we could spot various routes up it. Our only problem was the snow that clung to the easy access gullies up to climber's right. We traversed to the right and eventually headed up moderate terrain. Once at the top of this section we spotted a huge cairn and made our way over to it.
[The crux of the ridge can be seen through the deadfall on Forum Ridge.]
[Cameron Lake and the USA / Canada border.]
[Looking ahead at Forum Peak from the ascent route.]
[Cameron Lake with the Alderson, Buchanon and Carthew trio in the background.]
[Wietse traverses climber's right to find a way up the crux.]
[Wietse climbs the crux.]
We were surprised to find the summit register for Akamina Ridge in this cairn! We didn't feel like we were on a 'summit' at all! The high point on the ridge was still 1.5-2km away and was quickly being covered in dark clouds as we hurriedly signed the register before continuing on the ridge.
[Wietse comes up to Akamina Ridge.]
[Vern on Akamina Ridge.]
We both wanted to determine where "Forum Peak" was, since Alan Kane mentions that it's the point at which Alberta, BC and the USA all come together and the map implies that it's really close to Akamina Ridge. I noticed a large cairn off slightly to climbers left from the first cairn and surmised that this may be the Forum Peak summit, even though it was a few meters below the Akamina Register cairn. The rain was coming but we knew we'd get wet anyway so we went to check it out. Sure enough, this large cairn had a piece of piping referring to this spot as the summit of Forum Peak. Excellent, now we could claim both summits even though we hadn't actually been on top of Akamina Ridge yet! :-)
[Vern on the summit of Forum Peak.]
[A partial panorama from Forum Peak.]
[Looking ahead to the summit of Akamina Ridge.]
Continuing over Akamina Ridge was straight forward. We had very little wind which was great but also no views which sucked. It started raining almost right after we left the cairn and didn't stop for the rest of our trip. We followed the ridge up to three high points with no views and then headed down a very snowy trail to Wall Lake from Bennett Pass. There was an amazing amount of avi debris on this section of trail - it must be a lot of work to maintain it every year! Obviously this area of Waterton gets a ton of snow in the winter. Thankfully the snow remained supportive even down by the lake.
[After traversing the entire ridge in clouds / rain we are now descending from Bennett Pass on lots of avi debris.]
[More avi debris above Wall Lake. It's still raining too.]
[Wall Lake is rather gloomy this day.]
The rest of the plod to the car was uneventful. Too bad we didn't get many views from the ridge because the few glimpses we had, hinted at some stunning scenery!