Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park: Tamarack Trail - Day 3 of 3.

Ok, we lucked out on the weather the first two days but we woke up to heavy cloud cover in the morning of Day 3. It looked like the sky was going to open up and pour on us as we started up the steep hill behind Lone Lake.

The final day of the trek just rocked. Two major undulations faced us: first climb over the eastern shoulder of Festebert Mountain and then gain the lofty heights of Lineham Ridge. Not straightforward as it seemed though.

After conquering Festebert, we plunged (depressingly) back down into the forest for a couple of hours. Always following the rockwall demarcating the continental divide to the west, towards the head of a valley.

Fields of flowers.

Nearing the head of the valley, BTOG finally emerged from the forest!!

Surrounded by sheer walls of rock blocking our way, the trail made a U-turn. We could see the feint line of a trail on the far scree slope. That must be the way!!!

No way but up, to Lineham Ridge. Slowly, slowly... The massive U-turn took us almost all the way back even with Festebert Mountain on the other side of the valley.

Where there's dirt, there's life (hanging on). Alpine flowers growing on the scree slopes of Lineham Ridge.

The valley we've been hiking through the whole morning... In the background are the majestic mountains of Super Natural BC. The rock wall in the middle ground represents the Alberta/BC border. Festeburt Mountain is the square topped mountain to the far right. We started the day climbing over the pass to the right of Festebert...

Mind blowing panoramic view once we gained the ridge...

On the other side (to the north east), was a great view of Lineham Lakes.

BTOG hoping he won't be blown into the next valley.

Walking southeast along the ridge, gaining more altitude...

Looking back... Lineham Lakes visible just over the edge to the right...

Highest point on the ridge (2514 m). The multi-tiered Rowe Lakes are below, directly ahead in the next valley.

A different look at the Lineham Lakes to the north east.

The continuation of the ridge walk to the southeast.

Getting closer to the three Rowe Lakes. It was all an optical illusion because the trail would make a switchback and take us to back a point under the ridge summit. One of the craziest trails I've ever hiked I'm telling you.

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) grazing by the trail.

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is the provincial mammal of Alberta... I did not know that...

Nearly all the way down to the floor of the Rowe Lakes valley. This was the summit of Lineham Ridge.

Looking southwest towards Rowe Lakes and the Akamina Highway.

Phew! Made it down to the valley floor. You're looking at the Lineham Ridge summit directly ahead. Pretty good workout either way from north or south. From here the trail to the Akamina parking lot was a highway: wide, sidewalk-like, and thankfully downhill. Final day distance was 17.9 km. Estimated (park warden-suggested) time: 5.5 hrs. Actual time: 11.5 hrs. Yes, we were either really slow or park wardens are really fast...


Q: How would you plan on completing the circuit?

A: The Tamarack trail does not form a true circuit. If you don't have a vehicle, you'll have to hitch to either trail head and back to town afterward. Traffic to either trail head seemed pretty good in the summer time. Getting a hitch shouldn't be a problem... Not sure during spring or fall though.

Q: Should I hike the Tamarack trail clockwise or counterclockwise?

A: If hiking in the clockwise direction, prepare for a really, really tough first day from the Akamina Highway to Lone Lake. If you're driving in from Calgary and hiking first day, you're in for a late late finish. Better idea would be to camp out by the trail head the night before. We walked in the opposite direction. It was logistically better for us. Easier couple of days of hiking before monster Day 3. Plus, we could got back to Calgary at a decent hour (midnight, ugh).

Q: Did you see any bears?

A: No and yes. No, not out on the trail. Yes, on the side of the road. On the way out of the park, we (with dozens of fellow park visitors) saw:

a black bear (Ursus americanus) AND... a couple of kilometers down the road,

a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)...

Q: Which segment of the hike would you recommend I do if I don't have three days of time...

A: I would probably recommend the hike up to Lineham Ridge via Rowe Lakes as a day trip. If you are a robo-hiker, you can do the whole circuit in 2 days. We bumped into 2 women who did this (in the counterclockwise direction).

Q: Why do your panorama pics look weird?

A: Thanx for asking... the answer is general photographic incompetence on my part...stemming from lack of an up to date version of photoshop (above CS2), a camera set to aperature priority and auto white balance... Still not a bad attempt I must say. Feel free to click on each panorama to get the "imax" feel...

Q: What were the exact dates you hiked the Tamarack Trail.

A: We hiked from August 15 to 17th, 2010.


jason said...

wow, it looks spectacular, i was blown away by the pics!

bubba said...

Thanx Jason!

The kicker is that the mountains are right in my backyard!! Well, close to my backyard.

LJ said...

That place looks awesome!!! I want to go there!

Anonymous said...

I will have to do that hike one day. Thanks for sharing.
Oh...and the second bear photo is also a black bear, just cinnamon in colour.

Anonymous said...

Both bears are black bears - in Waterton, the black bear ranges in color from blonde to cinnamon to brown to black. In this case, look at the snout of the bear as well as the lack of a hump to see that your grizzly is in fact a black bear.

TD, Ontario said...

Thanks for your post and great pics. My wife and I just finished doing this exact same trip, with a two day add on to the loop. Yes, that day from Lone Lake was long and hard for us too - even longer in fact. After leaving Rowe Lakes we continued up the Akamina parkway to sleep at Akamina PP for the night. Then we walked to Cameron Lake and hiked over to Alderson Lake for the night, before exiting to Waterton town on day five of the hike. It really was spectacular!