2300km on the Great Divide Trail: Waterton to Kakwa...and back - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 02-03-2018, 10:23 PM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Default Great Divide Trail: Waterton to Kakwa...and back

This past summer my wife and I hiked the Great Divide Trail, which runs 1150km up the Canadian Rockies from Waterton to Kakwa Lake.

Then we hiked all the way back, to a complete a 2300km yo-yo of the trail. We started June 1 and finished November 1.

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Since then, I've been working on a video series of the trek. It's been a ton of work to edit, but the result is pretty awesome - I think. 4K tightly edited footage of tons of the classic areas in the Rockies, along with grizzlies, caribou, big river fords etc.

Below is the first episode. You can find the rest of the episodes from there if you want. Right now I've got seven episodes posted, with two more to go. Please check them out:


Last edited by dandurston; 02-06-2018 at 12:26 AM.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 02-05-2018, 11:45 AM
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Congratulations on a great feat! Hopefully more people are inspired to try the complete trail or sections, and the various parks jurisdictions will step-up to reclaim some of the fast-disappearing backcountry trails (and bridges).

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post #3 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 12:03 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks!

Fortunately the Great Divide Trail Association (GDTA), has been doing an awesome job the last 5 years of fixing up the trail. They've dusted of a lot of rough stretches, so the trail is now in better shape than it has been in a long time, despite disappointing help from the Parks, which have stopped trail maintenance in a number of areas and won't allow anyone else to come in and do trail work.

Specifically, the Amiskwi Valley in Yoho, Howse Valley in Banff and Maligne Valley in Jasper need some help from Parks Canada.

So those parts are rough, but overall the trail has really been coming together. The GDTA is building a new 50km stretch of trail to avoids gravel roadwalks south of Peter Lougheed Park as well. In 2017 there was about 50 thru-hikers, which is probably a record. There's a good FB page for potential GDT hikers if anyone is interested in getting out on the GDT.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 12:55 AM
Headed for the Mountains
 
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Tell me about it! That Howse Pass section is a disgrace considering its historic importance. The GDTA was denied permission to go in there last summer for maintenance, even though it wouldn't cost Parks a dime :-( My partner and I joined the GDTA crew in 2016 on the new High Rock Trail at Dutch Creek. 40km to be hacked out by volunteers along the other side of Tornado Mountain to avoid the private land lease at Line Creek Mine. There is also some great info on the GDTA website at greatdividetrail.com
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 02:58 AM Thread Starter
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Nice to hear you volunteered with the GDTA. It sounds like they got another 7km or so of that High Rock Trail built in 2017, so it's coming along. I'm hoping to participate in a trail building trip this summer.

The Howse trail is an atrocity, but fortunately there is a really nice route around that on the floodplain closer to the river. I recorded a GPS track of this and it is now available at GreatDivideTrail.com if you go to the map and view the alternates. It's actually really nice, beautiful walking. You can see it in my videos (Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 show this floodplain). My wife and I hiked from Sask Crossing to Howse Pass in about 6 hours, averaging almost 5km/hr via the floodplain. It sounds like the GDTA is considering moving the official route to the floodplain, but they want to check it out more first. We met many hikers who didn't take the floodplain, and were covered in battlescars.

One such hiker is giving a talk at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival on Feb 13 if you're near Vancouver:
https://vimff.org/team-member/janneke-vissers/

EDIT: I see you're in Edmonton - a little far to drive.
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Last edited by dandurston; 02-06-2018 at 03:00 AM.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 12:56 PM
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Looks like it was an incredible adventure.

I'm glad to see that recent Alberta Parks planning documents for the Castle and other areas now include the GDT. Perhaps this will encourage Parks Canada to start recognizing segments of it, and maybe, just maybe, make some investments in the crumbling infrastructure along the route
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 04:03 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah we've been really encouraged by that too. We got a hitchhike with a lady that was the former director (or something like that) with the Castle Wildlands Coalition (or something like that) and she told us a lot about what is happening. It was nice to hear there's going to be some remediation of the OHV damage. There's excessive campsites and hill climbing damage in many places right now. On the SOBO, we walked up the South Castle and that area has been hit pretty hard by the OHV driving/beer can littering/shot gun shell crowd.

With this new park, plus the new trail the GDTA is building north of Coleman, the GDT is going to be a lot nicer between Waterton and Peter Lougheed. I'd really like to see some new parks north of Coleman too (e.g. the headwaters of the Oldman River). Some of the clear cutting in here is a real shame. In a few spots it's on top or next to the trail and it has really impacted it. It's still a nice area - not as nice as it once was, but much nicer than it would be if the logging continues.

I just finished my "Chapter Eight" video which covers Peter Lougheed to Coleman, so you can see a lot of this terrain. My video is a bit biased in that it omits mosts of the damaged areas, but you can still see some of it. Some footage of a mama grizzly and cubs at 2:35:

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post #8 of (permalink) Old 02-06-2018, 08:40 PM
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Love your videos Mr. Durston!

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post #9 of (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 12:07 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I realized it's probably easier if i link to the playlist that has all eight episodes, so folks don't have to hunt around to find the next episode. So that playlist is below, but it only works if you view it on YouTube instead of embedded.

In my opinion, Chapters Two, Three and Seven are the best, but Six and Four are pretty good too and the final chapter is gonna be awesome. We finished the trail in a blizzard, so those video clips are wild:

I'm working on the final instalment, so that will be posted in another week or so.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 12:47 AM
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Originally Posted by dandurston View Post
I'm working on the final instalment, so that will be posted in another week or so.
Can't wait, we are again planning to do the Jasper to Kakwa leg this summer. BTW, what is that black tubing for that your partner carries?

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post #11 of (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 02:12 AM Thread Starter
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That Jasper to Kakwa section is wild country. Some tough sections, but also some amazing, isolated, parts also like the Jackpine Alpine, Morkill Shoulder, Big Shale Hill and Surprise Pass that make it all worth it. Be prepared for some shrubby trail and navigating in the Jackpine and over Little Shale Hill.

The official GDT has been revised this fall to include more of the Jackpine Alpine and less of the brush-wacking in the Jackpine valley, which is great. You can see this updated route on the GDT website. Definitely take this route, or do even more alpine if you have good weather and don't mind a little scrambling. We saw caribou and grizzlies in this stretch, as shown in Chapter Four (Jasper to Kakwa) and Chapter Five (Kakwa to Jasper). It was the hardest section, but the best.

That is a collapsable hula-hoop. She carried it for the first 1200km. You can see it in action at 5:00 of Chapter Three. She wasn't using it much though (too tired after a day of walking) so she ditched it for most of the second half.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dandurston View Post
That is a collapsable hula-hoop. She carried it for the first 1200km.

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post #13 of (permalink) Old 02-07-2018, 11:57 AM
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These videos are fantastic, thanks so much for sharing!
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post #14 of (permalink) Old 03-03-2018, 04:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dandurston View Post
That Jasper to Kakwa section is wild country. Some tough sections, but also some amazing, isolated, parts also like the Jackpine Alpine, Morkill Shoulder, Big Shale Hill and Surprise Pass that make it all worth it. Be prepared for some shrubby trail and navigating in the Jackpine and over Little Shale Hill.

The official GDT has been revised this fall to include more of the Jackpine Alpine and less of the brush-wacking in the Jackpine valley, which is great. You can see this updated route on the GDT website. Definitely take this route, or do even more alpine if you have good weather and don't mind a little scrambling. We saw caribou and grizzlies in this stretch, as shown in Chapter Four (Jasper to Kakwa) and Chapter Five (Kakwa to Jasper). It was the hardest section, but the best.

That is a collapsable hula-hoop. She carried it for the first 1200km. You can see it in action at 5:00 of Chapter Three. She wasn't using it much though (too tired after a day of walking) so she ditched it for most of the second half.
It sure would be cool if some how they extended the trail to follow Samuel Prescott Fay's route past Kakwa Lake up to Wapiti and over through by Kinuseo Falls ending at Tumbler Ridge. Or joining up with the Monkman Trail at a point.
The only problem is there aren't any resupply points through there.
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post #15 of (permalink) Old 03-04-2018, 03:52 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah I'd love to see the trail go further. I think the Peace River would be a nice, natural geographical end point, or maybe a bit sooner at Highway 97 / Pine LeMoray Park.

The GDTA is doing a fantastic amount of work on the trail, so it is being improved at a rapid rate. I encourage people to volunteer on some of the trail building trips this summer that will replace road walking with new trail:
http://www.greatdividetrail.com/get-involved/volunteer/

Maybe in another few years once the GDTA has dealt with the major trouble spots on the current route, they can consider extending it.
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