Mount Carthew/Buchanan Peak*/Mount Alderson
The weather forecast for much of the Canadian Rockies on 9 October 2004 didn't sound too promising for peak bagging.  Hoping the weather would be better further south, I woke up at an ungodly hour and drove three hours from Calgary, Alberta to Waterton National Park in the southwest corner of the province.  My plan was to try and bag Mount Carthew, Buchanan Peak and Mount Alderson all in one go from the Cameron Lake trailhead.

The sky was just beginning to lighten when I started up the Carthew-Alderson Trail at 7:13 AM.  I passed Summit Lake in about an hour and continued along the trail to where it crests the south ridge of Mount Carthew.  I then followed this ridge up to the summit of Mount Carthew (on top at 10:17 AM).  The wind was a real force to be reckoned with on this day, and several times on my way up Mount Carthew, I had to fight to keep my balance against some strong gusts.
Hmm...the weather doesn't look too promising today! This is Summit Lake with Mount Custer in Glacier National Park (US) visible in the distance.
Looks easy enough... This is the view of Mount Carthew from the "summit" of the Carthew-Alderson Trail.  The summit of Mount Carthew is the bump on the far right.  Note the trail marker.
Did you know that "paternoster" means "our father" in Latin? These are the three Carthew Lakes as seen from the upper slopes of Mount Carthew.  Mount Alderson is the colourful peak on the right while further in the distance at left is Bertha Peak.
Another 15 minutes to the summit from here. Sonny hikes up the easy summit ridge of Mount Carthew.
One down, two to go. Sonny squats beside the cairn on the 2630-metre summit of Mount Carthew.
Because of the windy conditions, I didn't linger too long at the top of Mount Carthew before turning my attention to Buchanan Peak.  Seeing the substantial drop to the intervening col was a little disheartening, but I set off down the north side of Mount Carthew anyway and was soon preoccupied with descending some steep cliff bands.  Thankfully, the wind wasn't as strong on this side of the mountain, and I could concentrate better on my handholds and footing.  Nearing the col, I had to negotiate a few more tricky rock steps before I finally reached easier terrain.  I had no further problems ascending Buchanan Peak and stood on its summit at 11:44 AM.
Doesn't look difficult at all... This is the view of Buchanan Peak (right) from the top of Mount Carthew.
Don't try this route if snow is present! Sonny looks for a reasonable route down Mount Carthew's north face.  It's odd that the crux of climbing Buchanan Peak is actually on another mountain!
Tough part's over...or so I thought! This is looking back at the north face of Mount Carthew from the lower slopes of Buchanan Peak.
Another 15 minutes to the summit from here. On the south side of Buchanan Peak is this rather interesting red gully with what looks like a brick wall on one side.
Two down, one to go. Sonny places his hand and foot on Buchanan Peak's summit cairn (elevation 2575 metres*).
By the time I reached the summit of Buchanan Peak, clouds were beginning to obscure the top of Mount Alderson, and I was starting to have second thoughts about bagging a third peak.  Nevertheless, I began descending the southeast ridge of Buchanan Peak as described by Alan Kane in his scrambles guide, but instead of continuing along this ridge, I worked my way down into the basin to the south.  Rain began falling as I followed a drainage back to the Carthew-Alderson Trail.  Back on the trail, I hiked up to the Carthew Lakes and began ascending the lower slopes of Mount Alderson.    Although I had a bit of a reprieve from the wind in the basin, it resumed its torment on me as I began climbing up Mount Alderson.  When I reached the crest of the west ridge, that torment turned into fury!  It was as if the scrambling deities were sending me a message to quit while I was ahead!  I could hear it in my head:  "Hey, Sonny?  Two out of three ain't bad.  There would be no shame in turning around now and going home.  How about saving Mount Alderson for a nicer day?  Who's gonna care whether or not you bag this peak anyway?"

Defiantly, I kept climbing up the ridge, and conditions deteriorated rapidly soon after.  The wind was relentless, snow began stinging the side of my face, and visibility was virtually nil.  On two occasions, I thought I was close to the summit only to see the clouds clear briefly and reveal more of the ridge above me.  The second one occurred as I reached the "second step" mentioned by Kane and nearly crushed my will to continue.  Snow and wind made descending the ledges of this step a lot more serious, and I was starting to feel cold and tired.  Still, the thought of having to return to bag Mount Alderson at some later date was so unsavoury that I pushed on with renewed vigour.  Some time later, I realized that I must have been quite a pathetic sight to see.  My fingers were so frozen that I had retracted them into the palms of my gloves to try and warm them up in my fists.  As a result, my trekking pole was dangling freely from my left wrist so that I was basically dragging it along the ground.  My toque was an icicle while my eyeglasses were so caked with snow that they were practically useless to see with (I kept them on to more or less protect my eyes from the windblown snow).  With my head and shoulders hunched against the wind, I must have resembled a cross between Quasimodo and Beck Weathers!

At 2:48 PM, I finally came upon the two summit cairns on Mount Alderson.  I quickly dug out a fresh pair of gloves from my pack and painstakingly set up my camera to take a photo of myself on the summit.  The register canister was difficult to open, but just when I was about to give up, I managed to unscrew the cap.  Shivering in the wind, I didn't bother coming up with a limerick and simply signed my name.  Ironically, I spent more time on Mount Alderson's summit, with no views and poorer weather, than on both of the other two summits combined.

On my descent, I was thankful for the handful of small cairns marking the route through the snowy ledges of the second step.  Later at the spot where I originally gained the west ridge on my ascent, I was in no mood to find the normal descent route and basically retraced my steps back down to the Carthew Lakes.  This meant that I would have to gain even more elevation to hike back over the south ridge of Mount Carthew, but I knew that once I picked up the Carthew-Alderson Trail, there would be no more route-finding problems.  A long plod had me back at the Cameron Lake trailhead by 6:00 PM.
The weather begins to worsen... This photo, taken from near the top of Buchanan Peak, shows Sonny's route to Mount Alderson.  Click here to see Sonny's route down into the basin.
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign! This sign is on the west side of the middle of the three Carthew Lakes.
Uh, where's the summit? Coming up from Carthew Lakes, Sonny gains the west ridge of Mount Alderson just past the "first step" as described by Alan Kane.
Three down, time to go.  This photo was taken with great misery! After a dreadfully long plod in blizzard conditions, Sonny finally reaches the 2692-metre summit of Mount Alderson.
The last psychological hump of today's trip. What a difference seven hours can make!  This is the "view" of Mount Carthew from the "summit" of the Carthew-Alderson Trail.  Note the trail marker.
1 hour 37 minutes from Carthew-Alderson Summit. This is Cameron Lake as seen from the bridge near the trailhead.  Shrouded in clouds on the left is Mount Custer while Forum Peak is visible at far right.
*  According to all topographical maps of the area, the summit of Buchanan Peak as described on this page is actually the 2575-metre high point of a feature known as Buchanan Ridge.  Southeast of this high point is a 2409-metre outlier which is officially designated as Buchanan Peak.  Alan Kane thinks there may be an error in the maps, but if not, the summit which he describes in his guide is actually Buchanan Ridge.  Ironically, his description of the descent down the southeast ridge would entail bagging the official Buchanan Peak.

Click here to see a photo of Mount Carthew, Buchanan Peak and Buchanan Ridge as seen from the northeast.

Click here to see Eric Praetzel's photo of the same three peaks from the summit of Mount Alderson.

Click here to see Eric Praetzel's photo of Buchanan Ridge and Buchanan Peak from the summit of Mount Carthew.