T and I are resting in Coleman, AB after finishing the first section (145km) of our 2250km yo-yo of the Great Divide Trail. She writes a better story blog than I, so check out her account at IntoBohemia.ca
Going into this, my expectation was that this first section would be the crux of the whole endeavour. If we can really start this early in the season, and still make okay mileage, then we should have the time to finish before winter hits.
On the first day we climbed up to about 2400 meters (8000′) and struggled quite a bit. It was snowy, steep and the weather was WINDY with blowing rain. We said surely some crazies had already been out here this season to punch in the trail, but soon we realized we were those crazies. T took a small but scary slide sidehilling on snow, which shook her up.
Eventually we made it back down below the snow line, but we weren’t sure this was a good idea. At least not in this weather. We went to bed hoping for calm and sun. If the morning brought more rain, there was a good chance we were hitching back to Waterton to drink coffee for a week or two and let the snow melt.
Thankfully the morning did bring sun, which somehow changes everything, at least mentally. We headed out for the next bit, which was high elevation (2000-2550m) for 50km. If we could make it through that before the weather turns, we’ll be fine for the rest of the section.
The snow slowed us down quite a bit, and it took us 3.5 days to cover those 50kms. Some of the toughest Kms were in the forest where we’d lose the buried trail and then struggle in thick trees looking for it.
Thankfully the terrain was also awesome, and it was so cool to be out at a time when no one else is. We saw larches sprouting their needles, wildflower going into bloom, and got to hear wolves howling and then follow their tracks for 5km as they traced a trail we could only imagine was there.
I wanted to finish the 50km of high elevation in 3 days, 2 nights, but the last 7km of ridge walking was so hard that we came up short and spent a 3rd snowy night on the col north of LaCoulotte peak. We went to bed pitched in a vulnerable spot, but the morning brought sun and we descended to warm temps and fast 60km to town on ATV trails.
We’re headed out now for 9 days in section 2. This section is longer (195km) but likely less snowy as the high parts aren’t as sustained.
Alpine Shooting Star
Subalpine Larch budding
That’s a cute looking scorpion weed. Glad you made it through that the tough first section. You two are real troopers!!
That first day sounded pretty brutal. Love the photos. Thanks for the report. Makes me wish I was hiking there with you two.
Amazing photos and story, and you’re only a few days into your trek. Good luck!