Bertha Peak is actually the unofficial name of this easy-moderate scrambling objective that overlooks the town of Waterton in Waterton Lakes National Park
. Waterton Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Peace Park and a Biosphere Reserve, the only park in the world that has all three designations. At 203 square miles, Waterton Lakes National Park is the smallest Canadian National Park. It borders Glacier National Park in Montana. Together
they make up the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (formed in 1932). You can actually paddle to and fro the US and Canada in Cameron Lake. The North Boundary Trail also intersects both parks. Waterton Lakes National Park sits at one of the narrower sections of the Rocky Mountains (Crown of the Continent). Bertha overlooks Waterton Lake, for most of your accent, which is the deepest lake in the Canadian Rockies.
The unique geography of Waterton Lakes National Park provides habitat for a diverse group of wildlife and vegetation species. The dry prairie adjoins the alpine region with no transition zone creating a unique habitat that combines species from both regions. There are more than 234 species of birds, 57 species of mammals and 17 species of fish sighted in Waterton Lakes National Park.
In recent years botanists have recorded some 900 different species of wild flowers in Waterton, more than half the number of species in all of Alberta. Prairie plants mix with alpine plants, plants from west of the continental divide mix with plants from east of the continental divide and plants that are not found anywhere else in Canada can be found here.
Bertha Ekelund, for whom Bertha Peak was unofficially named, was an early resident of the area who gained notoriety by attempting to pass counterfeit money and ended up in jail as a result. The only published route on Bertha Peak is the easy to moderate scramble up her eastern flank. You can actually start this scramble from the Waterton town campsite.
Alberta Highway 6 takes you to Waterton from Pincher, AB. It becomes US Hwy 17 as you cross the border into Montana. Keep in mind this small border crossing only keeps banking hours. Drive into Watern Lakes National Park through the park kiosks and into town itself. This is a dead end road, that basically dead ends into the town campsite. This campsite is regulated by Parks Canada. There are many scrambles in Waterton Lakes National Park that you need to hop in the car for, but
you can access Bertha Peak right from town.
You will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Waterton Lakes National Park at the only entrance or exit which is on the east side of the park. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Waterton Lakes National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a
night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website above. Waterton Lakes National Park headquarters are located on the right side of the road across from the Prince of Wales hotel, which is an historic landmark built in 1927.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures. The book “The Bear’s Embrace” is a true story by a couple from Calgary, AB who survived a grizzly attack in Waterton.
It dealt more with the difficult recovery from such harsh wounds and disfigurement than the attack itself.
When to Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Bertha Peak in July. The vegetation and climate are more “west coast like” in the summer than any other part of the Canadian Rockies. I have seen quite the lightning storm roll through Upper Waterton Lake.
The closest conventional camp site would be the Waterton Town Campsite. The closest backcountry site is actually up at Bertha Lake which you pass on your ascent, therefore, it would make for a great place to camp. You can go on line at Waterton Lakes National Park to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site like Bertha Lake. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas. You can
stay in luxury at a variety of locations in town. Although the Prince of Wales is historic, it seems awfully pricey for what they offer.
Waterton Lakes National Park's web site has weather, wildlife reports, trail closures, etc. Outside of the parks web site,
Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel. Canadian Alpine Accident Reports
are also extremely helpful.