Either hitch it or take the hikers shuttle to Cameron Lake at 8:30 or 10:30 AM (2003). The Cameron-Alderson Trail starts on the boardwalk to the left side of the lake. Follow the trail past Summit Lake through a ton of switchbacks and on to a high alpine area.
Route DescriptionThis is a 4000’+/- ascent.
Mount Carthew will be on your left and Chapman Peak (in Montana) along with its small remnant of a glacier will be on your right. As you round a big left corner of the trail, the left hand ridge of Carthew Peak will come into full view. Go ahead and come off the trail and ascend this ridge. The earlier you ascend this southwest ridge, the better in terms of views of Mount Blakiston (photo) to the north and the Montana mountains of Custer and Chapman Peak (photo) to the south (as well as Chapman’s glacier and lake). As you continue along the southwest ridge, you will need to traverse right below a false summit
(ran into a lone sheep here) and then head due north (left) for Carthew’s summit which entails no more than a hike to the summit cairn.
I continued from Mount Carthew’s summit for Buchanan Peak, which made for a much more challenging (read exposed and difficult) scramble. On your traverse over to Buchanan Peak, you will be forced to down climb two very precarious rock bands (photos). Take your time and pick your routes well. Venture to the left more than right. This rock is some of the worst I have run into and this is not a common objective, therefore, route-finding is at a premium.
Definitely wear your helmet as you make this descent.
Once you reach the col between Mount Carthew and Buchanan Peak, the summit trek to Buchanan is uneventful. I witnessed a pair of ptarmigans (photo) near Buchanan’s summit who were in the begging mood. On the descent, I followed the southeast ridge almost to a saddle on Buchanan’s lower flanks (skiers left) and then slid down the scree to a semi dry creek and bushwhacked my way out to the Carthew Creek Trail and back to Waterton.
This was about a 20k one way trek, with a big section offering 360 degree views of the park. There was no one in sight on either scramble compared to tons of people on the trail.
Helmet for sure, some would prefer a rope on the Mount Carthew descent to the Buchanan Peak col. Map, compass, bear spray, etc.