View Full Version : Great Divide Trail + CDT

05-08-2010, 13:33
Hey folks, wanted to ask a quick question about "early" season weather/snow conditions on the northern continental divide.

I'm thinking about doing the CDT SOBO this season - then, I got the idea that it could be great fun to tack on the ~700 mile Great Divide Trail (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Divide_Trail) onto the top.

The big question, though, is whether or not its feasible/safe to head up into the central Canadian rockies in early June. Assuming I'd need to get moving on the CDT proper by about July 1, I'd need to start the GDT rather early in the summer, and I'm trying to figure out if that's doable.

Skills-wise, I have a lot of experience with crampons/iceaxe hiking, etc. But, I'm not interested in doing crazy stuff.

Anyone here know anything about the GDT?


05-08-2010, 17:19
LOL. What a SOBO CDT thru-hike is not enough for you? I like the way you think Clured. I'm always looking to add on to my thru-hikes too.

But, some of the folks who ask questions like yours haven't ever even completed one thru-hike never mind linking two long distance trails like the CDT and GDT which would be somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 3200 + trail miles. And, when you say things with a somewhat cavalier attitude like: I'm thinking about hiking the CDT SOBO this yr on May 8 with no other comments about how you intend to do this or what preparation you have made or what research you have done it makes me very skeptical about how naive you are in wanting to accomplish such a feat by linking both the CDT and GDT in one season. You make it sound like completing a thru-hike lasting 4-7 months is like going to the grocery store to buy some apples. It's a little harder than that! Have you ever completed a thu-hike? What's the longest you have spent hiking?

Those who would seriously consider linking the two trails in one hiking season would already know that those who hike SOBO on the CDT starting in Glacier NP/Waterton NP on the U.S./CAN. border start around mid June DEPENDING on snow conditions in Montana. If a SOBO CDT start date in Glacier NP DEPENDS on snow conditions what does that tell you of possible hiking conditions further north into the Canadian Rockies on the GDT, an even more remote place?

Of the 3 main N/S long distance hiking trails in the U.S. - the AT, PCT, CDT - in my mind, the CDT almost definitely requires the most preparation and experience, with certain skills necessary, like the ability to navigate. Hiking in deep snow and ice only makes things harder to possibly impossible. To successfully complete a thru-hike of the CDT you need MANY maps, some detailed. Others may have a difference of opinion. I have been preparing for my CDT thru-hike for over 6 months. Perhaps, you are able to hike with no prep, research, maps, navigational skills, etc. I wish you well if that is the case.

In my opinion, trying to thru-hike both trails in one hiking season would require much snow travel, the ability to navigate in snow conditions, a VERY LONG slowed by weather type hike, or not being able to do an actual continuous thru-hike linking both trails at the same time. The best possible scenario I can envision in order to thru-hike both trails in one hiking season is one in which you would be leap frogging around and/or having incredibly fortunate weather on your side. You just don't have to be concerned with the snow in the Canadian Rockies and Montana and Wyoming, and Idaho but also in southern Colorado in the San Juans.

05-08-2010, 17:33
Did I also mention that even though the two trails are recognized as the Continental Divide Trail and Great Divide Trail both "trails" are not actual signed maintained trails in some places. They are sometimes merely routes where the hiker has to navigate to find a way - more maps and knowing how to navigate from them. Might often be the case that no one else is out their to ask: where do I go? where am I? where is the next water? where is the next place I can get supplies?

05-08-2010, 18:12
Thanks for the comments, Dogwood. I was AT07, and I have rather extensive experience with difficult/nasty snow hiking and mountaineering in the Pyrenees and the Alps. Very comfy with technical orienteering. I do know what's up.

Yes, I know that early-season snow is the major concern in the north. I didn't ask if it would be "difficult," I asked if it would be possible.

Clearly, hiking in the central Canadian rockies in early June would involve extensive crampons/iceaxe, etc., and it would be tiring and probably somewhat dangerous at times. My question is how dangerous.

What kind of snowpack can be expected in the central Canadian rockies on June 1? How deep? Starting at what altitude? Is it stable, or is there significant avalanche risk for hikers/climbers?

Sounds like you have no specific information about the conditions at Kakwa Park on June 1?

Chillz, yo.

05-08-2010, 18:43
As Squeaky once said, F impossible! :bananaBut I can't see how this could work in early June. I haven done the GDT but live in the Rockies and most hikers can't get through SoCo by mid June, or Glacier for that matter, so 700m further north? Hmmmm. How do you feel about road walking? I'd consider it extremly dangerous and if I was to try it would learn to use a GPS and invest in a sat phone to help w/ my rescue! :eek:

05-08-2010, 19:31
You are right Cured. I'm not familiar with the snow conditions at Kakawa Park on June 1, but take what I said earlier about snow definitely being of a possible issue further south in Montana on the CDT at that time and logic would tell you that snow further north, even if in somewhat lower elevs, is going to be problematic to hiking and definitely to quick hiking which is what you will have to do to be successful at a continuous thru-hike linking both trails. And, consider that you may be bushwacking in those snow/ice and swollen fastwater river conditions in places that are somewhat remote in the Canadian Rockies. It adds up to a slower hike under those conditions when that's what you can't afford. Unless you somehow leapfrog around and/or have exceptionally favorable weather conditions I have a hard time seeing you do it in one hiking season without being very well prepared and being fortunate with the weather. You will need to rely on that snow hiking and mountaineering experience that you say you have if you plan on being successful at a continous thru-hike linking both trails. You will also have to navigate safely in those conditions. And, for awhile you wil be slowed by the snow travel when you will be wanting to/having to hike fast to make it in time to beat the weather somehwere else. Unless you leap frog, and posssibly even if you do leap frog. you will be hiking with that have to beat the weather clock mentality.

BTW, and I say this respectfully to you and to anyone else familiar to the AT(I thrued the AT in 06), forget about any kind of like comparison between the conditions of the well marked well trodden maps unnecessary 2170 mile long hiking superhighway called the AT with the 3200+ mile CDST and GDT combined.

Impossible. Far from me to say that. Yes, I wish you well. Damn challenging though. Damn well right. Frankly, I just don't think your odds are all that great of completing a continuous thru-hike linking both trails without careful preparation and favorable weather.

I will tell you that since the GDT is routed through 5 Canadian National Parks and several Wilderness areas if the Canadian National Park system is anything a kin to the American National Park system you should be able to find info about the current and predicted snow pack at different elevs in the Can NPs like you can at the American NP website www.nps (http://www.nps). Like I said, isn't it enough to be able to complete e a CDT thru-hike with all its possible bad weather scenarious?

05-08-2010, 19:34
Eric Ryback could do it!:D

05-08-2010, 20:07
Eric Ryback could do it!:D

Chuck Norris has already done it. Twice.

05-08-2010, 20:55
Sounds like an interesting adventure to me.
You will probably need some luck with the snow.
Hopefully it's a low year and you don't get dumped on too much while out there.
I have a little experience with hiking in snow on the CDT and I know this: I would want to be with someone to rope up sometimes.
Snowshoes may be in order also although we didn't use them. (needed them only after 2 PM when they would have been helpful)
We did get dumped on in MT in July in 2002 (6' of snow in July but that is not normal of course)
Good luck. I'm surprised someone is trying to discourage you from your dreams without having tried it himself.
But, I would consider trying to find a partner.

Walking Jim is the only guy I know that has hiked extensively in that area.
Not sure if he is a member of WB.
Maybe you can contact him through ALDHA

05-08-2010, 21:00
I shouldn't say Walking Jim is the only hiker I know.
ON one of my ALDHA West gatherings, I met a triple-crowner named Dave Cobb who gave a slide show of his hike.
There were other members of the organization there that had thru-hiked this trail also.
Perhaps going to their website and asking around will help you get the information you need.
I see Mt. Robson is on (or near) the trail.
That is an impressive place that i have been to although have not summited.
Be careful and once again, good luck.

05-08-2010, 23:31
Have you considered a yo-yo hike, making the best of the seasons?

05-08-2010, 23:56
June 1st north of Montana may be a bit snowy. Heck in my neck of the divide, there is still still too much snow in the high country for fun hiking on Junes 1st (I'm going SKIING on May 22nd! :) )

Nacho and Pepper (CDT '06) tried something very similar to what you are attempting before they jumped on the CDT. To give you an idea of Nacho and Peppers strengths as hikers, Nacho and Pepper have both done longer trails with Trauma (calendar triple crown in a year) and are no slouch themselves. 30+ MPD on the CDT.

They bailed out because there was too much snow north of Glacier.

Another way to look at it is what you want to do vs. what you can do may be two different things as well. :) Meaning, you could hike the GDT with all the snow..it may not be very fun and/or you may have to take lower routes to avoid snow...you'd miss out on scenes like this. :eek:


Off Trail in CDN Rockies not far from the GDT last July

Fish Lake not far from the above photo

Having said that, Chris Willett (a buddy of mine) did the GDT a few years back and keeps his info updated.
http://cwillett.imathas.com/GDT/ BTW, Kakwa is VERY hard to get to in even the best of times. Jasper or Mt. Robson is more feasible. I was planning to do the trail last year (For a variety of reasons, I did not) and starting fro Mt. Robson besides being a dramatic start/finish looked to be easy to get to and out of.

Good luck. I think if you want to do both in one year, a NoBo may be logistically more feasible. Otherwise, you may want to do each seperate. For a strong hiker, the GDT is about one month.

05-09-2010, 11:53
Hmm, thanks for the info, everyone. Boy, Mags, those are some lookers...

I guess this is my big question - when we talk about "too much snow," what are we talking about? Too much snow for trail runners/iceaxes? What if I'm willing to crampon/snowshoe it pretty much constantly, in light climbing boots?

I'll do some poking around and see if I can turn up any specific information about the snow pack up there.

Seems to me that if I'm going to hike the divide, I want to hike the divide. No use in skipping some of it if I can get up on it, safely.


05-09-2010, 12:17
I guess this is my big question - when we talk about "too much snow," what are we talking about?

Just extrapolating what I am seeing further south, but higher up on "my" section of the divide..but it looks to be great right now if you are into backcountry skiing (Which I am :) )

But, yeah..check it out.

This may help:

Parts of the divide in the area you may be hiking (towards the beginning) looks to have 2.5 ft, further south about a foot. ..who knows what will happen in 2-3 wks. I'd definitely call the office in Banff or Jasper NP. From my brief interaction with the CDN park officials, they are VERY helpful and willing to work with you. They probably will know nothing about the GDT, but will be very helpful in giving you the snow levels in the area.

Good luck.

05-11-2010, 04:13
I'm surprised someone is trying to discourage you from your dreams without having tried it himself.

Is this guy looking for cheerleaders or honest opinions?:-?

One could as easily say, I'm surprised someone is trying to encourage you w/o trying it himself.:eek:

Having 3000+ and 4000+ seasons under my straps along w/ a few CDTs- I'll stand by my opinion. On the other hand, some take so many short cuts on the CDT that they are lucky to log 2200m, so an extra 500-700m is not impossible, but considering the time and place I'd say difficult and dangerous most years.;)

Spirit Walker
05-17-2010, 11:36
Having hiked the GDT, I'd say it is possible, but is a lot more of a challenge than you seem to expect. Trauma did it, but he is one of the few that I am aware of who has done the two trails in one year (along with the AT and PCT). Each is a big challenge in itself. More than enough for most people. As others have said, the CDt and the AT are not really comparable. If the CDt is 10 times more difficult than the AT, the GDT is ten times more difficult than the CDT. Really.

Since you need to have a permit with reservations for each night's campsite in the National Parks in Canada, you can talk to the Wardens about conditions before you start. When we called for our permit in early June, there was something like 4 feet of snow in Jasper at the time. We started in Waterton on July 11 and had only a little snow.

We have a lot of info on the GDT on our website www.spiriteaglehome.com