Our initial plan
Our first plan was to walk 1700km, the GDT is about 1200km but we wanted to loop back to Banff and by doing that explore more of the rockies.
Here is the original route that we planned to do:
The plan was to follow the GDT from Waterton to Kakwa with tow resupplies along the way, one in Banff and the other one in Jasper. The third resupply would happen in Grande Cache, located about 150 km from Kakwa. At this point our total hiking distance would be 1350km. To continue the hike we would go back south to Jasper and finally Banff following a different route through the park. After finishing the hike in Banff the total distance would be about 1700 km.
What we actually did
The hike went pretty much as planned until Grande Cache and we arrived there feeling already like winners. Unfortunately my partner developed a serious infection while arriving in Grande Cache which forced us to stop there. Our route, finishing in Grande Cache was a pretty nice addition to the original route of the GDT, the way back down would have been amazing but well another time.
Here you see our actual route:
Waterton – Banff – Jasper – Kakwa Provincial Park – Grande Cache, total distance : 1350
We were really happy about our route of choice. The traditionnal route finishes in Mount Robson Provincial Park, which is not the best in our opinion. Areas after Mt. Robson were the most beautiful ones along the whole hike, though they were also the most challenging ones. You go through some nasty swamps and spend lots of time trying to find trails that usually don’t even exist. The good thing is that you forget all those difficulties as soon as you reach the passes which are amazing. We also really enjoyed the remoteness of these areas: we didn’t see anyone in 11 days!
So we seriously advise everyone with good navigation skills to explore Willmore Willderness Area and Kakwa Provincial Park. However following the GDT there means facing resupplying issues, since it is not possible before Grande Cache.
Statistics about our Great Divide Trail
First part : Waterton – Banff
It took us 14 days to cover the 500 km between Waterton Lakes National Park and Banff National Park. During this travel we climbed about 19 000 m. We started with 15 days of food in our bags which meant carrying about 10 kg per person. Our backpacks weighted around 6 kg without food or water.
Second part : Banff – Jasper
This leg was 450 km long and it took us 12 days to cover the distance. The elevation gain was around 14 000 m. The highest point of this part, and also the whole hike, was at 1590 m just before Pinto Lake.
Last part : Jasper – Grande Cache
It took us 11 days to cover the 400 km between Jasper and Grande Cache. We crossed the Jackpine River about 40 times in one day which is our record. The elevation gain was about 10 500 m. We didn’t count the number of hours spent in bushwhacking and swamp-walking but saying “a lot” would be downplaying it.
Our daily average was about 36 km per day and our longest day was 53 km. The shortest was 12 km after a resupply. We ate a bit more than 12 kg of peanuts and about the same amount of chocolate during our hike.