The plan to hike Section D and E of the Great Divide Trail.
My original plan was to hike both sections D and E of the Great Divide Trail. I added some alternatives to both sections which I felt would enhance the trip. For Section D the plan was to hike over Burgess Pass to Yoho Lake then up the Iceline in Yoho NP and complete the Kiwetinok Alternative. I decided early on in my planning that I wanted to do the Kiwetinok Alternative. In the book “High Summer – Hiking the Canadian Rockies” by Chris Townsend (a must read for anyone hiking the Great Divide Trail) Chris went over Kiwetinok Pass as opposed to up the Amiskwi. This planted a seed in my mind that this would be a more interesting route. Then when I loaded up the GDT App from Guthooks the alternative was marked on the map and this convinced me that this was the way I wanted to go. A challenge I faced was I had not booked a campground on the Iceline when I made my original booking and there were no campsites available when I tried to book. It took me about two weeks of checking a couple of times a day to finally secure a campsite at Yoho Lake CG. The alternative being longer meant that I would be starting my hike one day earlier than I had originally planned.
Note from Guthooks App Dan Durston posted Aug 8, 2020. Kiwetinok is a gem. Final 7km of the app route can be tough slugging but there is a better route. on the ascent to Kiwetinok Gap, look for a major animal trail 30-50m west of the app route up a busy stream bed. Once over the gap, follow the orange flagging for way better bushwhacking. This flagged route runs down the more open north side of the creek. Mostly enjoyable excepte for the thick spot (100m) near the ford.
A minor deviation to the trail for me was the plan to visit Amiskwi Lake and camp if possible. The lake would be about a 1.5 km bushwack off of the main trail just a few kilometers before Amiskwi Pass. From my research it does not appear that anyone has actually attempted to camp at Amiskwi Lake. I love being near lakes and since it is close to where I was planning on stopping at Amiskwi Pass I felt that it would be a worthy detour and would not cost a lot in terms of additional time.
Just before heading out on the hike I traced out the alternative up and along Amiskwi Ridge that was featured on the Guthooks App. The Amiskwi Ridge Alternative was completed in July of 2020 and with a bit of elevation provides access to an amazing ridge walk as opposed to a logging road. The GDT website recommends combining the Amiskwi Ridge with the Collie Creek Alternative to eliminate further stretches of logging roads.
The resupply plan was to meet Laura at Saskatchewan River Crossing in the middle of the afternoon on Day 6. It would be a simple exchange of Bear Canisters and the addition of an extra food bag I could hang. I was then planning on hiking for two or three more hours from Saskatchewan River Crossing before making camp.
Unfortunately other than the hike over Burgess Pass to Yoho Lake I was not able to complete the Section D hike due to smoke. As luck would have it the smoke cleared up the day after I abandoned. I would only have two days of smoke on Section E.
For Section E the two locations that I was making a point to visit where Michelle Lakes and the Six Passes Route. Michelle Lakes was recommended by a friend as their favourite camping spot on the GDT. This was an interesting statement as the guide book does not have much good to say about Michelle Lakes.
Six Passes was going to be more challenging as I had no idea before trying to book my trip that the Six Passes even existed. I did all my online booking the Saturday Parks Canada opened up the Reservation website for the summer hiking season. I was intending on going down the Maligne Lake trail and somehow did not understand that I needed to book it. I was mistakenly under the belief that it was “open” camping at Mary Vaux and Schaffer CG. When I tried to book online on the following Monday just to firm up my plans the website informed me I had to phone Jasper NP to book. When I called I found out that there were no spots available on the Maligne Lake trail and only one day on Six Passes. I jumped on the Six Passes but that involved rearranging my current bookings on the Skyline.
After our 2020 trip on Section C one of my goals was to limit days to 25 km or less. We had a couple of 30 km days on Section Cand I found the days to be less enjoyable than slightly shorter days. Until I had to revise my itinerary to accommodate the Six Passes booking I had done a good job keeping the days to around 25 km or less. The revised plan had us hiking from Pobokton CG to Evelyn CG in just two days through the Six Passes which would be a distance of 48 km (36 km off trail) and almost 2000 m elevation gain/loss. These two challenging days would be followed by a 32 km day from Evelyn CG to Signal CG. This meant that the very end of the trip would be very physically taxing. I was confident we could do the distance but these were going to be longer days than I had hoped for.