FKT: Andrew Cotterell - Great Divide Trail (AB & BC, Canada) - 2021-07-31

Route variation
one way
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
20d 6h 55m 34s

Started on July 12 at 5:00am, BC time (6:00am Alberta time). Didn't see anyone on the trail between the caretakers (Bev + Bill) at Kakwa lake until seeing my wife at the Miette River trailhead near Jasper, 4.5 days later. Northern sections (G+F) were tough trails, a fair amount of bushwhacking and lots of bugs. River crossings rarely had bridges but water levels were not a problem. Took the Surprise pass alternate in Section G - similar distance, more elevation gain and loss and off trail travel.


Met Megan (my wife) on the 16th July. She took my pack and rode her bike with me on parts for the 20km highway section to Jasper. We resupplied in Jasper and she met me again and camped with me at Signal campground. Also hiked with a local reporter from Jasper - Bob - up the Signal trail. 

Skyline trail was busy on the 17th, stopped at the Maligne lake cafe for a drink and a snack, continued through Maligne valley. Joined by a friend at the Maligne pass/Pobokton trail junction, he hiked with me (and brought some tasty snacks!) until camp that day - 35km to Boulder creek.

Met friends at Owen Creek trailhead on 19th. Resupplied there, then pushed on to sleep at the Saskatchewan Crossing resort.

Started to meet NOBO thru-hikers from July 20th, 3 groups in the Howse pass area. Howse pass to Kiwetinok pass pretty overgrown and difficult trail. Took Collie creek alternate - 6km off trail travel vs 14km road on GDT. This alternate is being worked on by trail crews and expected to become the main route within the next 2 years. Took Kiwetinok pass alternate, found the off trail travel some of the most difficult on the whole GDT - 33km, 2,000m gain on alternate with 7km off trail travel vs 32km forestry road, 600m gain.  

Met in Field by friends, resupplied there. They walked with me along the highway for 10km and shuttled my pack to Ottertail creek trailhead.

Lots of hikers on Rockwall trail, met friends at top of Numa pass, who hiked with me to Floe lake trailhead. Megan shuttled me to Marble canyon campground (10km away), and back to same location the next morning. She hiked with me most of the way up Ball pass, then met me again the next day on the Bryant creek trail, hiking about 10km with me then.

Met another friend, Nikos at 3 Isle lake on the 25th, he hiked with me until James Lake the next day. We took the South Kananaskis pass + Northover Ridge alternate - 32km + 1600m gain including a 10km technical ridge, vs 25km + 900m gain on trail on GDT. Resupplied at Upper Kananaskis lake day use. Friends walked with me until Elk pass, before Nikos and I pushed on.

Nikos handed over to Adam on the 26th, who hiked with me for the remaining 30km that day, and the first 30km the next day.

Met GDTA trail crew working on Racehorse shoulder on the 27th. Met with Megan and a friend at Allison rd Junction, on way into Coleman - they hiked with me on this section and the first 10km out of Coleman. Was shuttled to their accommodation for a shower and resupplied there, shuttled back to same spot before continuing. 

Took the Barnaby ridge alternate, 23km vs 24km, but 2000m extra off trail ridgeline. Found this extremely difficult and rewarding! Got off route whilst trying to skirt a 8m cliff - there is flagging for this work around, but I ended up off trail for about 300m and bushwhacked down to Grizzly lake, where I rejoined the trail. 

Was met at Cameron lakes trailhead on the 30th, shuttled to accommodation just outside of Waterton, back on the 31st to complete the final 25km. 

I found the alternates I took either sensible, or greatly added to my experience - they are some of the most spectacular terrain on the whole trail. I believe that most thru-hikers tend towards wanting to complete these alternates, only opting not to if weather or fatigue/injury is a concern. I didn't meet a single thru-hiker who didn't plan to do most of these alternates.

Some of the resupply days I have multiple activities on Strava. My watch won't upload activities whilst it is tracking, so I was trying to take advantage of having cell service to be able to upload activities as I went.

Let me know if I've missed anything or if there is any more info you want! First time doing this so not really sure what to include!