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Visiting the Flathead Range's Mount Blakiston, Alberta: remembering the Palliser Expedition of 1857-1860

Updated on February 3, 2015
Provincial flag of Alberta
Provincial flag of Alberta | Source
View of Mount Blakiston from Red Rock Canyon, Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada
View of Mount Blakiston from Red Rock Canyon, Waterton National Park, Alberta, Canada | Source
Captain Thomas Wright Blakiston
Captain Thomas Wright Blakiston | Source

Reminiscent of the Matterhorn

This mountain in Alberta, Canada, part of the Flathead Range in the Rockies, with its pointed peak, is named Mount Blakiston.

Its name recalls a member of the Palliser Expedition of 1857-1860)(1), Thomas Blakiston (1832-1891).

Thomas Blakiston was a man of many achievements. He was a naturalist by training. During the Expedition he function as a magnetic observer. As well as contributing to the exploration of the Rockies, Blakiston travelled extensively in Asia, and notably also gave his name to Blakiston's Line running between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, a term used by fellow naturalists to distinguish between the habitats of zoological species of northern and southern Asia. His name was also given to a species of owl, Blakiston's fish owl Bubo blakistoni, found in Hokkaido.

The nearby Blakiston Fals are also named for Thomas Blakiston.

Mount Blakiston attains a height of 2910 metres. The Continental Divide passes close to the mountain. In the vicinity of Mount Blakiston and for many kilometres, the boundary between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia runs along the Divide.

Hikers and climbers wishing to ascend Mount Blakiston often use the Lineham Creek Hiking Trail (2). For the less adventurous, splendid views of Mount Blakiston may be obtained from Red Rock Canyon, where a large parking lot constitutes a fine viewing area, including of neighbouring peaks Mount Lineham and Mount Hawkins.

Prospective hikers and climbers may be warned of weather conditions which may arise in the vicinity. Gusts of 150 km/hr have been recorded, while winds of 100 km/hr are not unusual, especially in the fall and winter. The area has Alberta's highest average precipitation, at 1072 mm per year.

What these facts and figures do suggest, of course, is that climbers and hikers should not attempt to conquer Mount Blakiston or its neighbouring peaks if they are unprepared!

The Flathead Mountains extend into the United States, giving their name also to Flathead County in the State of Montana. Part of the Flathead Range, including Mount Blakiston, lie within Waterton Lake National Park, created in 1895. Indeed, Mount Blakiston is the highest point in the Park. In any case, it must also surely form among the most striking of natural features within the Park. Today's hikers and climbers find access — particularly in the summer — fairly straightforward, but to Europeans in the 19th century newly familiar with the vicinity, it must have seemed very isolated. While First Nations people have been familiar with the area for centuries, yet to Europeans it was virtually unknown until the mid-19th century.

The profile of the steep, pointed summit of Mount Blakiston reminds me somewhat of the Matterhorn, Switzerland. Though not as tall, the summit of Mount Blakiston looks every bit as steep as its Swiss lookalike!

February 2, 2015


(1) The Palliser Exhibition was named for geographer John Palliser (1817-1887); the journey was known more fully as the British North American Exploring Expedition.

(2) As well as the notions of 'climbing' and 'hiking', the work 'scrambling' must surely also apply to attempts to conquer this peak, given the steep inclines on the rocky surface of Mount Blakiston.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia.

Map location of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada (in dark green)
Map location of Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada (in dark green) | Source

Also worth seeing

Within Waterton Lakes National Park, the lakeside hamlet of Waterton (distance from Red Rock Canyon: approx. 16 kilometres) attracts many visitors, including numerous hikers; among these attractions are the berth for boat trips on Waterton Lake; a Heritage Centre at 117 Waterton Avenue; the much photographed Prince of Wales Hotel overlooks nearby Waterton Lake; the Cameron Falls.


How to get there: Air Canada flies to Lethbridge Airport (distance from Lethbridge to Waterton Village: 124.6 kilometers), via Calgary, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available; some visitors may prefer to make the road journey to Waterton Village directly from Calgary Airport (distance from Calgary to Waterton Village: 259.2 kilometers). A shuttle bus is available in the summer (advance reservations necessary) from Waterton Village to Red Rock Canyon; contact: ; tel. 403-859-2378; fax 403-859-2605. NB: These directions are via Red Rock Canyon. For other directional information, you may consult: . Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. You are advised to consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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