Looking at my choices for peak(s) to do on my second full day in Waterton National Park I thought I was fairly limited, thanks to the closing of the Red Rock Parkway for construction. I settled on Mount Rowe, hoping that it would have similar snow conditions to what I had on Sofa Mountain the day before. Of course I rationalized that even though it was further west, it wasn't that much further right?! Joining me as we cruised along the Akamina Parkway under a gorgeous morning sunrise was Phil Richards - a recent friend who'd done another long trip with me earlier this year on Rose and Threepoint.
Wait a minute! Isn't Mount Rowe a short day, you might ask? Why yes! It is. But I was planning to combine it with Mount Festubert - a mysterious summit that nobody else seems to combine with Rowe for some reason. I though Phil might be a nice enough guy (i.e. sucker ;)) to agree and he was. Those Brits are so cooperative when they want to be... We didn't only get a nice sunrise, we also witnessed a nice big black bear along the parkway looking like he was still recuperating from too many fermented berries the night before. He didn't even budge when I slowed my truck beside him, just scratched his large tummy and ignored me altogether. Well, we wouldn't have to worry about this bear I guess! I doubt he was in the mood to chase us down.
[The long day that is Mount Rowe and Festubert]
We started up the Rowe Lakes trail at a pretty fast pace. Did I mention that Phil is a long distance runner? Yep. A short run for him is 10km and a longish one is 25km off trail! Remember, I had a tough trip on Evelyn only a few days previous plus Sofa Mountain the day before so I wasn't exactly feeling like a spring chicken. I tried my best to keep up and was quite warm by the time we finally got to the hanging valley above the first Rowe Lake where the trail splits, the right hand branch a high traverse to Lineham Lakes. The high traverse had a LOT of snow, as did the terrain above us! It looked like February, the trees were plastered in snow and the trail was icy underfoot. This wasn't boding well for our long day out, but we pretended like we were still having fun and kept going. Did I mention that there was also a wind advisory for the town of Waterton this particular day? Oh yeah. We picked a great day for a long traverse. Beggers can't be choosers and we were both determined not to let conditions stop us unless absolutely necessary. One more thing I forgot to mention. My feet were already soaking wet thanks to the snow on Sofa Mountain the day before. Ankle deep snow with soaking wet feet. What could go wrong?
[A nice sunrise to start our day]
[A beautiful morning]
[The Rowe Lakes trail is excellent - like all the main Waterton trails.]
[Avalanche debris and snow as we approach the first lake turn off (which you don't take to reach the upper lakes).]
[Boots are going to get even more wet today!]
[The trail was melted out lower down.]
[Mount Lineham rises above the trail as we cross the creek and start the steep grunt to the upper lakes.]
[The trail became icy as soon as we started the steeper climb to the upper lakes.]
[Looking down at the trail - the highline traverse to Lineham Lakes goes over the ridge in the far distance.]
I've never done the Rowe Lakes hike before and it was steeper than I expected. I was sweating in the cool morning air thanks to Phil's pace but the trail was icy and the snow was getting deeper the higher we went. Finally we arrived at the upper lakes - they are gorgeous. A few more weeks and the many larches around the lakes will be brilliant yellow. We soon started off trail on the right hand side of the lake for the obvious ridge rising beyond. Phil broke trail and soon we were wading through a few knee deep snow drifts! There was still some hope for a "sort of" sunny day but even that window was closing as we approached the upper ridge leading to the summit of Rowe. Once we crawled up / through / over the final snow drift to the ridge we could see awfully dark clouds over Cameron Lake and Akamina Ridge to the west. The wind wasn't terrible (for Waterton) and we enjoyed a nice stroll to the summit on wind blown snow / scree. The summit was actually nice enough to have some lunch, which we enjoyed immensely. At this point, if we were smart, we should have realized that this was as good as our day could get - a nice relaxing summit lunch before heading home. Alas, nobody said we were smart...
[Upper Rowe Lake. We'll ascend the obvious ridge on the right - it may also be possible to ascend slopes directly underneath the summit of Rowe on the left.]
[It's a winter wonderland as I look back from the ridge. Rowe at right above the lake. ++]
[Phil checks out the dismal weather hovering over Mount Lineham.]
[Another view of Mount Lineham and the valley between the Rowe Lakes and Lineham Ridge.]
[The final slog to the ridge on the right and Mount Rowe on the left. We descended a wee bit to take the thinnest bush. ++]
[This is sadly what our day became despite the excellent start...]
[Our first views west are grim but still good. Cameron Lake in the distance with Akamina Ridge and Wall Lake. Summit of Rowe on the left.]
[Wall Lake - for obvious reasons!]
[Rowe on the left]
[Great views over Rowe Lakes from the ridge to the summit. ++]
[Lovely Rowe Lakes - larches are getting ready to turn.]
[Cameron Lake from the summit of Mount Rowe.]
[Looking east towards Buchannan, Alderson and Carthew Peaks.]
[Pano of Cameron Lake, Forum Lake and Wall Lake (L to R) with Custer and Forum Peak / Akamina Ridge in the background. ++]
[Forum Lake with Forum Peak in the clouds above on the left.]
[Another great view down to Rowe Lakes from the ridge as we descend back to the col and debate whether to continue to Festubert or not.]