Dunwey Peak (Rogan)

Summit Elevation (m): 2442
Trip Date: June 11 2017
Elevation Gain (m): 1150
Round Trip Time (hr): 8
Total Trip Distance (km): 21
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties for scramblers. Could be some routefinding issues for hikers who want to avoid all exposure to the summit.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

After a longish outing on Mount Head a few days previous with a couple of smelly guys (no offense guys), I decided it was time for a nice hike in Waterton Lakes National Park with my wife for a change. She not only looks (a lot) nicer than those other guys, but she smells nicer too. Again – no offense guys. In the fall of 2015 I hiked Lakeview Ridge solo and remember really liking the Horseshoe Basin area. At the time I didn’t realize that Nugara had named the highpoint between Galwey and Dungarvan and put it in a guidebook – making it somewhat official. I thought this peak looked pretty darn easy and invited Hanneke along for the hike. She agreed – on the condition that it was really easy and I assured her that it was.

A bison at the paddock.

After the long, familiar drive to the southernmost park in Alberta, we arrived at the Bison paddock and set off down the trail as the first hikers of the day. This made Hann a bit nervous but I assured her that the mother bear and cub that Phil Richards saw a few weeks previous would be long gone by now. Just in case I was wrong, we yelled a fair bit through the tight overgrown approach trail leading up and into the basin. This trail is apparently being maintained this summer so hopefully when you do it you won’t have to wade and swim through damp undergrowth like we did! I am still shocked that we came away from the day with ZERO wood ticks. Those devil-bugs scare me a lot more than bears do. At least bears just tear your flesh off without being devious about it. Wood ticks silently burrow into your flesh before leaving nasty diseases that slowly take over your life. {shudder}

Dunwey Peak Route Map

Once we got up into the basin the views really opened up and we got to enjoy the morning sunshine, flowers and colored Waterton rocks. We also got to ‘enjoy’ the lovely Waterton winds. The gale-force winds were supposed to die off suddenly after lunch, so we kept hiking into them, thankful that at least the sun was out. Once we passed the turnoff to Lakeview Ridge, I was on new and unfamiliar ground which always makes things more interesting for me. I was surprised by the amount of height loss on the approach, especially down and around the various streams that feed Galwey Brook and exit the basin. We kept yelling for bears as we worked our way steeply up an embankment from the main creek into the drainage coming from the Dunwey / Lakeview Ridge col and the end of our hiking trail. The trail switchbacked a ridiculous amount just before the col, but it was very pleasant walking and we didn’t complain too much until the last switchback where I finally said “enough” and just walked straight uphill rather than deviate 500m out of the way!

Losing height into the valley between Lakeview (R) and Galwey (L). Dunwey rising at center.

From the col the mountain looked very close. Of course, it wasn’t as close or as easy as it looked. I know I’m not a very hardcore climber or scrambler, but it’s always interesting to go on an easy scramble or hard hike with someone who doesn’t get out on this type of terrain every weekend. Hanneke runs daily and is in excellent cardio shape, but she doesn’t scramble every weekend. Even some of the ‘easy’ bumps on the first part of the ridge to the summit proved to be just within her tolerances – but barely. These bumps can all be avoided on the south (climber’s left), which I promised her we’d do on return.

Eventually Hann decided that the combination of fairly strong winds and the total elevation gains and distances were a bit too much for her and told me to go bag the peak without her. She’d keep following me slowly and get as high up on the ridge as possible before meeting me again on my return. I hesitated and debated a bit with myself if I should agree. I really don’t like splitting off from inexperienced people in the mountains – there’s a lot that can go wrong if you’re not careful. The peak did look very close from where we were – I knew it was ‘only’ around 400m vertical and around 1.5km away and looked very easy, so I’d be pretty quick. My mistake was not communicating how long this would still take me. 3km return with 400m height gain along with a brief summit stay still takes time – probably around an hour. After re-assuring me several times that she didn’t mind, I reluctantly took off uphill to bag the summit.

Gorgeous weather and scenery as I continue to ascend towards the peak.
Approaching the summit of Dunwey with great views towards Dungarvan (R), Bellevue Hill and Galwey (L).

The terrain to the peak was indeed, very easy and it didn’t take me too long before I was grunting along a trail in the scree to the top. The views from the summit were great – as expected. There were much more clouds than I thought there’d be to the west, but all the main Waterton peaks were visible including Dungarvan (which looked very scrambleable from the Oil Basin between Dunwey and it), Cloudy Ridge, Galwey, Ruby, Blakiston, Sofa, Vimy and many others. I didn’t want to leave Hanneke alone long, so I rushed through my summit photos (interestingly, the summit was pretty much windless) before starting back down the north ridge. As I’d been ascending, I noticed that Hann got small really quick behind me. From the summit I couldn’t even spot her with my telephoto lens and I worried that she likely lost sight of me too. On reflection this makes sense. Try spotting someone that’s a mile away from you and 400 meters higher, on broken terrain. Isn’t going to happen. Not without binoculars or telephoto lens.

A tele-pano to the SE looking towards (L to R), Chief Mountain, Sofa, Vimy and Cleveland in the clouds.
Great views of Lineham, Blakiston and Festubert (R) across the Red Rock Canyon Road.
Views are stunning over the green Horseshoe Basin and Galwey Brook Valley.

As I finally approached Hann, still on the ridge below, she was looking a bit frazzled. I asked her what was wrong and was surprised to hear her story from the past hour. Apparently after I took off up the ridge, she lost sight of me almost instantly. The ridge undulates more than it appears from a distance, so I could see how that could happen. The problem was that she never saw me after that and started worrying intensely about my well-being. She thought she’d be able to see me the whole time scrambling up to the summit, but the terrain was much bigger and I was much smaller than both of us thought I’d be in it. The past hour wasn’t fun for her has her mind went all different directions. She thought I could have fallen and be injured and she wasn’t sure what to do. It was another learning experience for both of us. We agreed that the next time we were in this situation we should agree on a return time and she should either have binoculars or I should skip the peak.

The rest of the hike down was fairly easy, although even side-hilling the bumps on the ridge to the Lakeview Ridge col was steeper than expected and most hikers wouldn’t love it. Once on the trail we started running into quite a few other hikers. We could also finally take off our warm clothing as the wind was much calmer and the sun felt much hotter down in the valley.

A glance back towards Galwey (L) and Dunwey(C).

We stopped for a nice break near one of the creek crossings before hiking out to the parking lot for a round trip time of just under 8 hours. I highly recommend Dunwey as an easy scramble / hike with amazing views and a great approach. For those who want a slightly shorter day with more off-trail scrambling / hiking, Either of the two east ridges would also work to access the peak and would cut down on approach time and distances. But with a good trail and excellent views to the Lakeview Ridge col, why would you want to cut it short?

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