Summit Elevation (m): 2673
Trip Date: Saturday, September 12 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 1150
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 12
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: Pretty straightforward route and scrambling. Options to make things harder or easier – much like Dungarvan but slightly easier and shorter.
Technical Rating: SC6; RE3
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After a pleasant night in the Crooked Creek Campground just outside Waterton Lakes National Park, Wietse and I were up early to pack up our tents and head back down the Red Rock Parkway. Today would look a bit different than the previous one on Mount Dungarvan. Today we were planning an ascent of Mount Glendowan and were meeting Grant Meyers at the Red Rock Canyon parking area. The weather was also considerably changed from the day before. We had low clouds and cool air to start our day but SpotWX promised us plenty of “sun” after 09:00. I write “sun” because thick smoke from wildfires south of the border was obviously ignoring the border closure on this particular day. Grant joined us in the parking lot and by 07:30 we were hiking briskly up the Snowshoe Trail along Bauerman Creek.
The first 2km of our day went by quickly. The morning air was cool and despite the smoke and clouds we felt good as we powered along the flat approach trail. The smell of fall was in the air and bright colors were bursting out of the burned forest all around us. Soon we were at the drainage leading to the SE / S ridge of Glendowan. We crossed the drainage on the trail before starting up climber’s left of it, just out of the creekbed in burned forest.
Wietse and Grant got far ahead of me as I took a short break along the way and enjoyed some time photographing the stunning colors and contrasts in the burned forest. In September of 2017 the Kenow wildfire came howling through here and devastated the landscape. 38% of Waterton Lakes National Park was burned and only in 2020 did many of the trails in the park start to reopen. As (selfish) humans we always use words like “destroyed” or “devastated” when referring to naturally occurring phenomena such as floods or fires but in reality these are simply a part of our planet’s natural rhythms. We’re the idiots who build houses and campgrounds along rivers that we dam up and within forests that we suppress fires within until they literally overrun us. Then we moan and complain about it… There are species that rely on these so-called ‘disasters’ for their very existence and ongoing survival. I personally love hiking through burnt mountain landscapes, especially in the fall when the foliage is bursting with color and contrasts with the blackened trees.
I didn’t mind being far behind the other guys, I enjoyed wandering up through the landscape alone with my thoughts for a while. 2020 has been a strange year for a lot of reasons. There’s a lot for one to ponder. Eventually the slope steepened as we started ascending to treeline along the south ridge and I caught up. From treeline the terrain and the route was very similar to the day before on Dungarvan’s south ridge. Each of us took our own route on the ridge, either directly up most difficulties on the nose or traversing left around them. The summit was visible almost the entire way but as on Dungarvan the amount of work ahead was foreshortened. I remembered that treeline was only around 1/3 of the total gains and didn’t worry about it too much. The day was gorgeous even though smoke was starting to clog the pristine mountain air. It was much cooler and windier than the day before but this was welcome to be honest. The wind was still very calm by Waterton standards!
As we worked our way higher and higher we finally spotted the obvious traverse gully climber’s left of the ridge crest. This gully is used to by-pass difficulties on the ridge. It looks harder than it was and we had no problems scrambling up it on easy to moderate terrain. It was pretty loose so being in there with the three of us was the only concern. We topped out from the gully and looked to the summit block ahead. It looked fun!
From the top of the gully there was a bit more ridge with another left traverse and steep ascent up moderate terrain where we found ourselves on a very neat traverse to the summit block. Once again we traversed around the left side of this before finding the crux – a moderately steep step to a scree slope. We angled up the scree slope and were on top of our 2nd peak in 2 days.
The summit was glorious with great views to colorful peaks including the high point on Newman (ironically not the labelled summit), Avion Ridge, Loaf Mountain and Roche Mountain. Unfortunately the smoke obscured many other summits. After around 20 minutes or so we got chilled in the wind and decided to start picking our way back down the mountain. Our ascent time of just over 3 hours had us pretty confident that Grant would spend more time driving today than scrambling!
Once we descended the summit block we enjoyed the short traverse to the steep access gully. We could clearly see a trail running skier’s right of the ridge below on scree and decided to follow that down. This descent line worked amazing! Because of the scree run off to skier’s right of the ridge Glendowan is the best of both worlds when it comes to scrambling. There are fairly solid scrambling options on ascent and fairly loose descent options for the way down. I LOVE mountains like this!
The trick on descent of Glendowan is to traverse back to the ridge proper just before treeline rather than end up in the valley / creek to the west. I simply side-hilled for a bit while descending loose scree and ended up perfectly intersecting our ascent line just above treeline where I sat in the sun and waited for Grant and Wietse to catch up. From here we wandered down through burned forest, taking in the striking landscape down to the Snowshoe Trail below.
In case you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed Mount Glendowan – even with the smoky conditions we had. It really is one of the best Waterton scrambles that I’ve done and I’ve done most of them. The fact that the winds were fairly light helped, but the scrambling on ascent combined with the easy scree on descent was icing on the cake. Between Glendowan and Dungarvan I can’t decide which I prefer. Dungarvan has the colorful Lost Horse Creek canyon on approach and slightly harder terrain. Glendowan has stunning burnt forest landscapes and fun terrain as well. Both are short – almost half day scrambles. You’ll have to try them both and let me know which you prefer, and why.