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Ascent to Mount Glendowan-S Ridge on 2016-08-15

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, August 15, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Mount Glendowan - S Ridge
    Location:Canada-Alberta
    Elevation:6200 ft / 1889 m
    Remaining Elevation:2566 ft / 782 m (67% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

My plan for today was to climb Mount Blakiston, the high point of Waterton Lakes National Park. However, I got a late start because of a morning stop at an auto-repair place, and when I got to the visitor center at 10 AM, I was told that the Lineman Creek Road to the Blakiston trailhead was closed for construction, and shuttle buses were the only access, with the next one leaving at 1 PM. That was way too late to be starting a climb like that.

So the helpful staff suggested instead some peaks up north, starting from the Red Rock Canyon trailhead. One of them, Glendowan, had 2000' of prominence, so I figured I would give that a shot--the ranger dude told me he had been there last week and it was a relatively easy scramble, pointing out his route on a map.

So I made my way to the busy Red Rock Creek parking lot (paved access all the way) and started hiking up the Snowshoe Trail at about 11:15 AM. This is obviously a terribly late start, but my only other option was to not hike today at all, and I was here in the Canadian Rockies and figured I should at least try something.

I hiked up the broad, easy, crowded, bicycles-allowed trail for 1.4 miles where it crossed a dry rocky streambed. This was my landmark, so I headed upstream in the meadows and forest on the west bank. This quickly turned into nasty bushwhacking in the mid-day heat, so I went back to the wide streambed and hiked uphill there, the lack of vegetation very nice. It was not long before an actual stream appeared, though--it must have been underground below this point. Still, the going was OK on rocks and logs, crossing and re-crossing the stream.

I made another foray into the forest when the streambed got narrower, steeper, and full of downed trees, but I bailed quickly given the deadfall and vegetation away from the water. So I continued in the brook-bed as it turned into a bit of a canyon, and eventually I saw a steep grassy ramp providing an exit. So I scrambled up this steep bank, which led to more steep scrambling on slippery grass and eventually some serious class 3 climbing up a crumbling rock face. I was happy to finally emerge in a meadowed area I had seen from below, and I chugged uphill a bit to a minor knob and took a rest, very sweaty and winded in the hot weather.

I was now on the south ridge of Glendowan, and the terrain was a mix of meadow and bands of forest. Occasional cairns and game trails went through the forest, but nothing resembling a climber's trail of any kind. I could see the summit block ahead and it did seem like most of the difficulties of the forest were behind me.

However, I was having an internal debate about the wisdom of continuing this entire time. I had never heard of this peak until a few hours ago, so I was not super-inspired by it. The weather was quite cloudy and dark clouds were building, I had gotten a late start, and I had lots of driving to do this afternoon. If there had been a good trail to follow that might have helped me, but every band of forest presented endless deadfall and difficult vegetation. I knew that once I reached the alpine zone that a long stretch of class 3 scrambling awaited me, and I would be lucky to summit before 3:30 PM, given that I still has 2500 feet to climb.

So, at 1:20 PM, in the middle of one more discouraging forest section, I finally decided to bail. I felt bad, since I knew that I had passed the worst part of the trip, but I just was not feeling it this day.

So I retraced my route to the rocky knob, and instead of my steep scramble uphill route, I stayed on the ridge on my way down, trying to maximize my time in meadows. But they eventually gave out and I was bushwhacking down in deep forest, with lots of annoying deadfall. The best going seemed to be on the right (west) side of the ridgecrest but I knew I eventually wanted to be back in the creek-bed so I tried to stay as far left as the brush allowed. I would call this standard-issue miserable bushwhacking.

I eventually made my way left towards the creek and found a short grassy drop-off that brought me back to the watercourse, oddly enough at the same point where I had made an abortive foray into the woods earlier. Then it was easy rock-hopping over the water and then the dry creek-bed to the teeming hordes on the popular Snowshoe trail.

I was back at the car by 2:45 PM, and the parking lot at Red Rock Canyon was so mobbed people asked me when they could have my parking space.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1279 ft / 389 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1279 ft / 389 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.5 mi / 8.9 km
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1279 ft / 389 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.7 km
    Route:S Ridge
    Start Trailhead:Red Rock Canyon TH  4921 ft / 1499 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1279 ft / 389 m
    Distance:2.6 mi / 4.1 km
    Route:S Ridge
    End Trailhead:Red Rock Canyon TH  4921 ft / 1499 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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