Zenfolio | Matthew Clay | Mount Crandell, July 9, 2016
Visitors 58
39 photos

Distance: 14 km
Elevation gain: 1110 m
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Mount Crandell is the large mountain looming north of the Waterton Townsite; the common "Bear's Hump" hike ascends to a bump on its southern slope just one-quarter of the way up. Two routes to its summit are covered in Alan Kane's scrambling guide, but both are rated as difficult moderates to difficult scrambles, neither of which appealed to Sandra and I. Standing atop Ruby Ridge last fall, however, I thought I could see a much easier route via its western slope. Matt Hobbs confirmed that there was indeed a route up that side and after a bit of research online I was able to find one vague description of the route, but it was enough information that I figured I'd give it a go.

This route can start from either the Akamina Parkway or the Red Rock Parkway (Crandell Mountain campground), but since the Akamina Parkway was closed and we were camped just meters from the Red Rock trailhead our choice of starting point was easy. From this point we ascended along a very popular trail heading to Crandell Lake, which we reached in 25 minutes. The trail forked here with the lefthand branch heading to the lake, but we went right towards the Akamina Parkway and reached a second fork in the trail 15 minutes later, 2.8 km from the trailhead. We went left towards the townsite at this junction and within 15 seconds reached a much fainter trail marked with pink flagging that headed up the mountain. We followed this trail, or bits of it, all the way to the summit ridge.

The trail was obvious for much of the way, but faded and branched in many spots and became very indistinct a few hundred meters below the summit ridge. Some routefinding was necessary, but we didn't have any difficulty and the entire affair was nothing more than a steep hike on rock, dirt, and scree with a bit of bushwhacking. The only spot that threatened to be more than a hike was about 10 minutes from the official trail when the trail terminated at a cliff band. I could see that it could have (and had) been scrambled with difficulty, but after a few minutes of probing I found a good trail heading around it to the right.

After 2 hours of hiking at a moderately fast pace we reached the western end of the horseshoe-shaped summit ridge. The true summit was 2.2 km away, but the route to it involved nothing more than 50 m of elevation loss and 200 m of gain, all along the very broad ridge. I'd been looking forward to this easy walk, but the sun and light breeze at 7:30 had deteriorated to a cold wind, full cloud, and distant showers by 9:30 and we rushed to the summit to beat the rain instead of enjoying the walk. We lingered only long enough to snap some photos, then retraced our steps back down.

While this may not be an exciting route for scramblers, it is certainly a very nice route for those that prefer something closer to hiking than the more popular Kane routes. There's just enough routefinding, scree, and bushwhacking to make it more exciting than a trail hike, but sufficient trail to make it easy enough for your average hiker. Additionally, the west-facing ascent slope is shaded in the morning, and should it get too hot on the way down Crandell Lake looks like it would make for a great swim - it even has a pebbly beach!

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Crandell Mountain, Mount Crandell, Waterton National Park, hiking, scrambling