Friday, August 21, 2009


Height: 8,770
View-o-meter: 4/5
Scrambling Difficulty: Difficult
Total Trip Difficulty: Moderate
Best Feature: Nice summit pyramid
Worst Part: Deadfall before gaining the ridge

Glendowan and other nearby peaks as seen from Anderson

Glendowan is located just north of Red Rock canyon. It sits along the front range ridge that houses several other popular scrambles, like Dungarvan and Galwey. This is a quintessential scrambler's summit. There are no technical (5th class) routes to the summit, but neither are there any walk ups. All approaches require good scrambling skills.

A number of routes to the summit are possible:
1. The west ridge from Newman peak (short exposed, difficult sections with most of the route being 2nd class)
2. The south ridge from the Snowshoe cabin trail (lots of deadfall at the start and some good scrambling near the upper purcell)
3. The east ridge from Cloudy Ridge and the unamed 8500+ peak (expect to run the most difficult ridgeline in the park)
4. The north bowl from the south fork of Yarrow

From my perspective the most aesthetic and enjoyable way to the summit is via the south ridge of the unamed 8500+ peak which lies between Glendowan and Cloudy Ridge. This ridgeline starts on the west side of the Red Rock canyon. It avoids much of the nasty bushwhacking which characterizes Glendowan's proper south ridge. Instead of spending time on the Snowshoe cabin road, you spend extra time on the ridges. Peakbaggers and those who are out of shape may not relish the extra unamed peak that is (nearly) ascended, but if you are looking for some high quality scrambling and some fun, semi-technical ridge running, that just keeps on going, this is probably a good route to try. The suggested finish is down the west ridge over to Newman and out Goat Lake, but this is merely one among many options.

Glendowan via the South Ridge of the Unamed 8500+ Peak
Park at Red Rock canyon and take the paved trail that heads up the canyon. When you cross over to the west side of the bridge, hop over the fence and start bashing up the ridge. The deadfall through here isn't very nice, but it is a heck of a lot better than the stuff you'll find in many other places above the Snowshoe cabin trail (think South ridge of Glendowan or any of the other side valleys from here up to Lost Lake).

The deadfall just after hopping the Red Rock canyon fence. It gets worse further up the Pass Creek valley. You can also bypass all deadfall by hiking up the Snowshoe trail for about 1/2km to the first open hillside - HT Blair.

The open hill side provides a welcome relief. Expect maybe 15 min of bushwacking.

The open slopes looking back down to Red Rock

Follow the ridge line though the intermittent groves of trees. The trees tend to be thinner on the windward, left hand, side.

Looking at some spectacular scrambling terrain on the south ridge of the Unnamed 8500+ peak which sits between Glendowan and Cloudy Ridge

The first crux comes at a junction of Black Purcell Lava.

The first crux band. 4th class

As with most things in the Park, it looks much harder than it is. Getting to the shelf on the right hand side of the first limestone band is not too tough (hard 3rd class- maybe 4th class). This lets you duck around right on what looks like a game trail. 15 feet or so of 4th class terrain gets you on top of the Purcell Lava. If the route finding on this crux section stymies you, or the scrambling is at your limit, you may want to think about cutting the day short instead of getting hung up in the more exposed but technically easier ground that is found near the ridge crest.

While the ridge continues to look intimidating numerous easy ledges can be threaded to make for easy going with little if any backsliding. One band of rotten brown limestone looks challenging, but is easily threaded up a talus gully on the left. In general the left side of the ridge usually has the line of least resistance.

Ledge threading at it's best. How can something that looks so hard from afar prove so easy up close.

The next difficulty is the notorious Fossil Algae band. Luckily a moderate bit of 4th class climbing heads through what otherwise would be a technical show stopper. A small spruce tree marks the weakness left of the arete's headwall (in this picture the small tree is almost hidden in shadows). The hardest climbing lasts only up to the first ledge (20 feet), after which things ease up a bit while the exposure continues to grow. Luckily the rock is pretty good and holds are relatively plentiful (from a climber's perspective)

The 2nd crux through the fossil algae (4th class)

Some more easy scrambling gets you up towards the ridge line. At the ridge crest, you will probably want to cut right to gain one of the many false summits of the unamed 8500+ peak. While the true peak lines a ways back along the ridge, getting to one of the small summits is easy and gives you nice views down to Cloudy Ridge and Glendown. The Yarrow side of the ridge looks like it has a nice shale traverse that leads to the actual peak. You can continue over to Cloudy Ridge and Dungarvan this way, but expect things to be exposed and technical.

After gaining the ridge crest you will need to drop west down towards Glendowan. This presents no problems. Several good goat trails exist over here, and chances are pretty good you will see some of the herd.

The west ridge of the Unamed 8500+ peak which leads towards Glendowan. This is what you descend on your way over to Glendowan

The ascent back up Glendowan's east ridge has some fun scrambling. The going is easiest on the intermittent goat trails on the right (Yarrow) side of the ridge.

The east ridge of Glendowan as seen from the Unnamed 8500+ ridge.

Scrambling back up towards Glendowan is mainly 3rd class. A few short sections of knife edge ridge are 4th class. They are reminiscent of Crandell's knife edged south ridge - albeit much shorter. This section can be largely avoided by staying low on the right via the goat trails.

The rock is entirely purcell lava and while broken and lichen covered tends to be fairly stationary. This is as close to a "granite" experience as you'll have in the park.

Fun times on good rock. 3rd & 4th class

The Purcell lava helps to give the peak an ominous flare. It guards the flanks to the brown shale summit pyramid rather nicely. You are never really sure if there is another way down besides the one you just ascended. As you traverse around to the left (west) of the pyramid several possible weaknesses open up. Routes range from 3rd to 4th class. Chances are pretty good that near the top you will need to traverse left to gain the actual summit. Different, more direct descent routes from the summit are possible.

The routes up this shale face start off as stiff 3rd class. Around the corner to the left, other more sustained 3rd and 4th class routes are possible. A nice chimney/gully can be followed directly down from the summit although you may need to cut east (climber's right) to avoid some of the more vertical sections

Descend either via the south ridge (watch out for lots of deadfall at the end), over to Newman or via the ascent route. If your route finding skills and scrambling confidence aren't quite good, picking your way down through the purcell and fossil algae along an unknown route like the south ridge (or if that is ascended the south ridge of unnamed) may not be the wisest idea. I would suspect heading down the south ridge of Glendowan blind is easier than heading down the south ridge of Unamed 8500+ blind. Scrambling down the face of the upper purcell to gain Glendowan's south ridge may be a bit long and exposed, but a blind descent of the fossil algae band on the south ridge of the unnamed 8500+ is probably more dangerous and intimidating.

Other Route Descriptions

Nugara's scrambling page - A very good description of an ascent of the south ridge of Glendowan.

Bob Spirko's scrambling page -An early season ascent via the south ridge and descent via the drainage ?north? of the south ridge

Club tread trip report

Trevor Helwig's blog - Mainly pictures of the south ridge with a short description of the traverse over to Newman.




At 8/30/2009 06:30:00 PM , Blogger Blair Piggot said...

A better way to access the ridge is to head up the Snowshoe trail for maybe 1/2 km to the first open slope on your right and head up. This way there is no bushwacking at all.

At 8/30/2009 06:38:00 PM , Blogger sigob said...

Looking from up on the ridge that seemed like the way to go. Glad you avoided the bush.

Which peaks did you head up over to Glendowan and Newman or over to Cloudy ridge on that hard section of ridge?


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