May 31, 2021. The easy way to the summit of Mount Crandell.
Region: Waterton Lakes National Park. Traditional territory of the Blackfoot, Ktunaxa, and Tsuu T’ina First Nations
Distance: 10.7 km round-trip
Total Ascent: 1030 m
Elevation of Objective: 2380 m
Time: 4h 41m
There are 3 published routes that I’m aware of to the top of Mount Crandell. All 3 involve ascending the eastern aspect of the mountain. Kane describes them in the 3rd edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. One is considered easy (the usual descent route), one medium (‘Tick Ridge’), and one hard (via Bear’s Hump). Thanks to the Lethbridge Hiking Club Facebook group, I became aware of a 4th route to the summit. This one involves ascending the west side of the mountain and begins near Crandell Lake. It seemed to be an easy route, from a scrambling point of view, and I was pleased to discover that the GPS track for this route was among those included with the Topo Maps Canada app. On the last day of May I went to check it out.
Access is from the Crandell Lake trailhead on the Akamina Parkway. About 5.5 km from where the parkway leaves the Waterton townsite there’s a clearly marked parking area right by the start of the Crandell Lake trail. I followed the trail for about 1 km to where it was joined from the southwest by the hiking trail which returns to the townsite. I turned right and followed that trail for about 50 m, to where a small cairn marked the departure point of a faint path heading into the trees. The path was reasonably obvious, though from time to time there seemed to be options in terms of which way it went. The burned state of the forest made it pretty easy to see where I was going, though.
The path first went up to a small outcrop of exposed orange rocks, then deviated to the right and ascended towards an obvious interface of two cliff bands higher up. Ascending through that weakness, it then proceeded to the right (south west) near the edge of grey rocks. A few cairns were present here and there to prompt me in the right direction as the route periodically ascended and traversed. Eventually the trail stopped traversing on the grey rocks and proceeded more or less directly uphill through the remains of the forest. The peaked shape of the top of the ridge was in sight by this point. This part was a slog, but didn’t last too long. Another rocky area and another traverse followed, then a less steep climb through more trees. After passing above the treed area, the way to the ridge top was obvious and I climbed up.
From the ridge top the way to the summit is clear though the summit itself is initially obscured. A pleasant 2 km ridge walk followed, which involved a little bit of altitude loss and regain. Views were excellent in all directions, encompassing most of the major peaks and valleys in the park at some point during the ridge walk. I reached the sensor station and wooden platform at the summit 2h 28m after setting out. After enjoying a nice long stay in fairly calm weather I returned the same way I came.
Scrambling purists will likely prefer Kane’s routes over this one, though there are several places along this route where one could engage in some hands-on scrambling. The main advantage of this route over the eastern approaches would be the views. The east approaches will not have the same views of the area around Mount Blakiston, or down the Akamina Valley. In addition, while the eastern approach puts the spectacular views of Waterton Lake and environs behind you as you climb, the western approach has it unfolding in front of you for some of the climb and all of the ridge walk.
Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full-sized images.