Mount Rowe (via Northeast Ridge)

August 7, 2021. A relatively quick scramble to a summit overlooking the beautiful Rowe Lakes.

  • Region: Waterton Lakes National Park. Traditional territory of the Ktnuaxa, Tsuu T’ina and Blackfoot First Nations
  • Distance: 16 km round-trip
  • Total Ascent: 918 m
  • Elevation of Objective: 2466 m
  • Total Time: 5h 6m

As the smoky summer of 2021 enters August I’m a little sceptical that we’ll see clear skies again before the fall. That’s something of a disincentive for a number of scrambles which I’ve been meaning to do – I’m much less motivated to climb high if I don’t get much of a view from the top. However, Mount Rowe was an appealing objective despite the smoke. The approach via the Rowe Lakes trail goes through areas of lovely up-close scenery which would make the trip worthwhile even if the summit was surrounded by smoke. As it turned out, the air was reasonably clear on the day of my trip even though smoke and low clouds combined to limit my distant views.

Access is from the Akamina Parkway in Waterton. The Rowe trailhead and large parking area are clearly marked about 10 km up the road from the townsite. Click here for the Google map. I followed the official trails to the Upper Rowe Lakes. Along the way I was pleased to see only the lowest reaches of the trail passed through burned forest. The valley between Mount Rowe and Mount Lineham escaped the fires in 2017. Things looked more or less the same as when I was last on the trail – you can check out the pictures here. Once at the upper lakes I had a good view of the summit.

There are two ways to ascend to the summit. The easier way is to go counterclockwise around the lake and ascend the steep slope to the gentle ridge to the northwest of the summit. This involves just steep hiking and it’s best to descend the same way. The other option is the one I took – to head clockwise around the lake then head up steep slopes to reach the northeast ridge, following it up to the summit then descending by the easier route.

Finding my way up wasn’t hard. The only landmark to watch for on the ascent was the outlet stream at the northeast shore of the higher of the two Upper Rowe Lakes. I crossed over it then followed it until I could see a reasonably clear way to the steep slopes below the ridge. After a bit of zig-zagging I was on the ridge looking at a striking panorama encompassing all three of the Rowe Lakes. Following the ridge up from there wasn’t difficult. The scrambling was quite limited, but fun. There is a bit of exposure but even in a very stiff wind I didn’t feel unsafe. It took about 2h 45m to reach the summit and because of the wind I didn’t stay there long.

The weather was blustery and thick clouds combined with smoke to make the summit views to the west and south rather gloomy. Things were more clear north and east and I was pleased to see clear blue sky after a month of perpetual smoke. The views from the top include the environs of the Rowe Lakes as well as Cameron Lake and Akamina Pass (including Wall and Forum Lakes). Views into Glacier National Park are a little limited by Mount Rowe’s relatively low summit elevation, but I think they’d still be quite striking on a clear day.

I carried on clockwise and descended along the easy ascent route. Once off the summit ridge I passed through a little larch forest and descended to the lake. On the final part of the descent I made sure to angle my path towards the north shore of the lake (where the official trail arrives) to avoid some rock bands that aren’t visible from above.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full resolution images. You can also check out this recent video from the same route posted by All Stone Adventures over on YouTube.

Route overview looking north.
A sketch of the route as seen if looking south from the summit of Mount Lineham. This picture was from a clear day 4 years ago.
On the trail heading into the valley between Mount Rowe and Mount Lineham. The forest up here avoided the 2017 fire.
The trail has lots of lovely up-close scenery beyond Lower Rowe Lake as it makes its way to Rowe Meadow.
The wildflowers were putting on a great show.
Fireweed and clumps of berries.
Rowe Creek making its way down from the meadow.
Rowe Meadow. Through the day the smoke would dissipate.
The hiking trail ends here at the north shore of the uppermost of the two Upper Rowe Lakes. I set off to the left to find the outlet stream.
The stream seems to have dried up. There was no water flow through the outlet channel at the northeast edge of the upper lake. I crossed over and headed into the open area on the right.
Looking at the start of the scramble. No tricky maneuvers, just steep climbing up to the ridge.
A glance down at the lower of the two Upper Rowe Lakes.
Once I was a little higher I had a look across the upper lake towards my descent route. The well-worn descent path was easily visible and I noted the rock bands which would stand in the way of a direct descent to the nearest shore. I just made sure I was headed towards the north shore and had no problems intercepting the descent path.
Up on the ridge now. Looking back I was treated to this excellent view encompassing all 3 Rowe Lakes.
Approaching the first area of hands-on scrambling. Nothing too intense.
Beyond that step there was a good view down the southeast slopes at this drainage – it is the other commonly used scrambling route which starts on Akamina Parkway a short distance beyond the Rowe trailhead at the site of the winter gates.
The next scrambling step. This one is a little more involved and there’s some exposure.
Making my way up.
Luckily, the rock was fairly solid by Waterton standards. I still made sure to give my hand- and footholds a good test before committing to them.
Looking back down from the top of that section.
Last bit of scrambling ahead – the usual black rocks with green lichen which sit near the top of most peaks around here.
The last little walk to the summit marker.
Glancing left towards Cameron Lake and Akamina Lake. A break in the clouds resulted in some dramatic lighting.
The summit marker of Mount Rowe.
A helicopter flew by heading south just as I reached the summit.
Summit panorama looking north. Mount Lineham is across the valley to the right of centre. Lineham Ridge extends away from it to the left. The left-most peak is an unnamed high point which is actually a little higher than the summit of Mount Rowe.
Summit panorama looking south. The conditions made the view a little lack-lustre. Cameron Lake and Mount Custer beyond it are easy to make out. Diminutive Akamina Lake is just left of Cameron. Forum Lake and Wall Lake are visible as black patches to the right of centre sitting below cliff faces. Akamina Ridge is above them and the peaks of Glacier are beyond.
Departing the summit and proceeding clockwise. I didn’t end up tagging the high point up ahead since the wind and the smoke were dampening my enthusiasm. I departed the ridge on the gentle red slopes below the high point.
A nice look at the strata of the cliffs.
Just before I started my descent a bit of sunlight broke through to give some colour to the lakes.
On my way down. I bore to the right a bit and found an easy route through the larches.
The only burned area I found in the valley was in the larches. I don’t know if this was from a stray ember or a lightning strike.
Descending to the lake. By maintaining a line of descent towards the northern end of the lake I avoided these cliffs and joined with the well-worn descent path which I saw during my ascent.
Back on the shores of the upper lake. The cloud had started to break up and the air was getting clearer. I wonder if my summit views would have been more satisfying if I hadn’t gotten such an early start.

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