Festubert Mountain isn’t a tough scramble, but it’s located in a fairly remote part of Waterton, so a trip to climb it makes for a long day out. We decided to approach it via a long ridge walk from Mount Rowe.
Access is the via the Rowe Lakes trailhead on the Akamina Parkway. We followed the excellent trail past Lower Rowe Lake, to Rowe Meadow, then up to Upper Rowe Lakes. Last time I climbed Mount Rowe I ascended the northeast ridge. This time we took the less scrambley route up the steep hillside to the right of the lakes and followed it to the ridge northwest of the summit. Our direct access to the ridge was blocked by a steep snow patch that had to be circumvented. Once up on the ridge we headed southeast and tagged the summit of Mount Rowe. After enjoying great views of the Cameron Lake area we set out on our long ridge walk to Festubert Mountain.
The route was obvious, proceeding northwest towards two nearby high points then onward to distant Festubert Mountain. These two high points are actually a little higher than the summit of Mount Rowe. We tagged the first one, which boasts a fairly large cairn. We then carried on towards the 2nd high point. On our outward journey we bypassed it to the south, but we tagged it on the way back. Beyond the 2nd high point we could see Festubert Mountain, still a long way off. We carried on along the ridge, walking at the top of a vast rock wall that forms part of the western edge of Waterton Lakes National Park. The terrain along the ridge was quite uneven and covered with large rocks. Luckily, we found a pretty good animal trail which allowed for easier travel. It mostly stayed immediately adjacent to the drop-off next to the ridge. Conditions were dry and there was no snow on this part of the route, so there were no safety concerns. In less ideal circumstances I think I’d want to stay further away from the drop-off.
Once we were nearly to Festubert there was a 3rd high point to climb and descend. Then we could finally tackle our objective. We followed the ridge up to the summit. There was no tricky route-finding and the limited scrambling was of moderate difficulty without any big exposure. We reached the summit 6 hours 45 minutes after setting out. While we rested at the summit we were joined by a backcountry camper and her lovely dog Shadow.
For our return trip we had the option of dropping down into the valley south of the summit and following the trail at the valley bottom back to Akamina Parkway, or simply retracing our steps. I had read Nugara’s blog post for this trip before setting out. He took the route south into the valley for his return trip and the words “nasty bush whacking” and “mind-numbing 12 km hike” stood out in my memory. We decided to go back the way we came, having to re-climb the high points but staying where we could enjoy the views.
Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access higher-resolution images.