⚠️ Hiking and scrambling are inherently dangerous activities. Please read my Disclaimer. ⚠️
After summiting Racehorse Mountain two days prior, I returned to the same area for a solo hike up Window Mountain. Window is a popular destination in the Crowsnest Pass and is listed in Alan Kane’s, Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. The reason for its name is fairly obvious though I’m sure at some point, ‘Keyhole Mountain’ was also in the running for the official name. I probably should have gotten around to this mountain earlier in my travels, but now seemed to be as good a time as any, and even though some quirky things happened throughout the day – such as briefly losing one of my cameras and seeing a goat almost fall off of a ledge – I really enjoyed this trip.
Window Mountain is located off of the Allison Creek Road in the Crownest Pass. The old logging road that I used for my approach was about ~16km from Highway 3. There was nothing really unusual about my route except that it probably would have been quicker if I had followed Kane’s starting point further to the south. I ended up starting about 1 km south of the Window Mountain Lake turnoff but Kane’s route starts 2.5km to the south. No worries though, the road made for easy travel and I ended up taking the first major fork to the west thinking it would lead to the base. When it began to curl back to the north, I did a short stint of minor bushwhacking to reach my destination. On my way back, I took a more circuitous route by following the road at the base of the mountain along its entire course which took me further to the south before taking the north fork that rejoined my original route.
The route up Window Mountain is straightforward though I really would concur with Kane, that to reach the summit you should take the scree slope located near the back of the bowl. To reach the window itself, which holds a register, travel up the scree slope located immediately beneath it. Care is needed on this slope as the rocks are easily jarred loose and could hit anyone coming up behind you. This is a popular route and in some places, there are trails beaten into the scree so route finding is not a problem. I stuck close to the rock wall on the right hand side as this provided more solid footing compared to the loose scree in the middle.
Since I forgot to turn on my GPS (quirk #1) until I after I had backtracked to find my camera (quirk #2), my total distance was over 9km, however, what was recorded on my GPS was 8.7km. Total elevation gains were 762m and my entire trip was just a hair over 4 hours.
This is the start of the old logging road that I used as a trail. It is about 1km south of the Window Mountain Lake turnoff.
Soon after I started up the road, Window Mountain appeared in the distance. I suspect that it was shortly after I took this picture that I dropped my point and shoot camera. I generally hike with 2 cameras: a Canon point and shoot as well as an older Canon DSLR with a filtered lens. The DSLR usually stays in my pack until I need it and I use the point and shoot for shots on the fly. I realized I was missing my point and shoot after walking several hundred metres up the road and then had to backtrack and search for it.
The hind footprint of a black bear.
Wow! Some grizzly dropped his iPhone!
Seriously though, the black bear tracks didn’t bother me, but these grizzly tracks were fresh enough that I contemplated turning around until I heard voices coming up the road and a trio of women and a dog appeared. It turned out they were all from Lethbridge and were heading to Window Mountain as well. I guess having to backtrack to find my camera wasn’t such a bad thing after all. After chatting for a bit, I set off on my own again, but made sure that we stayed within earshot of each other until we reached the base of the mountain. Along the way I encountered several mounds of fresh scat and a recent ‘bear bed’ as I (and the ladies after me) did a short stint of bushwhacking to reach the ascent slope. Here is where I left the ladies and did not see them again until I had descended from the window and they were just starting their ascent. My walk back alone was very peaceful until an ATV almost ran me over but that’s a story for later on.
I should pause to mention that most bears could care less about people and want to stay out of sight. They just don’t like it when they are in a situation where they feel threatened such as being surprised, coming between a mom and her cubs, or getting too close to their food such as a recent kill. I have a healthy respect for bears but they are not lying in wait to ambush you as soon as you enter the backcountry. They really just want to live their bear lives and when they hear you coming, and that’s the real secret, they will generally move on and you will share the space in peace with them.
The view from further along the road: Window Mountain is on the left and Mount Ward is on the right.
The route goes up the scree slope in the middle. The green patch in the middle of the slope is where a small waterfall emerges from the ground and then quickly disappears.
The pretty little waterfall with Mount Ward as the backdrop.
Looking back on my approach from the initial ascent slope. On my way back I would use the road on the right that leads to the scree.
A view of the window from near the top of the slope.
An inukshuk marks the entrance to the bowl between Window Mountain and Mount Ward.
Looking up the scree slope that leads to the window. The loose scree is not fun to ascend and by staying close to the rock wall on the right, I was able to make much better progress.
The last person to come up here left the window open!
A view of Crowsnest Mountain and the Seven Sisters from inside the window.
Mount Ward from the window.
Looking up at the archway that I would soon be on top of.
After signing the register and enjoying a leisurely lunch inside the window, I set off to try and reach the actual summit.
A lone hiker walks the ridge on Mount Ward.
Above the window the true summit appears. According to Kane’s Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the best way to reach the summit is via another scree slope that is located further up the bowl. He does not recommend this route, though I have read some trip reports that have used this route.
And here is why Kane does not recommend it – loose rock coupled with severe exposure on either side of the very narrow ridge.
This is the view down the south side from the ridge above the window.
I made it to the pointy rock near the top of the picture before I decided that discretion is the better part of valour.
Mount Ward from the ridge above the window. “Mount Racehorse” is in the centre.
Crowsnest Mountain, Mount Coulthard (distant centre) and an unnamed peak poking up on the right. I’ve been eying this peak and its twin to the south for a while and have put at least the south peak on my ‘To Do’ list. I think a fitting name might be ‘Deadman Peak’ since it sits on the other side of Deadman Pass from Mount Tecumseh. Edit: I’ve now completed ‘Deadman Peak’. Also, if you look closely at the ridge in the foreground, just below the highpoint on the right, you will notice a small ‘window’ that looks back on Window’s window.
After heading back to the window it was time to descend. I still hadn’t heard from the ladies and was worried that they might be coming up while I was coming down. The amount of loose rock could make this a dangerous situation.
Fortunately, my protectors from the bear had enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the bowl and were just beginning their ascent as I finished my descent. After saying goodbye, I wandered up the bowl to find Kane’s alternate ascent slope to the summit. Just as I was nearing its base, I heard a crash from somewhere above and several large rocks came careening down into the bowl. I looked up in time to see a goat struggling to regain its footing while dislodging more rocks. After several precarious seconds, the goat righted itself and was on its way. It’s not often that you get to see the clumsy side of nature (quirk #3). Since this was such a quick trip, I can see myself returning to bag the actual summit using Kane’s route.
After the goat tried to kill me with rocks, I began to walk back and came across a large boulder that contained the coolest fossils that I have ever found. I wish I had placed something next to them for scale, because these were two giant fossilized worms.
This fossil was about 6″ long.
After making it safely down the mountain, I decided to avoid any bushwhacking by following the road for its entire course even though it was a longer trip. Shortly after I started, I came to a narrow bend in the road where a group of ATVs coming in the opposite direction, sped past me at close proximity without even trying to slow down. Thanks! Just as I stepped back onto the road, another side by side whipped around the corner and I actually had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit (quirk #4). I actually paused to laugh at the irony of this. I mean, I didn’t encounter the large grizzly who was in the area, I didn’t fall off the 500m cliffs while trying to scramble over the window, and the rock throwing goat missed me twice, but to get run over by an ATV on my way back, now that would be a conversation!
Once the ATVs had left the area, I enjoyed an uneventful and peaceful walk back.
After just over 4 hours I arrived back at my vehicle. Though some quirky things happened throughout the day, Window Mountain was a fun solo hike.