Red Crow Mountain stands at 7891' and is located in the extreme southeastern portion of Glacier National Park. The easiest way to access Red Crow is via the Firebrand Pass Trail.[img:532768:alignleft:medium:Bowl below Firebrand Pass. False summit of Red Crow to the right and Calf Robe Mountain to the left.]
To access the Firebrand Pass Trail you must find the Lubec Trailhead. This is located on Hwy 2 at mile marker 203 approximately 10 miles west of East Glacier. This trailhead is easy to miss so slowing down as you approach the mile marker is advised and the trailhead is located on the right side of the road if you're approaching from East Glacier. There is parking for several vehicles.
Firebrand Pass Trail Description
Begin your hike at the Lubec Trailhead and hike for 1.4 miles through meadows, stands of aspen and pine until the intersection with the Autumn Creek Trail. You also have amazing views of Calf Robe, Summit and Little Dog Mountains as you start out from the trailhead until you get into tree cover. Take the right turn at that junction and follow the Autumn Creek Trail for 1 mile to the intersection with the Firebrand Pass Trail. During that mile the trail starts to open up again with views of Calf Robe. Take the left at that junction and in 2.4 miles you will be at Firebrand Pass.[img:532786:alignleft:small:Where's the trail?]
I believe two things should be noted about the Firebrand Pass Trail at this time. On July 11, 2009 chest and shoulder-high vegetation crowds the trail in many different sections for long stretches at a time. Some of these plants are downright unpleasant (stickers) and this also makes for prime grizz habitat!! Make lots of noise all the time! [img:532765:alignleft:small:One of multiple snowfields.][img:532766:alignright:small:Negotiating snowfield.]
Also present on the trail as it ascends gently upward wrapping around the eastern and northern flanks of Calf Robe Mountain are multiple snowfields. These snowfields held no serious danger but should be noted so there are no surprises for anyone hiking this trail and as of this writing may be entirely gone. None of them were too steep but did require some care in crossing so as to remain on your feet the entire time (which I did not).
[img:532788:aligncenter:medium:Red Crow Ascent Route.] There are at least two different ways to climb Red Crow from this approach. The first would be to hike all the way to Firebrand Pass and climb the false summit and on from there. The other way....and the way we chose to climb is to attack the south slope of the mountain directly. The outline in red above is the approximate route we took. We chose to do this to avoid the elevation loss after climbing the false summit.
Leave the trail and cross the bowl east of Firebrand Pass. Your first obstacle is a small but steep, sparsely-vegetated ridge. After topping-out on the ridge proceed onward toward the mountain. There is a slight elevation loss as you walk down the other side of the ridge to cross a small creek. As it turns out this creek forms part of the headwaters of Railroad Creek. The creek is not very wide and thus very easy to cross.
[img:532769:alignleft:small:Approaching cliffs..angle right.] [img:532770:alignright:small:Closer view of cliff approach.]
At this point the route steepens and you begin to encounter a mixture of scree and grass among the scrub pines as you head upward toward the first set of cliffs. Angling to the right through the pines made for easier going as it was not as steep as it was to climber's left and the cliffs looked easier to negotiate.
[img:532772:alignright:small:Cliff-climbing and traversing to left.][img:532773:alignleft:small:View of creek crossing.]
Our goal was to climb through gaps in the first set of cliffs and to then begin traversing left and up toward the large black rocks which we believed held the easiest route to the summit ridge. After traversing through scree and vegetation we lucked upon a game trail which made the rest of the traverse a piece of cake.
[img:532775:alignleft:small:The route up and to the right of the rocks.][img:532764:alignright:small:Looking down the route next to the black rocks...Cougar14
Standing and looking upward at the end of the traverse we thought that we might find a climber's trail to the summit. If there was, it was extremely faint so we decided to climb up and to the right of the black rocks. The going here was steep and the rock was pretty loose but you're able to use your hands on the rocks as needed to help pull yourself upward.
[img:532777:alignleft:small:Approaching the summit ridge.][img:532778:alignright:small:Summit Ridge]
After by-passing the large rocks more loose scree and low cliffs are encountered on your final push to the summit ridge. This area is not difficult to negotiate and shortly you are rewarded for your efforts by reaching the summit ridge. You can lazily stroll to the actual summit along the wide summit ridge where you are rewarded with outstanding views! See the Red Crow main page for those.
[img:532780:aligncenter:medium:Looking at route up from false summit.]
Obviously, you have choices for your return route also. Instead of going back the way we came, we wanted to confirm that we had made the correct decision in climbing directly up the south slope, so we downclimbed via the false summit. After downclimbing the false summit, we decided that we did, indeed, make the right decision by attacking the mountain directly.
[img:532782:alignleft:small:False summit downclimb.][img:532783:alignright:small:False summit downclimb.]
As you begin your descent via the false summit you are able to follow a faint game/climber's trail for a while. It wraps around the west side of the false summit and is lost in the cliffs there. We then climbed to the top of the false summit and begin our descent again. The first obstacle was a steep scree slope strewn with large rocks and a snowfield which we were able to negotiate our way around without any problems. This is the picture on the left. The picture on the right is the second obstacle. Approaching the rocks on the right side of the picture from above looked to be a daunting downclimb so we opted to head to the pines and scree on the left. VERY LOOSE! Again we lucked into a game trail which made the descent much faster and easier.
[img:532784:alignleft:small:Game trails down to Firebrand Pass Trail.][img:532785:alignright:small:The way home!]
Lastly, to avoid the snowfield covering the Firebrand Pass Trail at the top of the pass we came down the steep game trails in between the snowfields in the picture and easily picked up the Firebrand Pass Trail in the bowl.
Lubec Trailhead....Start of hike
Lubec to Autumn Creek Trail junction....1.4 miles
Autumn Creek Trail to Firebrand Pass Trail....1 mile
Firebrand Pass trail to Firebrand Pass....2.4 miles
Off-trail portion....(approximately .5 miles)
Total round-trip mileage....between 10 and 11
Total approximate elevation gain....2779'
See the Red Crow main page for links.