Mount Hamell

Zosia Zgolak and I hiked up Mount Hamell near Grande Cache, Alberta on 2 July 2021.  The summit can be accessed by a number of different routes of varying difficulty as detailed in the local hiking brochure, and we opted for the easiest route via a 4WD road which winds up the west side of the mountain.  Zosia and I intended to ski up this road last December, but we had to abort our attempt after my car got stuck on the drive to the trailhead.  This time, we had no issues with the drive, but of course, we had to settle for walking instead of skiing.

From the intersection with Hoppe Avenue in Grande Cache, drive west on Highway 40 for 8.8 kilometres and turn left onto Beaverdam Road (2WD gravel).  Drive 7.0 kilometres to an unsigned double trailhead.  There is ample space for parking on the east side of the road.  The route to Mount Hamell starts along a 4WD road branching off the east side of Beaverdam Road.

From the trailhead, Zosia and I followed the 4WD road eastward across an old cut block.  A huge rain storm the previous night left a lot of moisture in the area.  We were thankful that the road was wide enough for us to avoid the wet vegetation, but there were numerous mud holes to dodge for the first several kilometres.  After crossing the cut block, we followed the road southward as it contours along the west side of a forested ridge to reach a junction about 4.6 kilometres from the trailhead.  Turning left (north), we began climbing more steadily up the road as it zigzags up the same forested ridge.  Somewhere along here, Zosia had a near-encounter with what we think was a bear.  We never saw it, but Zosia heard huffing and puffing and something big crashing through the forest.  Fortunately, we made lots of noise and probably scared it off.  About 3.4 kilometres from the junction, we finally broke out of the trees, and the remaining climb up the road was steep but uncomplicated.

The top of Mount Hamell is adorned with a fire lookout, and although it was manned on this day, the lookout keeper was too busy to come out and chat with Zosia and me.  Respecting the lookout keeper's privacy, we stayed away from the buildings on the summit, but because of a rather chilly wind, we had to drop down a bit on the lee side of the mountain to find a sheltered spot for lunch.  While we were eating, a couple riding an ATV came up behind us but only stopped briefly at the top before driving down another road on the east side of the mountain.

After lunch, Zosia and I hiked back the way we came.  While descending the forested ridge, we ran into another hiker on his way up, but fortunately, we saw no sign of our bear.  The rest of our hike back to the trailhead was uneventful.
Perhaps this mud hole is permanent?

A convenient boardwalk helps Zosia get across this huge mud hole.

Crater Lake? This mud hole looks like a crater.  Mount Hamell is visible in the distance.
This is starting to get annoying...

Rain and hail storms from the previous night probably helped create the numerous mud holes along the 4WD road.

There may be a bear lurking somewhere around here... At a switchback, Zosia gets a glimpse of the lookout building atop Mount Hamell.
The wind feels nice and cool here... Zosia finally breaks out of the forest for good with the top of Mount Hamell in sight.

It's bizarre that the lowly and mostly forested Ambler Mountain is officially named while the higher Lightning Ridge is unofficially named.

Views open up to the southwest with Lightning Ridge (right) capturing the most attention.  The intervening forested ridge at far right is Ambler Mountain.


This would have been sweet to ski in winter! Upcoming is the last steep section before the top.
Easy street. From here, it is a leisurely walk to the lookout building.
Another "Bronze" summit in the bag! Sonny and Zosia stand beside the Passport to the Peaks mailbox near the summit of Mount Hamell (2130 metres).
This ridge might have been fun to ski too! The southeast ridge is a more challenging route to ascend.  Behind the ridge is Grande Mountain.

Let's go fly a kite!

Here is a closer look at the lookout building on Mount Hamell.  Note the horizontally-pointed wind sock.


Nice view for lunch, eh? A coal mine to the north of Mount Hamell is purportedly set to re-open after a lengthy closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The town of Grande Cache has a long history of boom and bust cycles tied to coal mining.
Truly the last frontier... Zosia pauses to survey the many unfamiliar peaks to the west, most of which are located in Willmore Wilderness Park.

We will head into town later to get some ice cream!

In this view to the southeast, part of the town of Grande Cache can be seen to the left of Smoky River.


Feels so good! Zosia splashes some refreshingly cold water on her face.  On this day, this shallow creek was the only reliable source of fresh water that could be easily accessed from the road.
A long and easy hike, but it would have been so much nicer to ski this! Total Distance:  19.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  7 hours 20 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  904 metres

GPX Data