3 December 2016
With Trevor, Richard, Angie
All of us had done the classic Heart Mountain scramble before, but for some reason Richard and I had never actually hiked the entire loop that is described in Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Vol. 1. Trevor and Angie remembered the route as an enjoyable outing so we decided to pick the Heart loop for a nice, short group hike this Saturday.
Surprisingly, there was almost no snow on the trail – it was just like hiking up in summer! The trail is pretty obvious and just goes straight up the northern spine of the mountain to its summit. It’s fairly difficult to get lost here, but apparently some people do ;). There is a section where the trail shortly deviates to climber’s left into the trees to avoid a steep rocky part of the ridge; if you go right here, you end up in difficult scrambling terrain like Richard did on his previous trip!
The crux is a short step, perhaps 2-3 metres high, with good holds and even some red signs pointing the correct way. This is really the only reason why Heart Mountain is considered a moderate scramble, pretty much everything else is just a simple hike. Shortly after this cliffband there is another section where a brief moment of hands-on scrambling can be enjoyed, but it is all too short.
Near the summit we found a nice spot sheltered from the wind to have a quick lunch. The true summit and highest point of the mountain is actually called “Grant MacEwan Peak”. It is rather curious that this minor point along the ridge was separately named “Heart Mountain”.
The remainder of our trip was a pleasant ridge walk with several ups and downs to Grant MacEwan Peak, where we turned left (east) to follow the ridge down for the loop route. The entire ridge offers very nice views of neighboring Mount McGillivray, Barrier Lake down the east, and Grotto Mountain and Mount Fable across the Bow Valley.
The trail descends from the main ridge to the south along another spine, first on rather rubbly and loose terrain, then on an excellent path in the trees. Back in the valley, we turned left and hiked back to the parking lot along a trail next to the noisy highway.
I think Heart Mountain/Grant MacEwan Peak is a great outing for the shoulder season and the loop route is definitely recommended for the scenic ridge walk and to add variety. Doing the loop counterclockwise, as we did, is slightly easier as you don’t have to worry about downclimbing the cliffband then.
DISCLAIMER: Use at your own risk for general guidance only! Do not follow this GPX track blindly but use your own judgement in assessing terrain and choosing the safest route.