Exploring the beauty of the mountains through easy hikes and scrambles

Heart Mountain

 

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.

 

DOWNLOAD ROUTE (GPX FILE)

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.

 

Heart Mountain in the early morning. It was cloudy and a bit chilly when we set out, but as so often happens it turned into a beautiful sunny day later on!

The start of the trail up the mountain. Most of it is really just a steep hike.

Surprisingly, we were the first party on the mountain on this day!

Views of the Bow Valley with Lac des Arcs and Grotto Mountain open up.

Richard tackling the cliffband – the crux of this trip.

Angie is smarter and takes a slightly easier route just to the left (when going up). Both options involve some moderate scramble moves.

Mount Fable to the north.

The “tooth” is Ha Ling Peak by Canmore.

Trevor at the start of the second scramble section.

Looking back down.

Group shot (minus one) at the summit, finally in the sun!

On the way to Grant MacEwan Peak, looking back at the summit of Heart.

Grant MacEwan Peak (just right of centre) is quite a bit higher in elevation than Heart Mountain.

Mount Yamnuska to the north looks like a chunk of mountain that’s been chopped off…

To the west is Mount McGillivray.

Heading down east from Grant MacEwan Peak. It’s a beautiful ridge walk!

The snow makes for slippery conditions in places, but most of the route is snow-free.

Trevor enjoying the views atop a small promontory.

Looking back along the ridge to the summit of Grant MacEwan.

Another look at the distinctive Mount Fable, another great scramble.

Grotto Mountain looks massive from here.

The perfect way to spend a Saturday in the outdoors!