On Tuesday morning, I headed to Canmore to enjoy my second scramble of the Victoria Day weekend, Grotto Mountain. I discovered a few things and was reminded again of others. First, Grotto Mountain was an excellent early season scramble and was arduous in places, particularly while going up through the hundreds of switchbacks below the treeline. But, in reprise, Grotto was awesome once you get beyond the treeline. There, you hike to the ridge and enjoy spectacular views and experience that exposure to the elements. In addition, walking along a ridge line with a 1000m drop on one side and a 1000m gradual slope on the other is quite exhilarating. Of course, scrambling a mountain top while seeing sights from 90 km away (Calgary) has its fun as well. Because of all of these reasons, the post-treeline part of Grotto was certainly the best part of the hike.
A second reminder to me, weather in the Rockies is very changeable. We learned this on our Rundle scramble, when the weather was sunny and warm in Canmore but blustery snow on the mountain. On this trip, when I first set out on the climb, it was getting quite warm in the lower forest. Then as I reached the top, thunderclouds were all around Canmore — with one particularly ominous set of clouds that were looming about four mountains north of Grotto. I kept a close eye on this system. It would later head to Calgary, thankfully. Then, during my descent, the weather turned really hot. With sun blazing down and the powdery dust covering the trail, it made for a hot and sticky trip to the car. I’ve realized though, after a fair bit of hiking experience in the maritimes, there’s a few more things to watch out for in the west, specifically in the Rockies. Between making noise and watching out for bears or keeping an eye on the sky when I’m high on a mountain top…it’s kinda funny how a person could just trudge along at home, but now must give things a little bit more consideration.
The total trip took me about 5 hours 20 mins. It was a three hour climb, about 45 minutes wandering around the summit area, and a blistering (literally) descent at 1 1/2 hours. On the way up, I was surprised by a group of mountain goats. Quite a sight to see the young ones with what appeared to be the mother. I took quite a few photos on the summit, making for a fairly large panorama of the sights. You can see it here. In the picture, the major township is Canmore and most prominent mountains are The Three Sisters, Grassi, Ha ling Peak and Rundle Mountain. There are also a few unnamed peaks that are north of the summit snow as well as those thunderclouds I was talking about. To the east, you’ll also see the Lafarge cement plant near Dead Man’s flats. Unfortunately, the quarry development will probably to envelope the lower slopes of Grotto Mountain in about 10 years. If the current deterioration continues, you’ll probably have to climb a steel ladder for about 100m to reach mountain trail. It’s too bad that this area isn’t more protected.
Another thing that I found was an instrumentation station just east of the summit. I took a few photos of the tower and the power equipment up there. I’m guessing its weather related, but I could be wrong. I also found a few fossil rocks as well. All of these little things made the scramble just that much more interesting.