Ridgewalking Heart Mountain

Dsc01354In mid-morning, I headed out to Heart Mountain near Lac des Arcs (which is about 10 minutes
from Canmore along the Transcanada from Calgary).  We’ve visited the area many times before and scrambled the initial part of Heart Mountain about a couple of times.  However, with little time for planning today, I wanted to pick a trip I could do fairly easily.  I also wanted to get my ‘scrambling legs’ back and put some miles on my boots before the Newfoundland trip.  A significant amount of snow had fallen over the past week in the mountains and the Bow Valley area is usually in great shape for early season mountain outings.  So as a result, I chose to do the Heart Mountain Loop.   On our last trip to the area, the possibility of hiking the ridges surrounding the mountain really caught my eye.  I had heard of a few people doing it as well, but couldn’t remember its formal reference in any book (until I got home of course).  I love ridgewalks, so this would definitely be an adventure.

Dsc01367Anyway, as I got to the area, the amount of snow on the mountain surprised me a bit.  Usually the area is pretty well snow free, especially on the sun facing slopes.  However, as I ascended the main scramble, I encountered foot deep snow in many places.  Thankfully there wasn’t much ice to be found.  I continued up and reached the false summit within about an hour and 25 minutes.  Near the top, I spotted some mountain sheep.   As I continued toward the true summit, I pretty much followed the western sides of the ridges as a result of two things, less snow and sheep tracks.  Those guys can really pick a trail (when they aren’t going off a mountain of course).  Every time I swayed off their snow trail, I encountered deep snow — sometimes waist deep in places.  So naturally, I keep along their route.   I continuedDsc01358
along the ridge to the summit and noted the ridge and towers climbed by another scrambler just a month before.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the snow depth from her pictures to mine.  I continued trudging on past the summit towards the adjoining peaks and ridge.  I realized the snow was making things fairly easy on the descents as I post-holed my way down each decline.  I was getting tired, but stopped for a quick lunch at the third peak and took quite a few shots of the eastern slopes of the main mountain.   I encountered another bunch of sheep
and was lucky to get a picture.

Dsc01381As the snow deepened on the descent on the eastern ridge, I was glad that it was less of an incline
than the main mountain.  It probably would have been tricky had more ice been present underneath the snow.  The only hitch in the hike was the final 2 kilometres on the last part of the ridge.  I continued too far to the west in the trees and encountered a few steep slopes while heading down.  Eventually,  I got a bit tired of traversing the slope and bushwacked my way down, avoiding a few drop offs only to find a nice trail following a brook.  Eventually the brook and trail lead me to the powerlines and the road. I finished the last bit hiking the road shoulder as the ice on the ponds below did not look too inviting.  As I looked back on my last ridge descent, I realized if I kept heading east as far as possible on the ridge, the way would be much easier.  Nevertheless, it was a good 5 hour, 8-9k hike and certainly well enjoyed for the time of year.

Overall, the trip would take me to the false summit of Heart Mountain (which we had reached before), then off along the ridge to the true summit (and its spectacular views of Barrier Lake, Mount Baldy and others beyond it), and around on the ridges that circle the valley/bowl between the main mountain and its outlying summits.  Although I didn’t bring my GPS (I forgot it), I have a rough track of my route on this map.  More pictures are on flickr and I’ve posted a few panorama shots of the summit,
the Heart mountain rockband and one of the ridges that I traversed. 

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