January 20, 2013
Southern Banff Park – Spray Lake, AB
Mt. Fortune with the extension to the unofficially named “Fortulent Peak” is a fairly reasonable snowshoe outing and well documented in Andrew Nugara’s Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies. These peaks appear uninteresting in summer time but do offer great winter views. The lake crossing adds to the variety too. Ben and I left Edmonton by Friday night and this time we opted to book the Hostel Bear in Canmore. I always prefer to just sleep at the trail-head but this time we felt “soft” for some reasons. The sleep in Canmore hostel was far from enjoyable though. We got a noisy roommate videoing with his buddy at 1 am. As a result we only got roughly 4 hours of sleep…
The drive up the Smith Dorrien Road went uneventful and we started the day at about 8 AM. As described in Nugara book, the first thing was to negotiate the maze of ski trails. We tried to follow Nugara’s direction for while, but soon got frustrated by the switchbacks and up-and-downs, and eventually decided to shoot straight down towards Spary Lake, and this proved to be the fastest way for snowshoeers. Bushwhacking and plunging-step downhill was fast. Once we dropped down to the lake, we were surprised by the unusual calmness of this area (usually very windy). Temperature wasn’t too cold neither, and weather was clear. We all enjoyed the alpenglow and then morning light while crossing the lake. The view made this supposed boring hour very enjoyable. And it was so good to see the colours changing from purple to red to orange and yellow. I highly recommend crossing the lake in sunrise hour (especially if you’re a photographer). There was no visible tracks and we aimed straight towards the SW corner of Mt. Fortune. It was a long way cross.
Apparently there once was a forest fire in this area, going up the field of burned trees reminded me Vermillion Peak two weeks ago. I’m pretty sure Mount Fortune can be skied and there’s enough space between burned trees to do turns, but there wasn’t enough snow, and deadfalls were only partially covered. The second problem was the shitty snow. It has a somehow hard crust on top which couldn’t hold our weight, and we had to punch down the crust, then post-hole to knee deep. The snow was very sugary and even our MSR snowshoes couldn’t get a grip. We slid backward for every step forward. The only evidence showing we were actually moving uphill was seeing our pole marks. The snow combined with deadfalls made our progress very, very slow. But we are both very fit and we shared trail-breaking half/half, and after 2 hours of heavy duty work, we made to treeline.
The terrain above treeline was severely wind blown, and we had to take the snowshoes off. We carried snowshoes because we couldn’t see Fortune/Fortulent col. It turned out be a good call. The high point ahead of us was actually false summit, but the true summit was only minutes away, and soon we stood on Mount Fortune. The view was already outstanding, and I agree with Nugara that this is the highlight of snowshoeing around Spray Lake, 3.5 hours from car.
We didn’t stay on the summit of Fortune, instead immediately started the slog up Fortulent Peak.