December 25, 2011
Kananaskis – Exshaw / Bow Valley, AB
The shape of this peak resembles a heart and that’s how it’s originally named. This is one of the most popular objectives along Bow Valley and often used as an introductory to scrambling. I had some scrambling experience from the previous summer but in December it’d be a different game. It’s one of my first few “winter scrambles” and done on the 5th day of my solo Christmas peak-bagging trip.
I started very early because of the forecasted storm in afternoon. The scrambling was short but steep and the route pretty much follows the NW Ridge all the way to the summit. Due to the constant prevailing wind in this area, the ridge was pretty much free of snow, but that’s not the case for the forested trail. I decided not to follow the trail as I couldn’t clearly see where it was, so opted to ascend straight up more-or-less. The price I paid was a few moderate sections of steep slabs but nothing overly tricky. About halfway up, I saw the weather was already moving in from the west, so I speeded up. The crux, which was a 2 m vertical wall, was not a problem on this day (thankfully it was dry). But I could see that it would be a challenge if covered by fresh snow (wet conditions).
The ascent took me a mere 1.5 hours but at this point the weather was really moving in. The next high point has a name of “Grant MacEwan Peak” and is sometimes referred as the true summit of Heart Mountain. I didn’t continue to that summit due to the fear of getting caught in a snow storm. The descent went uneventfully and I successfully beat the storm. But the problem was? It’s only noon and I had to find something else to do.
I had the entire afternoon ahead so I did a solo hike into Grotto Canyon. It was my first time wearing crampons. They kept falling off since I didn’t use mountaineering boots, not did I have them. I met a guy suggesting Grotto Mountain since he’d just finished it. Later, almost a year after, I realized he was just Travelin’ Jones (Neil), who became one of my regular scrambling/climbing partners. I followed another two climbers to a small waterfall and got some nice ice scenery. It was snowy and cloudy in the afternoon.