I started off on this hike with the vague idea that it would only take a couple of hours. I mean, the mountain’s just there! In my backyard! Surely it shouldn’t take too long to walk to the top. As I stumbled out the front door, I noticed snow on all of the surrounding mountains – ooohhh, that’s right, it was raining last night, I guess it must have been colder than I realised – curse this ‘Summer’ of the Canadian Rockies. And then I could have turned around and picked up my gaiters, but it seemed warm, surely it wouldn’t be too bad. Perhaps the snow would melt before we got there.
Meandering across from home and through the Benchland trails, we eventually hit the northwest spur of Grotto Mountain and started the hike up. The trail was obvious, and kept zig-zagging up the spur until we reached this white lurking presence which hung in the trees, and covered the ground making it all slippery and wet. With a bit more backsliding we wandered on up to the edge of the scree slope and on towards the false summit. Ahhh, snow covered scree, my favourite thing. Wind-blown snow covered scree is even better.
Canmore and its many mountains
Hitting the ridge the wind picked up, which didn’t make our snow-soaked shoes and pants feel any warmer. As we crossed the kilometre of ridgeline between the false summit and actual summit, the wind veered between ‘chilly breeze’ and ‘oxygen-stealing force of doom’. Following the ridge along, I tried to pick the line of least snow (and avoid being blown off). Summit – quickly take photos then retreat. Must escape wind. Cold wind. Views! But wind too cold. Descend, shelter from wind, devour sugar, drink water.
As we hit the treeline my brain started to function again. The snowline had crept a long way up the mountain since we’d started out this morning, and as we dropped further into the valley the wind died away and the temperature slowly crept up, until eventually I was warm.
It was about then that we came across these odd birds… the female Dusky Grouse (no, I didn’t know what it was at the time, I had to ask the internet afterwards) was herding about her flock of three chicks, and looking at us suspiciously, while her male friend sat in a tree nearby, before jumping out to parade past us.
Female Dusky Grouse
Male Dusky Grouse
On arrival home I discovered that the summit is at 2706 metres (8878ft) – so an altitude gain of 1300 metres or so. That could be why it took a while.