Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor - Hiking Alberta

 

Heart Mountain is located across the TransCanada Highway from Lac des Arcs in the Bow Valley Corridor west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

 

 

Heart Mountain is a popular, easy-access mountain distinguished by its heart-shaped summit.

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada 

 

Six participants carpool west on the TransCanada Highway from Calgary, Alberta. Five of us are experienced hikers/scramblers and one young woman, named Lara,  has never done a scramble in her life.  We call her Lara Newby.  It will become her trial by fire.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada At the trailhead prior to ascent on Heart Mountain in the background.

 

This hike/scramble on Heart Mountain begins in early morning of a short daylight winter day.  The ride west transitions from sun in Calgary to heavy cloud and cooler temperatures in the mountains.  As the steep ascent begins, light corn snow starts to fall.

Snowfall increases as the reasonably aggressive ascent proceeds.  Mercifully there is little wind.  Clouds are rising and falling against the steep walls of Mount McGillivray across the valley hosting Heart Creek.  Temperature is varying up and down within a reasonable range.  Sometimes toque and gloves.  Sometimes not.  

The short scramble is relatively dry on the vertical face of the Crux even though an inch of snow has accumulated in increasingly heavy snowfall. 

Lara Newby is very excited about successfully negotiating her first scramble.  A born and bred Calgarian, ongoing conversation reveals Lara is also attempting her first mountain summit.  There is greater conviction from her support team to ensure the day will be a success in the face of increasingly inclement hiking conditions.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

On the longer but easy scramble above the Crux, about two inches of snow covers the trail over scree and patches of ice. The hike becomes more challenging and with evidence of trail eliminated, the expeditious route is straight up the mountain.  Foot and hand holds are tenuous and the need for careful placement slows progress substantially. 

The support team discusses abandoning the effort but Lara Newby's unbridled enthusiasm drives the mission.  Turns are taken to watch her back so concern for her safety will not appear obvious.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

Time is taken for a quick lunch at the first summit before proceeding across narrow ridges, with major verticals on either side, to the second and tallest summit at 7,360 feet (2,243 m).  Arrival at the third summit begins the down climb along the east side of Heart Mountain.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

On each summit the sun shines briefly and clouds lift for spectacular and magical views of the Bow Valley Corridor below.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

From the third summit we have a clear view of the Barrier Lake Fire Lookout on the summit of adjacent McConnell Ridge above Barrier Lake.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

This hike travels through a broad variety of terrain.  On descent, a cliff-side cave, accessible only by difficult scramble, begs for investigation but inclement weather and circumstance prevent taking advantage on this day.  The hike down and back to the car is long, slippery, frequently steep, and largely through pine forest.

 

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

Heart Mountain – Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada

 

The Heart Mountain circuit completes the 7.0 mile (11.2 KM) loop hike/scramble, with 3,000 feet (914.4 m) of gross vertical elevation, in strange and beautiful weather conditions.  Lara Newby, with her brand new boots, poles and gear is very tired by the time we return to the car.  Bless her heart, she completes the hike and deserves a lot of credit for enthusiasm and perseverance. 

When the experienced support team is struggling with safety concerns, it is not the time or place for the uninitiated and inexperienced.  Later, when Lara heals up, the magnitude of her achievement will be revealed.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Thank you for your comment, Bill. Over the years, I have hiked to the summit(s) of Heart Mountain in every set of conditions imaginable. Heat, cold, wind, buried in cloud, and perfect sunny, still days. It never ceases to be a special day of great exercise and fond memories. The views across Heart Creek Valley to massive Mount McGillivray are perpetually impressive. It is very popular and often busy because of close proximity to Calgary and easy access off the TransCanada Highway across from Lac des Arcs.

Very nice photos. Makes me happy I did Heart Mountain on a decent day with some sun. The snow must have made some of the scrambling interesting? Bill

Hi Barry, I am very impressed with your story about Lara. I am planning to take my wife to do this hike on June 24, 2017. My wife has done some hikings in the past, but this time I want to introduce her to scrambling. I did this mountain before but I didn't do a good job with the trail. I got lost couple times and made the hike harder than it should be. Now I have GPS, I think I can manage it. My question is, can we avoid the small scrambling before the crux (the one with 3m boulder). I don't mind scrambling on the boulder, but just the way before that. With this I won't discourage my wife. Thanks for your help. Andi

Andi,  Recommend you take your wife on one of hundreds of hikes she will find comfortable until she decides she would like to try a fairly straightforward scramble. There are many hiking trails which will gradually prepare someone for a scramble.  The peer influence in a group hike where experienced people are included and encouraging can be a good approach.  (Like Lara)  I worry about anyone getting lost on the Heart Mountain trail.  It is a heavily traveled path.  There are some rocky sections on the ridge.  On the other hand, I have not been up there in many years and perhaps traffic has created confusing braids.  Scrambling up is easier than scrambling down.  Perhaps a bit of work on an indoor climbing wall would be a worthwhile exercise. The impression I have from your writing is that gaining more hiking experience should occur first.  Hiking with a club can be a powerful experience or consider taking an appropriate  course.  Avoid putting other people in compromising or uncomfortable positions without their consent.  The group dynamic can help to overcome this commonly made mistake.  Good luck.  Stay safe.

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