Grotto Creek Canyon - Bow Valley - Hiking Alberta

 

Past His and Hers to the Cave through Grotto Creek Canyon in Bow Valley, Alberta, Canada.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley, Alberta, Canada

 

Plans to snowshoe at Lake Louise are altered by atrocious winter driving conditions.

The flashing lights of emergency vehicles attending to several cars which have spun off the TransCanada Highway result in abandoning the original mission for an alternative near Canmore, Alberta.

A trek up Grotto Creek from the trail-head at Grotto Pond on Hwy 1A will be interesting and provide an opportunity to see the effect of the June 2013 floods.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The Grotto Creek trailhead sign at Grotto Pond along Hwy 1A in the Bow Valley Corridor east of Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A view of Pigeon Mountain under heavily overcast skies along the traverse from Grotto Pond on the trail to Grotto Creek Canyon near Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Following a short traverse west on snow-covered, icy trail passes the noisy Baymag Mineral Processing Facility and turns north at the Grotto Creek trail sign.

Hiking crampons are strapped onto sturdy leather hiking boots.  The familiar sound of  metal spikes crunching into slippery ice under fresh snow is reassuring.

A short, flat walk through forest brings us to the edge of Grotto Creek where raging flood water has widened and flattened the creek bed substantially.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The view south to mountains behind Gap Lake and the Bow River from the edge of Grotto Creek near Canmore, Alberta.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The small waterfall at the entrance to Grotto Creek Canyon has been eliminated by rock washed over it by flood water.

 

The beginning of the hike through Grotto Creek Canyon is typical of the past but on the route through the canyon it becomes increasingly apparent the level of the canyon floor is higher.

Additionally the floor through the entire canyon has a new grade which eliminates the ability for water to accumulate.  The infamous Grotto Canyon Ice Walk has essentially been eliminated by the flood event in June of 2013.

The hike is different and the wall to wall ice on the canyon floor no longer exists along the entire length of the canyon to the waterfall ice at the junction hosting His and Hers and Grotto Falls.

The only remaining ice is in narrow channels carved by flood waters or tucked against curves in canyon walls.  Perhaps the original experience can be restored with careful reorganization of new rock.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Grotto Creek Canyon has a new more evenly graded floor of boulders without wall to wall ice.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Ice climbers at His and Hers with Grotto Falls off to right out of view at the junction in Grotto Creek Canyon

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A view of His and Hers on the hike left into the valley beneath the east end of Grotto Mountain.

 

After watching a few of the ice climbers practicing their sport, the hike continues left on snow-covered trail through a short stretch of canyon leading to the open valley where a recently constructed Inukshuk guards the Cave and Hoodoos.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Hiking past His and Hers towards the Cave and Hoodoos in the valley at the east end of Grotto Mountain.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Inukshuk with a view of the sandy mounds hosting the Cave and Hoodoos.

 

The formations of sandy conglomerate show little effect from the flooding but surrounding terrain on the valley floor has been noticeably swept clean. 

The exterior floor of the shallow cave appears to have suffered from some erosion.  Access to the cave is possible from a ledge along the left-facing side but it is more difficult than it appears.  The surface is unstable so caution is prudent.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Cave at the Hoodoos

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The Cave in the largest Hoodoo.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada A view up the valley.  The valley floor at the Hoodoos has been swept flat by the June 2013 flood.

 

On the return hike through Grotto Canyon, clearing skies provide warmth and sunlight within the winding canyon walls.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Returning through Grotto Canyon under clearing skies.

 

Ancient ochre pictographs on the walls of Grotto Canyon remain in place.

The lowest pictographs may be underneath ice adjacent to the canyon wall or covered by displaced rock.  The canyon floor has been raised by new rock from the valley floor being washed into the canyon.

These historical drawings have survived hundreds of years of weather events and it is highly likely floodwaters have been through here many times in past years.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Ancient pictographs on the walls of Grotto Canyon

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Ancient pictographs in Grotto Creek Canyon

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Blue sky and sunlight infiltrate the narrow corridors of Grotto Canyon as the low sun sweeps across the southern sky.

 

Most of the canyon walls within the Bow Valley Corridor are popular with rock climbers.  The walls have been bolted and anchored for many years to encourage and aid the development of recreational climbing skills.

The bolts and anchors are considerably closer to the canyon floor than they were previously.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada One of the Grotto Canyon walls bolted and anchored for year round recreational rock climbing.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada Standing on ice and holding a rock climbing anchor which would previously have been much higher on the rock wall.

 

Exiting Grotto Creek Canyon through the narrow entrance into full sunlight provides magnificent views south to mountains past Gap Lake and the Bow River.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada On leaving, the entrance to Grotto Creek Canyon is drenched in sunlight as early day cloud dissipates.

 

Grotto Creek Canyon, Bow Valley Corridor, Alberta, Canada The stark, flattened floor of flood ravaged Grotto Creek provides a foreground for the view south to frozen lakes, the Bow River and mountains to the south.

 

The hike through Grotto Creek Canyon is easy and relatively short with minimal elevation, so there is time to investigate construction underway in Canmore on the Cougar Creek Restoration Project.

The west side of new construction is fenced off which prevents access to trails into Cougar Creek Canyon as well as traditional trail heads for the east end of the Montane Traverse Trail and for Mount Lady Macdonald.

Across the bridge, on the east side of the Cougar Creek aqueduct, there is an accessible path upstream with outstanding views of Mount Lady Macdonald.

Wandering along the path to observe and to enjoy the sun before heading into town leads to checking out the very impressive Elevation Place.

 

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Mount Lady Macdonald  as a backdrop to the Cougar Creek Bank Restoration Project in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada Heavy construction equipment along Cougar Creek in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Cougar Creek, Canmore, Alberta, Canada View south along Cougar Creek construction towards Mount Lawrence Grassi and Ha Ling Peak in Canmore, Alberta, Canada

 

Coffee at the Good Earth Café in Canmore, prior to the return drive to Calgary, completes another excellent day in the mountains.

Photographs for this post were captured on January 26, 2014.

 

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