Distance: 12 km
Elevation gain: 1560 m View map Download GPS track
With gorgeous weather in the mountains today we were looking for something big to hike, but many bigger objectives were still completely snowbound. However, we'd noticed yesterday that while many mountains had received a few inches of fresh snow Friday night, Grotto Mountain outside Canmore had been largely spared and what had been there in the morning had melted by the afternoon. Rising over 1400 m from the trailhead we figured it certainly fit the bill as big and so set our sights on its summit and started hiking at 8:20 am.
There are three routes to the top of Grotto Mountain. The one we chose is known as the "ACC route" and is described in both Kane's Scrambling guide
and Daffern's Hiking guide
. It's largely just a hike and starts a short distance below the ACC clubhouse in Canmore. Unfortunately parking in any of the ACC lots wasn’t permitted, but we found space on the west side of the access road across from a woodpile. A short distance further up the road we started hiking on a signed trail. It was a bit annoying to follow in the beginning due to a number of intersecting trails, poor signs, and confusing directions in the guidebooks, but we eventually found ourselves on the correct trail and geared down for the long and steep ascent.
It was a steep and strenuous grind all the way to the ridgecrest, 1250 m higher than where we’d parked. At this point the trail petered out, but the summit was in sight 1.8 km away and not much higher. Continuing towards it we felt the ridgecrest was a bit too exposed and so stayed just below it on the south side, but this was a dumb route choice. The going was tedious, the route circuitous and unclear, and it ended up taking us about 90 minutes to reach the summit (more than double what it should have). On the return trip, after a cold but very necessary lunch break, we followed the crest of the ridge and found it much, much easier. While it was a bit narrow in spots it was nothing more than a hike and only one short section required scrambling (a 2 m climb with good hand and footholds). Whenever it looked impossible to continue from far away we just kept going and an easy route would reveal itself.
With a few short breaks on the way down, during one of which we noticed a tick crawling up Sandra's leg, we arrived back at the car at 4:00 pm. Even considering the delay caused by our poor route choice up top and Sandra's sluggish pace (she's recovering from an epic 6-week cold), this was quite a bit later than I had expected. It's a good thing we started somewhat early, and that early start also had us hike up the south-facing ascent slopes in the relative cool of the morning.