Distance: 11 km
Elevation gain: 1100 m View map Download GPS track
Heart Mountain is a very popular scramble near Exshaw, a little over an hour from our house in Calgary. I've avoided it in the past for a few reasons, one of which is a moderate step midway up that is beyond Sandra's ability, but with her sitting at home today nursing a cold I figured I'd give it a go on my own.
I started a bit later than I usually do and paid for it from the moment I arrived at the trailhead. A group of 3 was starting at the same time and seemed to think that everyone on the trail was hiking to hear their music, which they played over speakers instead of headphones. When I wasn't able to shake them off my tail at warp speed I pulled over to let them pass, but they also thought that would be a great place to stop. I continued, and the process repeated. Finally on my third "get the hell away from me" stop they continued and I waited a bit before moving on. And then I caught up to them. Turns out they only hiked at warp speed if they had someone to follow. I rocketed past them and finally lost them when they decided to take a detour around the crux, which isn't possible so I presume their day ended shortly thereafter. Regardless, they were the last annoyances I had to deal with the entire day.
My original and very optimistic plan for the day had been to hike up Heart Mountain, traverse to Grant MacEwan Peak, then descend the same way and head across the highway to hike up Door Jamb Mountain and Loder Peak. The moderate step crux on Heart Mountain, however, was more intimidating than I thought and while going up wasn't too bad I wasn't entirely sure about going down. A few other areas would also have been more difficult on the descent. Together with my quest for peace and desire to explore I decided instead to descend back to the car following the "Heart Mountain horseshoe" route that takes a more easterly ridge back down to the highway from Grant MacEwan Peak. From the summit of Heart Mountain the route was dead obvious the entire way and was as I expected easier than the direct descent from Heart Mountain. A 2 km easy walk along the trans-Canada trail then brought me back to my car.
Overall this was a nicer hike than I expected. The ascent was a bit challenging for me, which was what I wanted, and the views from the long ridgewalk were much better than I thought they'd be. The one big drawback was the constant highway noise, but past the summit of Heart Mountain this was diminished and a moderate wind drowned out most of what remained. A great exercise hike!