Distance: 11.5 km
Elevation gain: 780 m View map Download GPS track
Mount Fortune is a small peak on the southwest edge of Spray Lake. As it is most easily reached by crossing the frozen lake in the winter it is a popular snowshoe ascent and is described in Andrew Nugara's Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies
. The route starts at the Mount Shark trailhead, a very popular cross-country ski area, crosses Spray Lake, then ascends Mount Fortune. Spray Lake is a reservoir and during the winter months more water is drained from it than is replenished. As the water level lowers the ice falls and eventually rests on the ground. This creates very interesting ridges, bumps, and cracks as the ice matches the contours of the lake bottom, but also means the ice thickness is highly variable and open water can appear anywhere at any time.
From the parking lot we weaved our way down to Spray Lake using a combination of ski trails and light bushwhacking, then set out across the frozen lake (Note: When on the groomed ski trails stay as far to the side as you can to avoid ruining the grooming (not like this
)). We aimed for the left hand (south) slope of Mount Fortune as we crossed the ice as this is where Nugara recommends starting the ascent. We encountered open water near the end of the crossing where Bryant Creek flows into the lake, but were able to easily avoid it on thick ice. Once across the lake we headed left on an old lakeshore road, then started up the burned slopes of Mount Fortune. What began as a moderately steep ascent soon became extremely steep (40 degrees or so) and remained steep for about 300 vertical meters.
Today nearly all the snow was melted from the lower ascent slopes and so we removed our snowshoes soon after we began the ascent, but carried them on our packs in case conditions changed higher up. Deadfall that would normally be snow-covered frustrated us as we stumbled up and we found it difficult to get good traction on the very steep slope. Higher up the snow returned, but it was so steep I doubt we could have snowshoed it. Instead we followed the down footsteps of a large group from the day before, but this meant we were taking huge steps up as their stride on the way down had been much longer than a normal up stride. It was like climbing the Calgary tower three steps at a time and it quickly tired me out! After the steep section the ascent eased significantly, the false summit popped into view, and the hike became much more pleasant. There was nearly no deadfall from this point forward, the ridge was open and the terrain nicely varied, and a resident herd of sheep made an appearance.
A relatively short time later we reached the summit! For such a lowly elevation (2350 m) the views were quite nice and provided what I thought were some pretty unique perspectives on many nearby mountains. Read's Tower and Mount Sparrowhawk, Cone Mountain, and Mounts Buller, Nestor, Smuts, and Birdwood were just a few standouts. We had planned to continue up Fortulent Peak to expand the panoramic view to the north, but I was uncharacteristically exhausted and the scrambly section near its summit looked a bit too snowy to be safe enough for me. Instead we headed back down, having trouble only on the steep section where each of us slipped a couple times on both rock and snow. We managed to hike the entire way back using just microspikes, so the snowshoes we'd lugged up the entire mountain served simply as training weights (on an ascent that most definitely did not require training weights)!