Gap Peak -- Sep 7, 2006

Elevation Gain: 1063 meters (3486 feet)

Climbed by: me solo.

This one turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would be. Kane doesn't even devote a page to this one, lumping it in with a traverse from Mount Fable. I got the directions for the ascent from Bob Spirko's site, which is very good.

If you're coming from Calgary, leave Highway 1 at the 1X turnoff that leads to Mt. Yamnuska. Turn left onto highway 1A, and drive through Exshaw. Watch on the right for Gap Pond, which looks like a pleasant place to sit and read a good book and maybe do a little fishing. Just past the entrance to the Gap Pond parking area (about 300 meters), you'll see the entrance to the Baymag #2 plant. Turn in here, and go straight ahead, parking by the gravel pit, out of the way.

I cut through the gravel pit, and ascended the broad shoulder from the back of the pit. There isn't a real trail, just a bunch of widely-spaced trees and an occassional animal trail. Just walk pretty well straight up, climbing up or around small rock bands as you encounter them. It's a little steep in places, but very pleasant.

Once you clear the tree-line, you should find that you've been funnelled into a patch of scree just below the first major cliff band. I found that most of the scree was thin, and well adhered to some mud underneath, so the walking was easy until it started to get steeper. Gain the ridge on the right, and follow it right up to the cliff. You should have your helmet on by now; there are signs of rockfall everywhere.

Follow the cliff band around to the right, and at your earliest opportunity, scramble up next to where the cliff petered out. It gets quite steep here, and is a little annoying. But it's short, thankfully. Scramble right up close to the next cliff band, angling a little bit to your left. You want to get right up under this next cliff band so you can walk on the flat spot immediately beneath its overhanging face. Follow this cliff band around to the left until it, too, peters out.

Walk up the scree whatever way looks easiest to you. Ultimately, you want to head for the bump that looks like it could be the summit. It's not, but it's in the right direction. Once you get there, you can climb up and over the top of the false summit, or around to the right where you should have no problem spying a fairly well-worn path. Just below the false summit to the west (left, on your way up), you'll see a series of pinnacles. The furthest-downhill rock has a smallish window in it, which might be worth checking out.

Once you've passed the false summit, the 1km ridge walk begins. It starts off quite wide and unexposed, and get narrower (though not much more exposed) as you go. There's quite a bit of up and down, with a bit of hands-on scrambling on the steeper bits. The summit sports a cairn, and there is now (finally!) a real summit register! When I was there, the original register, consisting of a white pill bottle with a couple sheets of notepad paper in it, was still present inside the new cannister. Apparently, no one had signed the register since August 9, almost a month prior to my arrival on the summit. I'd have thought this mountain would be more popular. It's close to Canmore, but isn't nearly as huge as Grotto, or scary like Lady MacDonald is alleged to be.

Now, in Kane's book there is a brief description of an "even better" way down this mountain. In theory, this better way might not suck. I went this way, and it did suck for me. Climb back across the ridge to the false summit, and over to the other side (to the next scree slope over from the one you follow along the ridge from the summit). Climb down to the left of the pinnacles and window, and ski down the nice scree into the drainage below. Watch out for the occassional rock bands you encountered on your way up this slope. If you follow the low spot down the scree, these rock bands are easily avoided by moving slightly to the right on your way down. Follow this drainage down to the tree line, then leave the drainage to the right, following the ridge around to the right. Kane says to stay "well right of the drainage" which doesn't mean a whole lot. To meet up with his 235600 map coordinates, you basically need to go way, way, way to the right before heading down. This will be hard on your ankles because you'll be side-sloping around a 45 degree slope. I didn't go far enough, and when I came down I encountered cliff bands that were not down-climbable (smooth slab). I went back up 50-75 meters, and traversed further to the right (away from the drainage) until I came out in the next drainage over. From there it was easy to get down to Grotto Creek, and follow the trail out.

If I ever do this mountain again, I will not take this "better" shortcut. I'm not at all convinced that there is a benefit to taking the creek bed and washed out trail along Grotto Creek, as opposed to simply following the same route down as up. There's plenty of scree to ski down, and the route takes you off the mountain pretty darned close to where you parked your car at Baymag #2. Perhaps if you did Gap Peak as part of the Fable/Gap traverse, your car might be parked in a place where it would be quicker to get to via the Grotto Creek trail. I kind of doubt it, though. Baymag #2 is a 2km easy walk with no loose boulders underfoot from the start of Grotto Canyon, so no matter where you parked, I think it would be easier to come down the front of Gap Peak rather than the west side...

Gap Peak from Baymag #2.
On the trail back from the entrance to Grotto Canyon, you can see the first scree slope below the first major cliff band, which you follow to the right, then up.
Just leaving the tree line, you can see the scree slope and first cliff band up close. Gain the ridge on the right as soon as you can to avoid slogging up loose scree.
To the right of the first cliff band, you must scramble up this slope. It's a lot steeper than it looks!
This is the second cliff band, looming overhead as you walk along its base to the left.
The pinnacles and window that you pass on your way up the scree.
From the top of the false summit, a view of the way I came up.
Part of the ridge walk to the summit.
More ridge walk. You can see the summit at the far right side of the picture.
Me, standing on the summit with Mt. Fable in the background. I'm not actually leaning, the camera was sitting on a crooked rock, honest!
It's hard to pick out, but you can see the whole Gable Ridge (Gap+Fable) from here. If I were to do Mt. Fable, I'd try to make time for this ridge walk, too.
The scree run into the drainage on my way down. If you choose to go down the same way you came up (advised), follow this scree run to the upper cliff band only.
It was at this elevation (below the upper cliff band by 50-75 meters) that I veered to the right, and side-stepped along the ridge away from the drainage. This route really isn't recommended unless you have a good reason to exit into Grotto Canyon (there are pictographs there, somewhere).
Grotto Canyon. You'd be better off walking from the highway to here, rather than from the top of Gap Peak to here, in my opinion.