Grotto Triangle -- Aug 2, 2006

Elevation Gain: 1425 meters (4674 feet)

Climbed by: me solo.

Grotto Triangle is the name I've given the route described by Dow Williams on his site, where you go up the "direct" route, across to the west side of the mountain on the beautiful ridge, and then drop down onto the Alpine Club trail which ends up depositing you on the exact same trail you started on (after slipping and sliding your way down in places).

To get to the ACC Clubhouse, take the second Canmore exit, the one AFTER the one for Bow Valley Campground. Hang a left when you get to the stop sign, turning onto Highway 1A. Pass Elk Run Blvd, and the entrance to the Elk Run Industrial area on the left. Turn left onto Indian Flats Road, take a sharp right, a sharp left, and go to the end of the road. The clubhouse is at the top of the hill, then up and to the left. It's a pretty fancy shmancy place, check it out!

I parked in the first ACC parking lot, the one before the one at the very top of the drive. This was extra smart because the trail-head is just across the street and maybe 15 meters down the road. You can't miss it. The trail goes up to the top of the ridge, from which you can see the stables and corral. Keep walking along this trail. At the top of one of the ridges, you should find that the trail splits off to the left; take the straight-ahead trail, even though it's less well-used. You'll go down into and up out of two gulleys, and you'll eventually come to a more well-travelled trail that follows a ridge.

Follow this trail up a couple of hills, then watch for trails that diverge off to the right and down into another gulley. Take the second right, not the first one. However, I took the first one and it worked out okay. It eventually meets up with the "real" trail. Either one should cross the dry creek bed at the bottom.

Not long after reaching the other side of the dry creek bed gulley, I made a bee-line for the hump immediately to the right side of the canyon cut into the middle of the mountain. I suspect that if you walk further down the trail, you'll see another trail leave the main one on the left. Certainly, if you head up in what you think is the right direction, it's almost impossible not to intersect the trail, which you should follow up-hill. This trail takes you pretty well up to the tree-line (with a couple minor interruptions when it takes you up or around rock slabs).

Clear the tree line, and basically head straight for the summit. There's lots of opportunity to switch back and forth at whatever grade you're comfortable with. I went pretty much straight up, angling slightly to the east of the summit. There's really no need for that, though Dow's route description indicated he found (and followed) a southwest leading ridge which led to the summit. I never found that ridge, or if I did I didn't recognize it as "the one". I saw no descernable trails in the scree, but occassionally saw other peoples' footprints in the smaller/looser stuff.

Once on the summit, I noticed that the two precariously-balanced cairns had both collapsed (or perhaps been pushed down on purpose). There is now one stubby cairn, and a large pile of rocks that used to be part of the old cairns. On a clear day you should be able to see into Calgary from here. This day was a little hazy. Across the valley you get a good view of Lawrence Grassi, Ha-Ling, and EEOR. You get a remarkably bad view of the three sisters because from this vantage point they're all lined up one in front of the other. Perhaps on a clear day you could see the contrast between them, but on this day the haze obliterated any differentiating features. Along the ridge to the west you get a good view of the razor edge ridge on Mt. Lady MacDonald (which, as of this writing, I have yet to do -- all my friends are scared of the last 50m, and I'm not brave/dumb enough to solo it (yet)). To the north you can see Mt. Fable sticking her head up above the other peaks.

The wind was blowing, and it was quite chilly, so off I went, westward along the ridge toward the ACC trail. Be sure to stop and look through the window into Canmore, just a few hundred meters west of the summit.

The ACC trail makes for an interesting descent. The builders of the trail did a good job of making the trail switch back and forth, but over the years the shortcutters have shortcutted the switchbacks completely out of existence in a few places, leaving you with very steep sections with marble-shaped rocks rolling around on hard-packed dirt and slab rock. If you're moving at a good pace, you can hop down such inclines with a minumum of sliding, but if you think you need to stop half way down, think again!

Before too long, I was back down at the trail from whence my journey began, and back to the car soon after that. I left the car at 8:50am, was at the summit at 12:15, left the summit at 12:40, and was back at the car at 2:30pm. Not the quickest scramble ever, but an enjoyable one! Someday when I try this mountain with two vehicles, I'd like to do the whole traverse.

A small part of the maze of trails above the ACC clubhouse, under the mountain. There are hiking, biking, and equestrian trails galore.
From the top of one of the first ridges after leaving the main trail down below. This is the view of the canyon wall on the other side.
Apparently some sport climbing happens here. There are bolts on this wall, and you can see a length of rope someone must have left behind.
A memorial plaque for a fellow named Tony Archer. His ghost must be a friendly one, as he never gave me any trouble.
EEOR, from maybe 1/3 of the way up Grotto.
The Three Sisters from 1/3 of the way up Grotto. This is a much better angle than that available from the summit.
The other side of the canyon from about 1/2 way up or more.
This was supposed to show how steep the trail is here, but it fails.
The end of the canyon is nigh!
If you look really close you can see the window of light at the top of the ridge. This photo was taken quite a distance away, but it shows sort of where you need to be to start looking for it as you traverse the ridge.
From the tree-line, the summit, still quite a ways off.
The summit! No longer standing are the two large cairns that were present when I was here last time (in 2003).
Canmore, EEOR, Ha-Ling, the Spray Lakes road, and the Trans Canada.
The east part of the ridge. There is a traverse across the whole mountain now. See the radio station?
On a clear day you could maybe see Calgary from here.
My ascent route, or at least the top bit of it. I came up the green hump immediately to the skier's left of the canyon, than straight up the scree, more or less.
Way off in the distance, you can see Assiniboine and Joffre.
You can see the whole Heart Mountain horseshoe from up here. Start on the right, work yourself around counter-clockwise, and come down the left ridge.
The summit block of Mt. Fable.
The window in the ridge, looking down on Canmore.
A look at my ascent route from along the ridge. Again, I was on the climber's-right side of the canyon, sticking close to the edge of the canyon when there was any doubt or the trail flickered out of existence while I was wandering along, daydreaming.
The scree at the top of my ascent route. Doesn't look like much from here!
My ascent route from the bottom. The lighting was no good in the morning on my way up, but was excellent in the middle of the afternoon when I was back down again.
The Three Sisters, from the Four-Points Sheridan one exit further west than the one for the ACC clubhouse.