Climbed by: me, Mick, Tyrone, Mike, Mike, Kevin, Kevin.
This is a favourite scramble. It's very close to Calgary, very close to the highway, moderately steep, and extendable by traversing the whole "horseshoe" which hits six peaks (closely spaced) in 10.5 kilometers round-trip.
Travel westward on the Trans Canada, and exit at the Lac Des Arcs exit. The road curves toward the right, and splits into the on-ramp to the east-bound lanes of the Trans Canada (to the right), or the official parking lot for the Heart Mountain/Heart Creek recreational area. If this parking lot is full, or you don't feel like walking an extra kilometer or so to the trailhead you can get back onto the eastbound lanes of the Trans Canada and park off the highway next to the Heart Creek bridge (either side).
If you park on the Calgary side of the creek, you should see a well trampled trail leading toward Heart Mountain. If you start on the other side, walk along the creek, and onto the obvious path. Follow this til you get to a bridge, then cross the creek, and follow the trail to the trailhead, which is marked with a warning sign that this is a "scrambling trail".
From this point, follow the trail up. It's very hard to get lost. Stay on the right-hand side of the ridge. There are trails around most of the tricky scrambling bits. Near the top of the first summit, you'll encounter the "crux" which is a 2-3 meter climb marked by a red reflector bolted to the rock.
There is a way around this crux, to the left, but it is exposed, so you should use caution. If you're uncertain of your abilities, take the trickier (but safer) "crux" route.
Keep going up, and before too long you'll be at the spacious summit. If you are travelling in a party of 100 people, I'm sure they'd all have room to stand comfortably on this rather large summit.
This is the "named" peak -- the true summit, though un-named, can be seen some distance away along the horseshoe, standing about 70 meters higher than this peak.
When you're ready to proceed, walk to the back of the summit, and locate a trail leading down to the broad ridge below. It's quite obvious. Follow the ridge, and the well trodden trail, the rest of the way around the horseshow, basically. After the last peak, a gradual descent begins, which deposits you near the highway, perhaps a mile away from the Heart Creek bridge. There is a trail (parts of which are often flooded if it's been rainy) that parallels the highway, or you can walk right along the side of the highway if you choose. It's far more idyllic to walk through the forest, but the choice is yours.
An important note for those of you who don't keep a spare pair of footwear in your car: If the trail is flooded, gaiters will NOT keep your feet from getting soaked, particularly if the depth of the water exceeds the height of your gaiters! Trust me, I've seen what happens!
|The "heart" in Heart Mountain is obvious from highway 1A just west of Exshaw (taken after a future ascent of Gap Peak).|
|Our intrepid troupe on the top of the first summit. That's (from left to right) Mike, Tyrone, Mick, Mike, Kevin, and Kevin.|
|You can see the true summit of Heart Mountain in the left 1/3 of this photo. There is some talk about naming the true summit of this range Grant MacEwan Peak. Grant MacEwan was the mayor of Calgary for some time, and by most accounts was a swell guy. The trail hits the large knob of rock in the foreground of the right side of the photo on its way to the true summit.|
|Two chipmunks who are obviously far too accustomed to people (and people food!). These little critters wouldn't leave us alone as we were eating our lunch.|
|Mike and Kevin in a tiny alpine meadow at the top of the second peak just a few minutes from the first summit.|
|A look back at the first summit. You can see the trail that descends to the ridge below.|
|Our crew at the top of the true summit, along with some other folks enjoying the view.|
|A nice view of Barrier Lake, Highway 40, and Mount Baldy, partly obscured by red hair. The west peak of Baldy doesn't look like much at all from up here!|
|An (as far as I can tell) unnamed peak that looks like it could involve some interesting scrambling to get up it.|
|Mount McGillivray to the left, and the east end of Grotto across the valley. Further down the valley, you can see EEOR, and Ha-Ling, and the Spray Lakes road angling up the side of EEOR.|
|A better shot of Barrier Lake, and Mount Baldy.|