Heart Mountain (Canada)

May 1995

By: Wayne Norman


"Fifty Switzerland's in One." This was how the Canadian Rockies were described at the turn of the century in an attempt to lure wealthy tourists to visit this majestic country. And lure them they did. Tourists traveled over from Europe and across Canada via the Canadian Pacific Railroad to visit the Crest of a Continent. Swiss Guides were hired to lead gentleman (and ladies) up various mountains while luxury resorts like the Chateau Lake Louise & Banff Springs Hotel were built to accommodate the Victorian Era clientele.

Today, a motto of that era is found, engraved on a nameplate below the statue of William Cornelius Van Home, at the elegant Banff Springs Hotel; "Since we can't export the scenery we must import the tourist." This is as true today as it was then.

It was into this mountain wonderland that I chose to spend my honeymoon. Without boring (or exciting) anyone with the most of the details of our honeymoon; my wife, Ruth, and I did one "scramble" during our stay.

I picked up a copy of the just released, revised, edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies. (This was almost the first thing I did after getting into Banff.) After reading through the guide we decided to climb Heart Mountain (a romantic sounding name) for our first climb as husband and wife. (The weather was about a month behind normal for this time of the year and there was much unstable, avalanche prone, snow. We saw evidence of many avalanches during our stay. these snow conditions kept us off the high peaks.)

Driving to the trailhead one sees that Heart Mtn is shaped, as it name suggests, like a heart. We parked at the trailhead and hiked up the trail paralleling the highway to a trail junction. From here we could see the route up the ridge.

The first part of the hike is up a steep trail with plenty of small, loose rocks. Two thirds of the way up we came to the "crux" of the route a short 3rd class section. The correct route is marked by small orange plaques, visible from above and below. These were placed to aid climbers in finding the correct route, i.e., reduce accidents.

After the short 3rd class section we found steeper climbing than the first half of the climb with more snow and loose rock. A couple of hours after starting my lovely bride (even in hiking boots) and I topped out.

The views were awesome. To the north and west, the peaks of the Banff area stood tall against the skyline with more and higher peaks in the distance, while eastward there was the vast expanse of the plains extending as far as the eye could see.

After a short break on top, as we were getting ready to head down, a group of three climbers joined us on top. One of the three instantly caught my eye; he was shod in sandals and was carrying a 'golf club! After a short rest they made a tee out of snow and hit a few shots off the edge. Since we were about 750 meters off the deck, the x and y components of momentum are independent, taking into account drag due to air resistance, anyway, the balls went a LONG way.

We took our leave of the golf fanatics and made our way leisurely down the mountain, thankful at one point for those orange plagues, and back to our cars. A fun scramble for two newlyweds.


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