Hiking the Bow Valley – Heart Mountain Circuit

By this time last year we’d already done 5 hikes. And while Mr. GeoK has a couple of major hikes under his belt this spring, June 16 was the first opportunity for Mr. and Mrs. GeoK to get out hiking together.

Mrs GeoK spotted the Heart Mountain Loop hike in Gillean Daffern’s "Popular Day Hikes 1 – Kananaskis Country" when it first came out in 2007. And while the short climbing sections look challenging for those with acrophobia, she figured if she could make it to the summit of Yamnuska she could probably make it to the top of Heart Mountain.

Once the GeoKids were off to school we hit the highway and arrived at the trailhead parking lot about 9:15. There was lots of activity across the highway beside Lac des Arcs, with several emergency vehicles parked with their flashers going and a helicopter carrying suspended rescue personnel up Mount McGillivray to the west. By the time we hit the really steep sections, there was neither sight nor sound of the chopper, so we hope it was just a drill or that the rescue operation ended well.

In any event, Mrs GeoK made it up to the top of Heart Mountain without much difficulty, though she stayed as far from the edges of the trail as possible and covered a few short sections pretty much on all fours!

We found GCPH89 – Heart Mountain Cache and then carried on to Grant McEwan peak, where we spotted a pair of marmots. After we found GC17FZZ – Heart Mountain we enjoyed our picnic lunch with a couple of Columbia ground squirrels and then headed off to complete the loop.

As we paused at peak #3 to enjoy the view of Barrier Lake and to hide a new micro cache we spotted a group of 8 or 10 hikers coming up quickly behind us. Once past peak #4 we started down the long ridge to the Quaite Valley trail and we could hear occasional shouts and swears from the overtaking group as one or the other lost their footing and fell. Now we are almost never overtaken on the trail, so we wondered what was going on.

By this time, it was already 1:30, and we needed to be back in Calgary by 4:00 so we picked up the pace a little. Even so, in the forested section the large group – now all jogging – caught up to us. Each man called out a merry "cheers" in a British accent as he passed.

We made it back to the trailhead parking by 2:50 and spotted the troop sitting by their van, drinking large quantities of water and chatting. And it turns out they are actually a troop – British military in Canmore for some training (hiking, canoeing, climbing, ice skiing, etc.) Guess there’s no shame in being passed by a bunch of soldiers!

Before heading back to Calgary we made a quick stop to register a couple of new guests at the nearby TB hotel. All in all, a strenuous hike to start the season, gaining almost 1000 meters over 11 km. Highway noise from the TransCanada and long stretches of scree combine to keep this one out of our "favourite hike" series. However, if you want quick access to some excellent views, including Yamnuska, Mount McGillivray, Prairie View fire lookout, Calgary skyline and Barrier Lake, this is a great option with convenient access directly from the TransCanada.
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