|Character:||Moderate Mountain Hike|
I Climbed Heart Mountain
By Janis Carter
"Anything special you want to do during your visit? We thought we'd climb a mountain today."
Heart Mountain is a 7005 ft mountain at the eastern gate to the Rockies, across the TransCanada Highway from the Exshaw factory, going west from Calgary, towards Banff, Alberta. It is named for the heart-shaped layer of limestone near the top.
My daughter and her husband had climbed it a couple of months earlier and said it only took them 45 minutes. How bad could it be? This from a 60 plus, out of shape woman who has done very little in the way of exercise over the winter months.
The mountain is quite a steep climb, it looks like more than 45 degrees when viewed from the highway. It is described as an easy scramble with one moderate step. Maybe for experienced climbers! It is also described as a round trip of 3 hours. I didn't know this recently when I looked up the stats for the mountain.
We started out with an easy hike from the parking lot to the base of the mountain, gaining some altitude, but it's not really noticeable. The path is well worn and is surrounded by low growing scrub. There are a couple of clearly marked paths and we chose the one that my son-in-law said was moderately challenging. It still didn't seem to be too bad. However, the path is primarily loose gravel. After about 1/2 hour I was huffing and puffing, but my three 30-something companions didn't seem to be suffering. After about 45 minutes, a rest stop was required because I thought my legs were going to give out and that my lunch was going to make a second appearance. My companions still seemed fine.
Looking down at this rest stop, we had climbed quite far, but still no way near 1/2 way. I was amazed that they could have gone all the way in that time. Wow, was I ever out of shape! After a lengthy rest, we persevered with the climb. I was not quitting. After a couple of hours from starting out, I had to call it quits. My daughter and I started back down and my son and son-in-law continued climbing.
The climb down took about an hour and although not as gruelling as the climb up, it seemed much more treacherous. The loose gravel caused a few skids and the steepness in some areas caused a couple of bum-slides to get down a few tricky spots. Once at the bottom, I was quite happy to see that I had actually climbed 2/3 - 3/4 of the way to the top. After what I went through, that was almost as satisfying as if I had made it to the top.
My son later told me that the rest of the climb was much tougher. There is one stretch, near the top, where they were actually rock climbing, and not just hiking.
At the top - SNOW-, but a great view! And a great sense of achievement!
45 minutes? Certainly not for most, but still a good climb.