Grotto Mountain

Elevation: 2706 m
Elevation Gain: 1425 m
Grotto Mountain was named by Eugene Bourgeau and James Hector in 1858 for a large cave that they found within it. Today, non-geological forces have also chiseled away at the peak as evidenced by the large quarry on its flank.
My Ascents:
May 20 2012, June 22 2011, April 17 2010

Grotto Mountain is a favorite early season scramble of mine. The 1000 vertical meters that are gained below the tree-line can best be described as a slog and makes an excellent conditioning hike (the trail is so steep that it does not switch-back; it slaloms). Once above the tree-line, the 2 km-long ridge walk between the false summit and the true peak provides stunning views in all directions. The peak is often free of snow and ready for ascent much sooner than others nearby as a result of its broad south-facing aspect and location in the front ranges. Taken all-together, these factors ensure that Grotto Mountain delivers an unmatched sense of accomplishment for a shoulder-season outing. Well aware of this fact, Gord has been asking me to bring him up this peak for years so with a pleasant forecast for the May long weekend, we thought we would test the old man’s early season mettle on Grotto’s steep slopes.

Time for a break after 1000 vertical meters of slogging up viciously steep slopes below the tree line! The reward for our efforts: a picture-perfect view of Mount Lougheed and the Three Sisters.

Once above the tree-line, the ascent to the false summit is little more than a scree-bash. From the false summit, the views truly open up. Here you can see Mount Lady MacDonald to the west and Cascade Mountain further up the Bow Valley.

Lady Mac’s f*cking knife-edge ridge.

The stunning sea of peaks to the north provides inspiration for the remaining 2 km pleasant ridge walk from the false-summit to the true-summit.

Vertically tilted strata to the north of Grotto Mountain.

With the slog all-but-done, Gord takes in the scenery along Grotto Mountain's long summit ridge.

Crossing one section of steep snow slopes and slab. There are very few sections like this and almost the entire ridge-traverse is simply a walk.

Looking back to the false summit. An early season ascent of Grotto guarantees plenty of snow clinging to north-facing aspects which serves to make the scramble all the more scenic.

Another party makes their way along the ridge.

Getting artsy with a cornice.

The true summit comes into view.

Playing around in the rock window minutes before the summit. If you’re not paying attention, you can easily walk right over this window and never notice it!

The old timer on summit approach.

Made it! Nice work old man! 1425 vertical meters…not bad for a season starter!

First register of the season (but not the last)!

Last year’s entry: written a week after successfully defending my PhD (and 1 day after successfully getting Brianne up Yamnuska).

Mount Fable highlights the view to the north from the summit.

Closer view of Fable.

First father-son summit of the year!

Mount Lougheed and Spray Lake across the Bow Valley.

Mount Lawrence Grassi (including Ha Ling) and Mount Rundle (including EEOR) bracket Canmore.

Feeling quite sophisticated with my summit tea. Next time I'll have to remember to stick my pinky finger in the air!

"Oh hello there."

Floating effortlessly on an updraft.

Beautiful cornice. Ugly weather station. A study in contrast.

More ugliness in the valley below unfortunately. The nice thing about climbing Grotto is that the unsightly scar (quarry) on its side isn't visible from up here.

An unusual perspective of the Three Sisters – head-on.

Mount Aylmer is one of the highest peaks in the front ranges and punctuates the horizon to the north.


Prairies to the east. Calgary off in the smog.

Frozen hands mean it’s time to stop taking pictures and GTFD!

Last of the good views before starting the long steep switch-backs slalom. Until next spring Grotto!