|The Fortress from the front side - circa 1987|
"The Fortress" is an imposing looking mountain near the old Fortress ski hill in Alberta's Kananaskis Country. The front side of the mountain is part of an iconic scene. It appears in everything from Jackie Chan movies to truck commercials, though I don't think most Albertans realize what they are looking at when it appears on their screen. From the front side the peak looks like an unassailable cliff which climbs to a flat topped summit. Non-climbers like me would never dream about reaching its upper heights except for the fact that (like many front range mountains) the back side is a quite reasonable scramble. I didn't have a set agenda for this year's Kananaskis trip, but the one thing that I did want to do was scramble to the summit of The Fortress.
|Three Lakes Valley|
|Fossilized coral in Three lakes valley|
Possibly Southesk Formation
|Upper Chester Creek valley. The Fortress center top.|
In front of me was a familiar sight - a limestone headwall guarded the upper valley. I made my way to the top of the headwall and found myself in an incredible "valley of stones". All around were walls of limestone. At the very head of the valley I could see the backside of the Fortress. It was divided from Mount Chester by a high col. One would have to scramble up a loose looking talus slope to the col and then make their way up to the summit from there. It all looked very doable and I was starting to feel excited about the prospect. I could still see the summits surrounding the high rocky valley, but then I looked back toward the headwall. The summits across the valley were gone - all obscured in cloud. My heart sank. A stiff wind was blowing above tree line and it was beginning to get cold. I had no sooner got my hoodie on that it began to rain. Just that quickly I needed to turn around from this beautiful, but exposed spot and retrace my steps down the headwall. By the time I got back to Chester Lake, The Fortress and Mount Chester were obscured by cloud. Kenner and I headed back to the Jimmy.
|Descending the headwall|
As the forecast predicted, it did begin to pour rain. The next day we packed up in a downpour and headed home early. The summit of The Fortress would have to wait. I am usually philosophical about these things. It had been a good day out in the high country. I can't help but notice just how the days and years fly by and I know it will be a long while before I get the chance again. The one thing that consoled me was the upcoming trip to Waterton Lakes National Park that loomed several weeks in my future. I already couldn't wait!