Hearts Peak
Crowsnest Pass, Alberta
May 21, 2017

Hearts Peak apparently attracts few visitors: there is no summit cairn let alone a summit register. Nonetheless it seemed like an interesting early-season goal, and for me, an ambitious one.

Recovering from a dislocated shoulder on Sandy MacNabb Hills, I didn’t have the option of taking a shorter route, scrambling up the cliff band below the summit like others have. I was still a few months away from complete recovery. My shoulder was still sore and my arm too weak to haul myself up rock, nor could I risk re-injuring my shoulder if I lost my footing. So I elected to traverse the ridge. I anticipated an enjoyable ridgewalk, but that never happened.

I started up the trail – actually an old road that runs along the base of Hillcrest Mountain – until I was within striking distance of the south end of the ridge. The ridge looked reasonable on Google Earth but the devil is in the details. What I thought were grassy slopes were in fact young pine trees laced with deadfall. It was a nasty start but I expected the ridge crest to be clear. It wasn’t. There were a few clearings, but most of the ridge was strewn with rampikes, a Canadian word meaning “a dead tree, especially the bleached skeleton or splintered trunk of a tree.” Rampikes, both fallen and still standing, are everywhere on Hearts Peak.

Just before the summit I came across footprints in the snow. Some able-bodied person had scrambled up and down the cliff band.

I had lunch on top, took some pictures and then continued down the other side of the ridge. Like the south ridge, the north ridge was plagued with rampikes, so I was glad to set foot on the trail. I still faced three kilometres of postholing but it beat crawling over deadfall.

Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, I still relished my trip. But I don’t expect anyone will want to traverse the long, heartless ridge like I did, not when there’s a short, scrambling route to Hearts Peak.

Postscript: I learned later the unknown climber was Matthew Clay.

KML and GPX Tracks


The trailhead: Hearts Peak is hidden behind Hillcrest Mountain


Hiking down the road


Hearts Peak is just around the corner. The snow-covered ridge is an extension of Spades Peak.


Plenty of song birds, like this white-crowned sparrow, were singing


Hearts Peak ahead


I left the road here, dropped down, crossed a creek and started up the south end of the ridge


Glacier lilies were out


I tried skirting the deadfall mess but eventually I had to bite the bullet


For most of the lower slope, I barreled through this crap


Looking back at one of the nicer sections


It was strange to find this huge chain here, each link the size of my thumb


I thought I was home free when I reached this bare section of ridge but I was wrong


Deadfall impedes the way to the summit


Painstaking work to go along the ridge


The ridge becomes more defined but no easier to travel on


The last 300 m to the summit was free of deadfall


The trail runs over the Hearts-Hillcrest col


Looking back along the ridge. Footprints in snow lead to a spot where someone scrambled up.


Spades Peak lies south


On the summit


Mount McLaren and Willoughby Ridge. Mouse over to see Ironstone Lookout on Willoughby.


I made my way down the north ridge to the trail


Looking back at a horrendous section I went through just before reaching the trail


I was glad to be back on the trail, but I still faced three kilometres of postholing


The trail leads to the Hillcrest-Hearts col


Looking back at my tracks


It's a long slog to reach the col


Looking up at Hillcrest Mountain from the col


The long switchback on the other side: barely visible in the centre is the corner of the switchback


The summit of Hearts from the trail: note the cliff band


Here's where the unknown scrambler started his ascent from the road (864901)


My postholing ordeal finally ended, and I can see the south end of Hearts Peak where I began my ascent


82 G/9 Blairmore

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