Steven Song's Peak-bagging Journey

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Mt. Fortune & Fortulent

Weather and avalanche forecast looked to be okay for this weekend, so Ben and I decided to head to the mountains again. Originally Anthony, Ben's friend was going to join us. Ben and I preferred to leave Edmonton 3AM in the morning to avoid sleeping in car at -17 freezing temperature, or sleeping in hostel with unknown roommates (possibly noisy), and to save 30 bucks... Anthony isn't used to doing intense trips with 1-2 hours of sleep, so we eventually booked hostel in Canmore. Anthony cancelled the trip at last minute, so it was only Ben and I leaving city 8pm Saturday evening. Blizzard condition all the way from Edmonton to Innisfail, and driving condition was marginal. There were about 20 cars driving into the ditches, in addition to 2 large trucks. Visibility was minimal due to the heavy snowfall and blowing snow. Apparently Ben has experience dealing with this condition and he managed to drive his small car at 80-100kph. I have done driving in even worse condition near Kamloops and Merritt back to 2 years ago, and I was prepared to take over the driving if the condition was like that the entire way. It totally reminded me the intense drive from Edmonton to Vancouver in March 2011, dealing with heavy rain, heavy snow, heavy fog, and almost everything you can experience. Thankfully we passed the storm quickly. The sleep in Canmore hostel was far from enjoyable. We got a noisy roommate who was videoing with his buddy at 1am. As a result we only got roughly 4 hours of sleep...

So we started the day at about 8AM, when there was enough light. As described in Nugara book, the first thing was to negotiate the maze of ski trails. We tried to follow Nugara's direction for while, but soon got frustrated by the switchbacks and up-and-downs, and eventually decided to shoot straight down towards Spary Lake, and this proved to be the fastest way for snowshoeers. Bushwhacking and plunging-step downhill was fast. Once we dropped down to the lake, we were surprised to find no wind, which is very unusual for this area. Temperature wasn't too cold neither, and weather was clear. We all enjoyed the alpenglow and then morning light while crossing the lake. The view made this supposed boring hour very enjoyable. And it was so good to see the colours changing from purple to red to orange and yellow. I highly recommend crossing the lake in sunrise hour. There was no visible tracks and we aimed straight towards the SW corner of Mount Fortune. It was a long way cross.

Apparently there once was a forest fire in this area, going up the field of burned trees reminded me Vermillion Peak two weeks ago. I'm pretty sure Mount Fortune can be skied and there's enough space between burned trees to do turns, but there wasn't enough snow, and deadfalls were only partially covered. The second problem was the shitty snow. It has a somehow hard crust on top which couldn't hold our weight, and we had to punch down the crust, then post-hole to knee deep. The snow was very sugary and even our MSR snowshoes couldn't get a grip. We slide backward every step forward. The only evidence showing we were actually moving uphill was seeing our pole marks. The snow combined with deadfalls made our progress very, very slow. It would be very frustrating if we had plan on Monday, but for a one-day trip, we don't mind to do more work-out, as long as it doesn't prevent success. We are both very fit and we shared trail-breaking half half, and after 2 hours of heavy duty work, we made to treeline. The terrain above treeline was severely wind blown, and we had to take-off snowshoes. We carried snowshoes because we couldn't see Fortune/Fortulent col. It turned out be a good call. The high point ahead of us was actually false summit, but the true summit was only minutes away, and soon we stood on Mount Fortune. The view was already outstanding, and I agree with Nugara that this is the highlight of snowshoeing around Spray Lake, 3.5 hours from car.

We didn't stay on Fortune, but immediately dropped down towards Fortune/Fortulent col. It turned out that we indeed needed snowshoes. The col is below treeline and it perfectly holds snow. We didn't lose much elevation before starting up again. The entire slope was blown bare on climber's left and center, so we ditched snowshoes at snowline. Slogging up frozen scree and some snow, we quickly gained elevation. There are a couple of easy to moderate scramble sections before the summit. They could be circumvented on climber's left side, but we didn't bother. Once we topped out on the summit, the other side fully opened up, and Mount Turbulent appeared to be a true slog. It can certainly be done on snowshoes or skis, but that would be a long day with Castleguard style approach. I'm actually interested in this. Fortulent has twin summits, and we checked the other one as well. The view down towards Spray River valley is much better from this summit, and looking back to the first summit reveals some cornice scenery, so make sure you don't give it a miss. We briefly considered continuing the ridge towards the next high point, 1.5km away, but decided to go back. We certainly had time to explore, but didn't bother as we didn't want to claim that peak...

Once we got down the scrambling section, we took the snow on skier's left and got a great glissade. Once down the alpine section, we all enjoyed a super fast plunging step. It only took us roughly 20min to descend back to the lake. For snowshoeing downhill, we want it to be as slippery as possible so we can glide. Except for the deadfalls, it was very enjoyable. The afternoon sun provided some different view on the lake. Again, there was no wind. Once making back to the other side, we retraced our tracks to parking lot. There were lots of cross country skiers.

We decided to drive home via Highway 40. I spotted a less exposed route to Little Chester. I actually made to its summit in summer, but didn't count as it was only a 10min side trip from Mount Chester. I suggest to follow the west face/SW ridge line, rather than Nugara's dangerous gully.. Commonwealth Ridge and Tent Ridge both appeared dry on upper ridge/slope. Opal Ridge (true summit)'s entire slope was dry. Another peak that appeared dry was West Baldy West Ridge, a Nugara climber's scramble. It was feasible last Sunday, oh well... We eventually made back to Calgary before sunset. Good timing for a moderately long trip in January.

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Photos taken by Steven