ApproachPark at the Alpine Club of Canada’s clubhouse and national office in Canmore. Walk down the gravel road to a single track trail on your left well before the Canmore Pony Club. This trail ascends steeply and intersects an east west trail. Proceed east (right) for a short distance on this trail in an attempt to line up with the right side of the box canyon cut deep into the center of Grotto Mountain.
Route DescriptionThis is a 4500’+/- ascent day. Start an unrelenting steep ascent here and stay on the edge of this ridge (canyon to your left). This is the most direct route up to the summit of Grotto Mountain, albeit a steep plod. I have witnessed mountain sheep and blue grouse in this vicinity. Eventually you will clear the tree line at 7300'. Since I ascended during early season conditions in 2003, I strapped on my crampons and knocked out 1100' straight up hooking into a southwest ridge that leads to the summit. There is a summit cairn and register. The views are plentiful including the scramble and alpine rock route (East Ridge) of Grotto’s more popular neighbor, Mt. Lady MacDonald.
To complete the traverse on descent, proceed west along the summit ridge towards Cougar Canyon (Northwest Route). This high ridge affords you great views of the Bow Valley and mountains beyond. As you near the end of the ridge, start angling south (down) and catch a steep switchback trail made by the Alpine Club right above tree line. Stay far enough to the west to avoid descending any dramatic rock bands that get flushed out into the deep box canyon. Once onto the trail, descend coming back east essentially making a triangle out of the traverse. The trails get confusing once you reach the benchlands, so a compass heading might be helpful when you start out, although in good weather you should have little problem making out the Alpine Club facilities.
I have completed the Grotto Traverse twice, in April and May. On one early ascent, as before mentioned, I used crampons to ascend the final 1100’ on a wind packed snow slope. Depending on the year however, the route could be relatively dry by May. Basically this trip forms a triangle circuit, giving one a great ridge hike at 8500' with dangerous cornices on your right if early season. I encountered no scramblers on these early ascents, but this is a popular scramble due to its proximity to Canmore and the Alpine Club.