ApproachThis is a 4200’+ ascent day. I recorded 4450’ total on my altimeter. This is the same approach trail used for The Fortress, Mount Chester and Gusty Peak. Hike into Chester Lake on the Chester Lake Trail, some 44 km south of Canmore on Spray Lakes Road (Smith Dorrien Trail). This is a ski trail approximately 4 km long. The trail has several right turn options, but you need to stick left on the main trail at all times. Eventually it narrows to a single track as it starts to climb steeper ground. I chose to bike up to the single track (bikes not allowed beyond this area), but it is a steep grade. Obviously it is worth it coming out though, even if you had to push your bike up the hill.
Once at Chester Lake (the route up Mount Chester is in clear view to your right), proceed along the north shore until you come to a trail intersection. If snow covers the ground, keep in mind this is a brief distance. Do not circle all the way around the lake as you would for Fortress or Gusty. Turn left at the intersection and start a mild ascent past the “Elephant Rocks”. Take some time to enjoy these peculiar rock formations on your right below Gusty Peak (photo included). Continue northwest and turn due north when you break out into a small valley complete with a stream and multiple headwalls forming small lakes.
Route DescriptionContinue along the right bank of the drainage and cross over at the first headwall. Proceed along the left bank of the first of three lakes until you come to a grassy ravine on your left and ascend until Mount Galatea comes into full view straight away north. Stay somewhat left as you approach the base of the mountain to avoid unnecessary elevation loss. Move across large talus and/or snow. Mount Galatea has several gullies at her base that could serve as ascent routes, but the least objectionable hazard route is climbers right. If the south face is loaded with snow, stay as far right as you can. This part of the face almost serves as a ridge.
This is an unrelenting steep slope if post holing. Move with speed to avoid any objectionable hazard until you gain the easternmost tip of Mount Galatea’s south face. Take a breather and examine the ridge and its multiple cruxes. One might be tempted to come out onto the face to bypass these problems on the left. But due to snow and ice, I chose to climb these bands of rock head on and felt much more at ease staying on the ridge. The issue with this strategy is the tremendous exposure down the north face.
There are three critical rock bands to overcome on the ridge to reach the summit. I have included photos of all three. The first is the easiest, but exposed just the same. The easier route is out over the north face, but more exposed. I chose to climb more left with a 5th class move or two. The second problem you come to is has a crack feature to the left off the ridge slightly. I took the gloves off and had a joy moving up this piece of solid rock. The ridge narrows on over to the third and toughest problem. You will find yourself gripping onto the thin edge as you move across. This crux can be taken further down the south face if free of snow and ice. In fact there was a cairn marking a small chimney feature that would lead to the final ridge route to the summit. However, as I angled across, my alpine ax hit slab rock and ice below the fresh snow. Conditions were such, I felt little if any layer adherence. Therefore, I climbed this piece head on, which required several 5.9 moves to overcome.
The views from this Kananaskis highpoint are amazing and I had a great fresh snow day making it even more spectacular. As mentioned previously, Mount Sir Douglas and its many adjacent peaks dominate the immediate view to the southwest. Mount Joffre is in clear view to the distant south and Mount Bogart illuminates amongst many peaks to the north. I was forced to descend the same route due to unstable fresh snow conditions on slab rock. But I imagine a fast descent down the center of the face is had in drier conditions. Gusty Peak’s steep northwest face put on quite a show on my return. This is great high alpine country, stop and smell the roses on return if you have the time.