The Fortress is located in the center of the Kananaskis Range in Kananaskis Provincial Park (central Canadian Rockies) along with other popular scrambles, Mount Engadine to the northwest and Mount Chester to the southwest. The Fortress was officially named in 1957 due to its appearance when viewed from the north on Highway 40. The Fortress should not be confused with the close by Fortress Mountain Ski Resort or the actual Fortress Mountain on the Continental Divide south of Jasper.
The only published route(s) up the Fortress are the two variations of the easy scramble route. I have climbed both routes, the Chester Lake approach and the Headwall Lakes approach, one in early snow conditions and the other dry. My preference is combining the two by ascending via Headwall Lakes and descending through Chester Lake. Both routes are scenic and pleasant outings. The summit affords great views of the three jewels of Kananaskis, Mount Assiniboine, Mount Joffre and Mount Sir Douglas. Skiing up Fortress is an option, but not published. Of course avalanche conditions can be as tedious back here as anywhere in the parks.
From the Canmore Nordic Center, drive 40 km south on the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road (gravel). Turn left at the sign for the Chester Day Use area. You are guaranteed mountain sheep on the Spray Lakes Road and once in a blue moon, a moose or two. Watch for hazardous rock fall on the switchbacks above Canmore. At times this road will be closed due to rock and/or mud slides.
There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. There are no park headquarters on this road. Kananaskis Park headquarters are located on Highway 40 east of Canmore. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board at that location. If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.
When To Climb
As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed The Fortress in June and October of different years. I put up with a ton of snow in June and none in October. There are no published backcountry ski routes on The Fortress, although it is suitable for skiing.
The closest camping is located back at the north end of Spray Lakes Reservoir across the dam at random campsites located on the west shore of the lake. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding camping and/or lodging. A premium accommodation is the Engadine Lodge which is only several kilometers north on Spray Lake Road.
The Kananaskis Provincial Park website is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.
""You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.""