Fortress, The & Gusty Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3016, 3000
Trip Date: Saturday, October 2, 2004
Round Trip Time (hr): unknown
Elevation Gain (m): 1600
Total Trip Distance (km): 20
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: A pretty straight forward two-peak scramble – make sure conditions are dry to keep things “easy”.
Technical Rating: SC5; RE2
GPS Track: Gaia
Map: Google Maps

So what does a 3am wake-up time, 14km biking, 22km walking, 4 liters of Gatorade, 5 granola bars, a dozen gummy bears and some peanut M+M’s give you? Well, under the right circumstances that’ll get you 9,600 feet of height gain / loss and three distinct mountain summits all in the span of 13 hours! Dave Stephens sent me an email inquiring how long I took to do Nestor Mountain near the Spray Lakes. He qualified his question with a comment about trying to bag The Fortress, Gusty Peak and Mount Nestor in one large push to get his total height gain for the year over 100,000 feet. I replied that I would love to join him on his quest since I recently was turned back from a Fortress / Gusty attempt and wanted revenge! Since I’d already done Nestor we changed the third objective to Mount Shark.

The Fortress & Gusty Peak Route Map

After getting lost on my terrible directions, Dave showed up at around 3:45am and we headed off for the Chester Lake parking lot. By 5:45 am we were biking up the trail by head lamp. It was a beautiful morning with an almost-full moon and no wind. Lactic acid was our best friend very early in the day as we sweated up the trail on our bikes. It didn’t take long before it was time to ditch the wheels and start hoofing it.

The Fortress

The brightening morning sky found us laboring up frozen scree towards the Chester / Fortress col. We reached the col and gazed up at the summit block, knowing that it was another 350 vertical meters to go. We both felt great and were soon scrambling up the summit block (aiming for the left hand side) through some hardened snow.

Nice morning lighting on Gusty – our second peak of the morning – as we grunt up to the Gusty / Fortress col.

We popped onto the summit around 8:15 to a cool breeze and clear skies. After a quick bite to eat we started our descent. We could see that we would be losing at least 500 meters of height gain before we could start up Gusty and it looked like a real slog on scree to attain Gusty’s summit.

The way down from Fortress was not as quick as the way up. The frozen scree that assisted us on the ascent, hindered us on the descent and was very hard to negotiate. Dave’s butt came off the worst but we made it to the small tarn and began the ascent of Gusty.

Gusty Peak

After completing The Fortress it was time to grunt up the scree slopes of Gusty Peak in our 2nd of 3 summits for the day. This was easily the worst scramble of the day. It wasn’t difficult but the best to describe it would be “weary”. We really weren’t into it and it showed! Oh well. In the end we did make it and I guess that counts for something right?

On the ascent we stuck to the rocky rib between the highest scree ramp and the second-highest one. This was a good decision and resulted in less of a scree bash than otherwise. After what seemed like forever we summitted and after a quick bite to eat and some pictures we descended along the lowest scree ramp and came out on the ascent valley.

Summit panorama from Headwall to Joffre (L) to Chester, French, Prairie Lookout, Sir Douglas (C) to Birdwood, Smuts, Shark, Soderholm, Alcantara, Eon and more.

On the way down towards Chester Lake we spotted a pair of scramblers on the their way to The Fortress. How do I know they were going for The Fortress and not Gusty Peak? Because the lead guy was JP, a lawyer from Edmonton that I met on Mount Baldy earlier this year. He actually invited me along on his trip but I told him that I would most likely be on the way down by the time he got there. We yelled some quick greetings and then Dave and I continued down past a gorgeous Chester Lake to our bikes.

After a wild 6 minute ride we were in the parking lot, thanking ourselves for taking the bikes! Now it was time to bag our third summit of the day – Mount Shark.

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