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Girouard, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 2995
Trip Date: October 05 2014
Elevation Gain (m): 1600
Round Trip Time (hr): 9.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 21
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you might sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: The crux is the approach on this one! Long approach on rocky creek bed and some light bushwhacking.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)
MapGoogle Maps


I really thought I’d be sitting at home all weekend, the week after our long approach and climb on Mount Alexandra. But Hanneke was busy studying and the kids were occupied and the weather forecast was amazing for October so what was I to do?! Naturally I texted Steven as I knew he’d be up for something and sure enough – he was game. We weren’t really in the mood for something too difficult or long. We’ve been chatting for a while about scrambling up Mount Girouard, mostly because whenever we drive home down highway 1 through Banff from the west, we stare directly at Inglismaldie and Girouard. I’ve already done Inglismaldie (and enjoyed it) and Girouard is the highest mountain in the Fairholme range so naturally it was on “the list”. It’s a good thing I didn’t look too closely at the two bits of beta we had from the Ramblers and from Marko / Sonny. Both of these trips were over 12 hours long and the total distance indicated was 22-24km! For some reason I had it in my head that this was an 8 hour day… 😉

Mount Girouard Route Map

We were hiking around Johnson Lake by 08:00. The morning was warm. We were carrying minimal gear – nobody wanted to be lugging huge weight around after last weekend. It was funny that of all the Banff peaks we could see on our drive to the trail head, Inglismaldie and Girouard were the only two with snow on their summit slopes! We figured it wouldn’t be too deep. After some very light bushwhacking we found the stream leading up to Girouard. It was heavily damaged by the 2013 floods and was not easy to walk on thanks to rolling, small rocks. Pretty much right away I realized that this wasn’t going to be a short or easy day – physically at least. We made fast time up the creek bed and even managed to utilize short sections of forest on climber’s right in order to get off the rocks for a while.

As we got higher the stream got more choked with debris from the flood. Avoiding it was a bit of a pain in spots but nothing compared to the bush on Alexandra a week previous so we weren’t too bothered by it. Perspective is everything. A bonus of getting higher in the creek bed was that the rock bed was made of much bigger rocks – they were the only ones big enough not to wash down stream in the flood. This made for much faster ascending, we had fun doing a sort of “parkour” in the creek. At one point the creek split into two feeders, we followed the left one until we spotted a headwall in the distance. At this point we took to the burnt forest on climber’s left and traversed high above the creek until we spotted open Alpine and headed towards it. We knew it was going to be a longer day than expected when it took us 4 hours to reach the upper creek / bowl between Girouard and Peechee. This is a lovely alpine meadow – the perfect place for goats to be, as evidenced by their trails and detritus.

Looking back we are surprised how much height we’ve gained. Still 1000 meters to go though.

We weren’t 100% sure which peak above was the main summit, so it was handy to have Marko’s GPS track along. We took easy scree to our left before traversing back right and then up a scree / slab shallow gully with boot top snow in it. The views in all directions from the summit were much better than expected, Girouard is the highest peak in the Fairholme range and the views reflect this. Lake Minnewanka along with Aylmer, Inglismaldie and Peechee all looked impressive from the peak. The wind was cold so we didn’t linger long. It took us 5.5 hours to summit, much longer than I was expecting but quite fast on hindsight.

Incredible views over Lake Minnewanka towards Mount Aylmer. Inglismaldie impressive at left here. Steven on the summit ridge to the right.
Summit views looking east, south and west over the town of Banff at center.
This upper alpine meadow between Girouard and Peechee is quite lovely. If the approach wasn’t such a chore, I’d be tempted to bivy up here some time.

The descent was a bit of a PITA thanks to fresh snow up high (slick on the rocks) and the rocky creek bed and flood damage lower down. It seemed to take forever to get out of the creek and back into forest, but eventually the pain dulled (my toes are permanently numb after many years of mountaineering boots anyway ;)) and we were soon tramping quickly around Johnson Lake back to the truck. It was only then that Steven thought to mention that most people take 12 hours for this trip. I was feeling slow at 9.5 hours! LOL.

I only recommend this scramble if you have done Inglismaldie and / or Aylmer and are looking for a much less traveled option in the area. The creek seems to run almost all year with some dry stretches in it’s middle section so you don’t have to carry much (if any) water which cuts down on weight.

Mount Girouard
Cascade Mountain and Johnson Lake.
Cascade Mountain and Johnson Lake.
Looks worse than it is, this is the back of the lake where we started traversing through light forest to the approach stream.
Looks worse than it is, this is the back of the lake where we started traversing through light forest to the approach stream.
We have to contour on climber's right of the hill to the left before slowly working our way all the way to the snowy ridge in the far distance.
We have to contour on climber's right of the hill to the left before slowly working our way all the way to the snowy ridge in the far distance.
The stream is full of fresh debris, thanks to the 2013 floods. The rock is also very unstable making for a tough approach.
The stream is full of fresh debris, thanks to the 2013 floods. The rock is also very unstable making for a tough approach.
Interesting geology in the creek - an anticline.
Interesting geology in the creek - an anticline.
The creek narrows, which has the effect of washing out the smaller rock, leaving us with larger ones that were easier to negotiate.
The creek narrows, which has the effect of washing out the smaller rock, leaving us with larger ones that were easier to negotiate.
Getting much higher, with larger debris.
Getting much higher, with larger debris.
The creek splits at the bump in the far distance. We traversed beside the creek wherever we could, to give our poor ankles a break!
The creek splits at the bump in the far distance. We traversed beside the creek wherever we could, to give our poor ankles a break!
The branch we didn't follow.
The branch we didn't follow.
Moss on the forest floor.
Moss on the forest floor.
We're high above the creek on climber's left to avoid a headwall below.
We're high above the creek on climber's left to avoid a headwall below.
Looking back we are surprised how much height we've gained. Still 1000 meters to go though.
Looking back we are surprised how much height we've gained. Still 1000 meters to go though.
The summit is the snowy rock on the left, to the right of the pinnacles. Soon we will go up scree to our left.
The summit is the snowy rock on the left, to the right of the pinnacles. Soon we will go up scree to our left.
Looking up the easy scree slopes to the traverse, which is on the snow just below the pinnacles above.
Looking up the easy scree slopes to the traverse, which is on the snow just below the pinnacles above.
Pretty easy slopes, nice footing on stable scree / grass here.
Pretty easy slopes, nice footing on stable scree / grass here.
It's a beautiful alpine bowl underneath the summits of Girouard and west of Peechee (on the right).
It's a beautiful alpine bowl underneath the summits of Girouard and west of Peechee (on the right).
Steven leads up the slick rocks / snow. Another foot of snow would have been better - we could have kicked steps up and glissaded down!
Steven leads up the slick rocks / snow. Another foot of snow would have been better - we could have kicked steps up and glissaded down!
Looking back at our LONG approach! The work is paying off with great views though. Peechee to the center left here.
Looking back at our LONG approach! The work is paying off with great views though. Peechee to the center left here.
These pinnacles on the ridge are striking when you drive from the west down hwy 1. They're the standout features on Girouard.
These pinnacles on the ridge are striking when you drive from the west down hwy 1. They're the standout features on Girouard.
Once we hit the ridge we still had to climb about 100 meters higher to the summit.
Once we hit the ridge we still had to climb about 100 meters higher to the summit.
Striking views west over Inglismaldie and Cascade from the summit ridge.
Striking views west over Inglismaldie and Cascade from the summit ridge.
Views over Lake Minnewanka.
Views over Lake Minnewanka.
Incredible view over Lake Minnewanka. Steven on the summit ridge to the right.
Incredible view over Lake Minnewanka. Steven on the summit ridge to the right.
Summit views looking east, south and west.
Summit views looking east, south and west.
Mount Costigan is an impressive front range peak.
Mount Costigan is an impressive front range peak.
Devil's Head looks very close! Castle Rock at left.
Devil's Head looks very close! Castle Rock at left.
Mount Aylmer is very high front range peak. It's a long bloody day trip too! But a much nicer approach than Girouard.
Mount Aylmer is very high front range peak. It's a long bloody day trip too! But a much nicer approach than Girouard.
I didn't realize Girouard is the same height as Mount Rundle.
I didn't realize Girouard is the same height as Mount Rundle.
Vern on the summit of Mount Girouard.
Vern on the summit of Mount Girouard.
A tour boat on Lake Minnewanka.
A tour boat on Lake Minnewanka.
Astley at left, Aylmer at center.
Astley at left, Aylmer at center.
Looking over Spectral Peak and the Sawback Range.
Looking over Spectral Peak and the Sawback Range.
Looking over Spectral Peak and the Sawback Range.
Looking over Spectral Peak and the Sawback Range.
Looking over the town of Banff towards Sunshine Village and Mount Assiniboine.
Looking over the town of Banff towards Sunshine Village and Mount Assiniboine.
Another shot of Costigan with Lake Minnewanka and the prairies beyond.
Another shot of Costigan with Lake Minnewanka and the prairies beyond.
Steven descends.
Steven descends.
Steven descends.
Steven descends.
This upper alpine meadow is quite lovely. If the approach wasn't such a chore, I'd be tempted to bivy up here some time.
This upper alpine meadow is quite lovely. If the approach wasn't such a chore, I'd be tempted to bivy up here some time.
We descended slightly different than our ascent line. We went one gully to skier's right over from our ascent gully and it worked very well.
We descended slightly different than our ascent line. We went one gully to skier's right over from our ascent gully and it worked very well.
Heading to the alternate gully. It's better for descent due to the loose scree.
Heading to the alternate gully. It's better for descent due to the loose scree.
The descent gully is steep but good, fast scree.
The descent gully is steep but good, fast scree.
Mount Peechee looms over the burnt out slopes.
Mount Peechee looms over the burnt out slopes.
Arg. Back in the creek...
Arg. Back in the creek...
The flood did some impressive carving.
The flood did some impressive carving.
The last section is the longest. The rock is small and hard to walk on.
The last section is the longest. The rock is small and hard to walk on.

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