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)
Map: Google 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… 😉
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.
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.
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.