Summit Elevation (m): 2411
Trip Date: October 20, 2023
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 6.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 17
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3, you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: A very delightful, moderate scramble with fairly straightforward routefinding and a scenic approach up Jura Creek
Technical Rating: SC6; RE3
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
I have had Goat Mountain on my “to-do” list for a very, very long time! As one of the most prominent peaks to first come into view as you drive into the Rockies from Calgary, I’m sure it has been on my list ever since I first scrambled easy front range peaks such as Yamnuska, Loder and Door Jamb and Mount Baldy. After not getting it done for more than 2 decades of looking at it and driving past it hundreds of times, I finally managed to scramble it on the very last day of snow-free scrambling for the year. So why did it take me this bloody long to finally complete such an accessible front range peak? Goat Mountain has been known for many years as a 5th class traverse from the Yamnuska col and down its south ridge, passing over Loder and Door Jamb before exiting to hwy 1A. People have died on this very popular traverse, usually on the exposed ascent route to the summit from the Yamnuska col. I have many friends who have done the traverse and it sounded kind of fun and kind of not fun tbh. Most of them took many hours to do such a small mountain – and most trips end with a boring bike ride along a busy highway to get back to the starting point. My friend Bill Kerr has an excellent trip report on the Goat Mountain traverse if you’re interested in reading more about it.
I always suspected there had to be an easier and quicker way to do this relatively small peak and sure enough – there most certainly is! In May of this year (2023), Cornelius Rott ascended Goat Mountain via Door Jamb and Loder Peak using a bypass route to avoid the most difficult terrain and finding a very nifty alternate descent route down goat paths and slabs from the upper SW ridge into Jura Creek. I’ve been a longtime admirer of Cornelius’ routes and this one promised to be another beauty. I didn’t want to “waste” prime time on Goat Mountain and waited until the last possible moment to give it a try. The week before I followed another great route from Rott up Jura Creek on Cross and South Ghost Peak and this reminded me of the Goat Mountain trip and placed it front and center on my radar.
Given the forecast and my mood, I wanted to try the simplest and shortest route possible for Goat Mountain. I also wanted to document the easiest route possible for this popular mountain, hoping to make it more accessible for regular scrambling folks who might not want to flirt with 5th class terrain and the much more convoluted traverse. This meant I would be following Cornelius’ documented descent route for both ascent and descent. I was even hoping to potentially find some slightly easier / simpler lines if possible, given that I’d be both ascending and descending the same route whereas Cornelius was descending it “blind” when he did it. I made the short drive from Calgary to the Jura Creek parking lot and arrived just at daybreak to start my hike up the creek on a mix of trails and creek parkour.
Once past the scenic False Fault Pools along the creek, I continued for another few kilometers until I arrived at a huge washout coming from a side valley to the east and running over the Jura Creek drainage. This was around the 5.5km mark from the parking lot and was a key landmark indicating it was time to turn right (east) and start hiking up a large access drainage towards the west face of Goat Mountain.
The mountain was barely visible at first but as I played a familiar game of “creek parkour” the west face slabs grew larger and larger ahead. The access drainage was fun, easy access and I gained height rather quickly up this section. The 2013 floods flushed out this drainage quite nicely, leaving behind a relatively clean route consisting of stable rubble and boulders that provided direct access. There were a few splits in the drainage but I stuck to the main one until my GPS showed me that I was close to Cornelius’ descent from the west face.
This is the point where my route varied slightly from Rott’s. Instead of navigating up slabs and scree using various ledges and cracks, I found a nice straightforward route climber’s left of his, following a handrail cliff up a series of moderate slabs. The route worked extremely well and was quick and fun all the way to just below the upper NW ridge, where it deteriorated into familiar rubble and scree.
After groveling up the final bit of scree I found myself under the NW ridge with views to the summit and east out of the CMC Valley past Wendell and Yamnuska. At first the NW ridge looked pretty intense but once I got on it, it was just more fun scrambling on grippy rock.
I had to pay attention to the GPS to find the next section of the route. The NW ridge goes all the way to the summit but you don’t want to follow it there, unless you’re looking for a challenge that could be over your pay grade. What you’re looking for, only a short way up the NW ridge, is a cairn marking the start of a faint goat path traverse across the west face to the distant skyline SW ridge. Unfortunately from this side the trail is not easy to spot as it starts along a series of bare slabs. After finding the start the traverse using my GPS and Cornelius’ track, I noticed a small cairn on the NW ridge at my feet, marking it as well.
The west face goat path was more good fun. I was having a blast on this route so far! There were a number of cairns marking the route which was fairly easy to spot after the initial slab traverse. It didn’t gain or lose much height and there were only 1 or 2 short, moderate steps up a series of cliff bands stretching down from the summit. (With snow or ice this route would be a bit of a nightmare.) It didn’t take long and I popped out on the SW ridge with views up a series of slabs to a false summit.
Once again, the terrain was much easier than it first appeared. When I first looked up the SW ridge I wondered if it was indeed, only “moderate” but after starting up on very grippy rock I realized that not only is the angle reasonable, there are many little paths and routes along ledges and bits of scree that folks have used over the years that make it even easier. I stuck closer to the edge just for fun, but didn’t have to.
I quickly ascended on the slabs to what I thought was the summit but of course, wasn’t. As is very typical in the Rockies, the first visible highpoint was just a false summit but in this case I was happy to get a few more meters of fun scrambling! Honestly, I can’t think of a front range peak that’s given me this much fun in a long time.
After a short scramble directly up the SW ridge / slabs I found myself on the true summit with respectable views in all directions. The register had no lid and no booklet unfortunately, so I couldn’t read the names of the many friends who’ve done this peak before me. It was neat to see so many familiar mountains from over the years, now I want to repeat some of them. Isn’t it funny how that works?
There was good cell reception on the summit and I made sure to text my family that I’d made it, and also Wietse to let him know that Goat Mountain was a pretty straightforward moderate scramble. The wind was blasting on the ridge and I made my way back down the upper slabs easily. There were routes that looked to avoid the SW ridge via scree on skier’s right but I’m not convinced that’s worth it. If you’ve made it to the summit there is no reason not to simply return along the ridge directly. No sense getting off route at this point!
I retraced my steps to the start of the goat path and followed it easily back across the west face to the NW ridge which I descended easily. Descending along the handrail cliff that I’d used on ascent worked better than I was expecting. I used patches of scree and the grippy slabs for a quick, fun and relatively pain free exit down into the access valley which I followed out to Jura Creek.
Once in the creek I took my time. I knew this was likely the last scramble of 2023 for me and wanted to enjoy it. So far the day had been unbelievably enjoyable – I was delighted that I’d waited a few decades for this objective and a route this fun and straightforward. The False Fault Pools provided some nice fall scenery as I hiked over them.
As on approach, I chose to hike directly out of the Jura Creek canyon to end the trip rather than bother with the bypass. With better lighting on exit I managed to snap some nice photos through here. I was surprised to be all alone again – unlike the week before it was still early afternoon this time around. I guess the season really is winding down in late October.
I know I’ve stated it more than once already in this report but it deserves repeating: I greatly enjoyed the Goat Mountain scramble route from Jura Creek. What’s not to like for the typical Rockies scrambler? It’s an hour from YYC and there’s zero bushwhacking via a scenic canyon and creek approach. After that there’s good, fun, moderate slab scrambling followed by an interesting, sneaky route to more moderate slab and ridge scrambling to the summit. There’s absolutely no reason to mess about with exposed 5th class scrambling or ropes on this peak if you don’t want to. I took my time the whole day and only took 6.5 hours, so it even gets you home easily on time for supper. This was a very solid A+ way to end my 2023 scrambling season on a high note and make me look forward to 2024.