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The Fortress (3000m)

I did the Fortress on the same day as Mt. Chester, July 15, 2002. It was a push, but my Uncle Bill and I did it with Chester and the Chester Lake - Headwall Lake Circuit as well. I believe we left Chester Lake at about 4:30, summited at 7:00 and were out in pitch dark at 11:00. My Dad and Uncle Tom had to be back for work, and Joe's knees were giving him trouble, so I coaxed my Uncle Bill to go with me. We actually missed the trail and ended up on the other side of Gusty Peak until we emerged from the trees and discovered this fact. This probably lost us a good hour on the ascent. Joe was planning on picking us up at 8:00, so we were in trouble. This is the picture from above Chester Lake. The ascent route goes to the col and then follows the right skyline. This was a wierd pond in the fact that the water came in from both directions and then disappeared! I found it quite interesting.Click on a photo to enlarge it.

After less than an hour from the spot where the above picture was taken, we reached the Chester-Fortress col. It was a fairly steep hike up scree-snow slopes, but we managed to power up this slope even with the limited energy we had. The mountain in the background is Mount Chester which we climbed earlier in the day. The actual summit is not in view. Earlier in the day we had wondered whether or not it would be feasible to just continue along this ridge to Fortress. Obviously not!

From the col there is an easy scree ascent to the top. It takes about 45 minutes. Near the summit, there is a seemingly imposing wall which guards the summit. This is only a 1-sided facade, as detouring around the right side provides an easy way to attain the summit. This picture was taken from a spot nearing the summit. The mountains from left to right are Gusty Peak, Mount Galatea and the Tower. There kind of like triplets.

Breathtaking views were at the summit as the sun was just setting. It was 7:00, and realizing that Joe was to be at the trailhead at 8:00, Uncle bill quickly scrambled around the summit looking for a signal on his cell phone. He found it, delayed Joe to 9:15, took this picture and then we were off. Mount Chester is in the middle, Chester Lake trail in the valley on the right, and Headwall Lakes on the left. We then made the bad choice of deciding to head along the Headwall Lakes trail hoping to be out in 2 hours 15 minutes. Even though we were nearing the lakes at the bottom left of the picture in 45 minutes, we couldn't make that time.

After hurriedly hiking, we ran into many delays, we ended up crossing the river 3 times. This picture is of the beautiful waterfall separating the two lakes. Farther on more problems were discovered as the trail was submerged under the lake. Once we entered the trees, The path sometimes dwindled, and once we reached the fire road we were disoriented and had troubles finding the right way to go. Luckily Uncle Bill was skilled at orienteering and got us out of the mess, but we were still on the trail as the moon came up. We reached the highway at 11:00 at night, but no cars were to be found. I luckily spotted an elk a few feet in front of us before we became too close, but Joe was not at the trailhead. As we became cold and ran out of food and water, Joe's headlights appeared on the horizon and we drove home. I later that night found out that my mom had sent out the RCMP to look for us, but luckily we got back to Canmore and called it off. Oh boy, what a day!

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