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Old Goat Mountain

Climbers Scramble
Elevation [m]: 
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Not Bad Little Dense In Places
Saturday, August 24, 2013

After looking at the forecast and seeing decidedly mixed results Steven and I decided to head to Kananaskis to climb Old Goat Mountain, regarded as one of the harder routes in Nugara's scrambling book. As described in the book, Old Goat Mountain is the unofficial name given to the highpoint of the Goat Range and lies just north of Mount Nestor (and shares the same approach).

Setting out on the old road on the west bank of Spray Lakes at around sunrise the initial slog was fairly tedious (we didn't have bikes to speed along the process) but eventually we crossed the first big drainage letting us know that we were at least making some progress and shortly after we broke off from the trail and up into the bush (the suggested drainage in the book seems to be pretty hard to find but most upwards routes will work out so long as you stick a little bit close to Nestor). The bushwhacking around here was actually delightful, not much deadfall, springy grass/moss, and plenty of clearings to allow for routefinding and not long after hitting the bush we came across a deadfall-laden clearing which resembled the guidebook picture. Once hitting the clearing wider views of Old Goat, Nestor, and other peaks across the lake kept our motivation up and we starting plodding up loose scree towards the ridgecrest.

The lower part of the ridge is a combination of loose scree and decent slabs which you have to pick your way through to reach the more technical part of the route. Steven and I chose different lines upwards and eventually converged on a wide scree plateau that was a good place for a break. Up to this point the weather had been alright (our forecast promised clear sunny skies) but there were some very foreboding clouds quickly rolling in from the west. I was getting worried about the prospect of being stuck trying to retreat doing climbers scrambling moves on a rain soaked exposed ridge and decided to wait around for a while to see what this un-looked for weather would bring, Steven was hungry for the summit and pressed on upwards. After a substantial period of weather-watching the skies started to lighten to the west and I started to catch up to Steven heading up the ridge.

The ridge itself was mostly difficult scrambling (with a fair bit of exposure down towards the Goat Glacier) with a couple climbers scrambling sections that were fun on the way up and 'interesting' on the way down. The general theme is stick on top of the ridgecrest and then head down climbers left when things look too dire (a lesson which I evidently was too foolish to follow in a couple instances, see above video). The crux of the route (as we found it) occurred about 3/4 of the way up from the scree plateau and consisted of a several meter drainage/rock chute with a blend of crimps, pinches, and smears making up the majority of the holds. As Nugara says in the book a rope for rapping on the way down would be a good idea, especially if there is rain in the forecast. Once past the crux the difficult scrambling resumes on loose rock and eventually yields to the summit ridge. I met up with Steven on his way back down from the summit and after quickly running up to sign and register and take a summit panorama it was time to start our descent (can't trust those pesky ominous clouds to hold off for ever). Descending Old Goat required a fair bit of finesse, many of the holds are loose so there was plenty of gingerly crab-walking across exposed areas to descend the bulk of the route. Descending the crux was a matter unto itself which was a slow process of evaluating the sketchyness of each potential move slowly working downwards. If you do plan to head up the ridge it might be a good call to bring flagging tape to mark where you came up, sometimes the route isn't exceedingly obvious. After working our way back down past the ridge and back to the scree it was time to head down the alternate descent, the wide scree slopes pointing towards Nestor which eventually yielded to grassy slopes and back to the forest.


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