Mount Girouard
Marko Stavric, an outstanding local photographer and outdoor enthusiast, had posted a message on Facebook looking for partners for a weekday trip to the mountains.  Since I was still on holidays, I promptly replied and suggested that we attempt Mount Girouard in Alberta's Banff National Park.  This was an ideal opportunity to finally do my first scramble with Marko as well as knock off a peak that I had been eyeing for quite some time.  Despite being the highest peak of the Fairholme Range, Mount Girouard seems to have been largely neglected by peak-baggers if a search on the Internet is any indication.  In his last edition of Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, Alan Kane erroneously mentions in the route description for nearby Mount Inglismaldie that Mount Girouard "is not a scramble".  This may have dissuaded many scramblers from attempting Mount Girouard, myself included!  The Rocky Mountain Ramblers Association (RMRA) had posted a trip report of a non-technical ascent in 2011, but their route photos are sorely lacking.  Unaware of the RMRA report at the time, I was actually inspired by Rafal (Raff) Kazmierczak's photos of his ascent in 2013.  Although I was still uncertain about the exact route on the upper mountain, I somewhat inferred from my previous conversations with Raff that there was probably no serious difficulties.  Unfortunately, I was unable to contact Raff for more information prior to picking up Marko from downtown Calgary on the morning of 27 August 2014.

A light drizzle greeted us as we drove out to the trailhead at Johnson Lake, and the weather did not look promising in the morning.  After hiking around Johnson Lake, we continued eastward through some light bush to reach the major drainage emanating from the south side of Mount Girouard.  Travel up this drainage was initially very easy, but as we progressed further upstream, we had to negotiate through increasing amounts of deadfall likely deposited as a result of the biblical floods of 2013.  The tedium of boulder-hopping was somewhat alleviated by an abundance of ripe raspberries everywhere.  Both Marko and I could not resist stopping constantly to stuff our greedy mouths, but this also slowed our pace considerably.

Just before a major fork in the drainage, we took to the steep embankment on climber's left and headed up through light forest before emerging from the last trees onto a vast field of rubble.  We continued up this field of rubble into a large amphitheatre bounded on one side by Mount Girouard and on the other by Mount Peechee.  By now, the weather had improved significantly, and so had our outlook on this ascent.  Still a little unsure of the exact route, we made an educated guess and headed straight up toward some impressive pinnacles on the north side of the amphitheatre.  The route actually unfolded itself for us as we worked our way up the path of least resistance to climber's right of the pinnacles.  We eventually crested the southwest ridge, and from there, it is a short but miserable grovel up horribly loose rubble to reach the summit ridge and cairn.  Views from the top were breathtaking, but the enormity of the long approach made us limit our summit stay to less than half an hour.

Monotonous and tedious would aptly describe our return trip.  Though uneventful, the hike out was both physically and mentally taxing as evidenced by my sore feet and abundant whining.  Eating more raspberries on the way out only prolonged the agony.  Darkness fell upon us while we were still in the bushes short of Johnson Lake, and while I had foolishly neglected to bring a headlamp, I was able to follow Marko who had the foresight to bring his.  Although we ended the trip in the dark, this allowed us an opportunity to witness some spectacular Northern lights on the drive home.

Overall, the route up Mount Girouard is nothing more than a lengthy off-trail hike with very minimal scrambling, and though the approach is grueling, the summit views are well-worth the suffering to get there.  A little over a month after our ascent, Vern Dewit and Steven Song paid a visit to Mount Girouard and have since posted trip reports.  With the "explosion" of route information now available on the Internet, it is likely that Mount Girouard will see more visits in the future.

Be sure to check out Marko's fabulous photos of this trip.
Turn around and head into the bush from here. Cascade Mountain is reflected in Johnson Lake.
You're gonna be sick of this rubble before the end of the day... Marko hikes up the broad drainage.
Quite a mess of folded rock! At least one anticline is visible in the exposed rock on the edge of the creek bed.
The creek bed is tedious enough even without the deadfall! An abundance of deadfall in the creek bed makes for tedious travel.
The terrain is opening up nicely. Marko progresses beyond the last trees.
Ugh. Marko slogs up more rubble.
Make more grunting noises here... The ascent route goes up this drainage before veering to the right below the pinnacles.
Marko is somewhere ahead of me in this photo. The route becomes steeper here and eventually follows the right-hand skyline.
That last bit of treadmill scree before the summit ridge is really awful! Marko is barely visible on the summit ridge.
Thankfully, it's an easy finish to the top. Marko casually strolls along the ridge toward the summit.

What a slog to get here, but very satisfying nonetheless.

Marko and Sonny stand on the 3020-metre* summit of Mount Girouard.

* Taken from my own GPS reading.  Most publications and topographic maps give Mount Girouard an elevation of 2995 metres.

I'll get there one of these days... Mount Assiniboine stands out to the southwest.
That was a bloody hot ascent so many years ago... To the north across Lake Minnewanka is Mount Aylmer.
If I had to choose an all-time favourite scramble, this would be a good candidate. The unmistakable form of Devils Head pokes up to the northeast.
Simply breathtaking! The view to the east includes Mount Costigan (left) and the eastern half of Lake Minnewanka.

Looks like a much tougher scramble. Anyone wanna join me for an attempt?

Mount Peechee is the next mountain to the southeast.

The hike out ain't gonna be fun... This is looking back down at the access drainage from the summit.  Mount Rundle is visible in the distance.
I feel like sleeping already... Marko begins the long descent.
Best perspective of Mount Inglismaldie in my opinion. Mount Girouard's companion peak to the west is Mount Inglismaldie.

There needs to be a lake somewhere down there...

Here is a more comprehensive look at Mount Peechee and the amphitheatre below its west face.

Probably slowed us down more than the deadfall! Marko stops on the way out to gorge on ripe raspberries.
An easy to moderate scramble, but expect a long day. Total Distance:  23.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  14 hours 41 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  1589 metres

GPX Data