BOU AVENUE
Gunnery Mountain
I was admittedly a bit unenthusiastic when Zosia Zgolak invited me to join her and others for a double ascent of Mount Mann and Gunnery Mountain in the Highwood region of Alberta's Kananaskis Country on 24 April 2016.  I had already previously traversed Gunnery Mountain, and the weather forecast did not look promising.  Still, knowing that I would not be returning to the mountains for another two weeks because of work, I decided to suck it up and brave the elements with Zosia, Eva Bartipanova, John Bence, and Stephane Champoussin.  Right off the bat, we had to forego Mount Mann as the swollen Highwood River looked too risky to ford.  Instead, we started hiking up the trail along Gunnery Creek under a light rain.

All of us had been so preoccupied with trying to ford the Highwood River that we had neglected to consider the route up Gunnery Mountain which is not nearly as straightforward as I remembered.  We ended up hiking all the way to Gunnery Pass without seeing any obvious trail leading to the notch separating Gunnery Mountain from Holy Cross Mountain.  The low clouds also complicated matters by making it difficult to see where we were supposed to be heading.  Backtracking a little from Gunnery Pass, we headed into the bush and tried to follow game trails up the slope.  I became separated from the others at one point, and while they continued to climb upward, I stayed low and traversed southward.  I eventually stumbled onto a flagged trail which looked very promising, and I shouted a few times to try and get everyone else's attention.  Getting no response, I hiked up to the notch and waited for the others to show up.

Eva, John, Stephane and Zosia eventually arrived at the notch albeit via a more arduous route than the one I had taken.  Together, we hiked up the north slope of Gunnery Mountain before taking a short break at a false summit.  From there, we continued up to the true summit and stopped just long enough to take a group photo near the summit cairn.  On my previous trip up Gunnery Mountain, I had descended the southeast ridge directly to the highway without too much trouble under clear conditions.  Cloud cover made route-finding a little trickier on this day as we found ourselves descending increasingly steep and loose terrain on the south face.  Worried about getting cliffed out, we worked our way onto the crest of the southwest ridge where we were relieved to find easier terrain.  We had no further route-finding issues and eventually reached the highway about a kilometre west of the Gunnery Creek trailhead.

Given the lousy weather and questionable route-finding, this was hardly a stellar outing by any stretch of the imagination.  As always though, good company makes even the worst days in the mountains enjoyable.  Everyone remained in good spirits throughout this trip despite all the challenges, and that counts for a lot.
It's gonna be a wet day in the hills... The group gears up near the Gunnery Creek trailhead.  Gunnery Mountain is shrouded in clouds at left.
We've gone a bit too far here and need to backtrack a bit...maybe back to the car! Despite the wet weather, the group is still in good spirits at Gunnery Pass.
I don't remember it being this difficult last time I was here... The group heads into the bush in search of a route up Gunnery Mountain.
Very cool! Some wolf lichen help brighten up an otherwise gloomy day.
I get misty the moment you're near... Eva and Zosia hike up the northern slopes of Gunnery Mountain.
Zosia promised me sunny weather...hmmm... The group arrives at the summit of Gunnery Mountain (2086 metres).
Who's idea was it to come here today? Despite the wet weather and lack of views, Sonny, Stephane, John, Zosia and Eva seem happy to have reached the summit of Gunnery Mountain.
Uh...we're probably off-route here... Stephane and Zosia descend some challenging terrain.
We still have some elevation to lose here... After a somewhat harrowing descent, Stephane is relieved to see the highway again.
This wasn't where I was expecting to end up on descent! John makes his way down a cliff band near the highway.
I am such a slowpoke on the highway... The group marches back to the Gunnery Creek trailhead along the highway.
Foul weather turned this trip into a bit of an epic! Total Distance:  8.9 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  4 hours 56 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  597 metres

GPX Data