Old Goat

Upper ridge

“Old Goat Mountain” is the highpoint of the small Goat Range, the line of peaks separating the Spray Lakes road and Reservoir (formerly Goat Creek) from the Spray River southwest of Canmore. I had seen it while climbing neighboring Nestor with Bob and his son, and the peak-bagger in me immediately asked “why am I not standing on the highest thing?” The east ridge looked like a likely route, and there was even a short line on OpenStreetMap leading up it to the summit, so Old Goat was high on my to-do list while I was in the area. Not wanting to repeat the same bike approach two days in a row, or tempt fate by staying in the same place for too long, I saved it for my return to Canmore, after having completed the higher-priority Sir Douglas and Birdwood.

North side of Nestor

I started off as before, riding the decommissioned road south along the west side of the reservoir, this time stopping earlier, more or less due east of Nestor near the creek draining the valley between it and Old Goat. The line started here, but I saw no cairn or flagging, and never did find a hint of a trail. The fact that someone had put a track online, and that it was a range highpoint with significant prominence, but that it had attracted almost no attention, made me curious. However the woods were generally open, especially once I climbed above the valley bottom and its carpet of moss, so I had a fairly easy time simply heading uphill, at first along a ridge, then through whichever part of the forest seemed easiest. I was slow and tired after the last two days, but reached treeline in the bowl without any particular difficulties.

Grassy gully

To my left was Nestor’s east ridge, its north side rising sheer from the valley, its crest looking interesting but challenging. Ahead, the valley continued to a talus-bowl below the steep ridge connecting Nestor and Old Goat. To the right, a grassy chute angled up to a steep wall at the base of Old Goat’s upper east ridge. Trusting that I would find some way through the wall, I headed up the chute, finding it much friendlier than the more well-traveled lower Nestor route, a faint path through shifting limestone talus. A watercourse formed a weakness that looked like the best route up the cliffs at its head, but once I got closer, I decided that the slabs to its right looked better. While steep, they were solid and very sticky limestone, and split by enough ledges that the climbing was fun but rarely continuous.

Glacier NE of Old Goat

The terrain leveled off at the base of the ridge, and the rock changed to a melange of choss. Rather than heading straight toward the summit, I made a brief detour to a post I saw to the right, evidence that surveyors (?) had visited this odd location at some point. The ridge separates the Nestor-Old Goat cirque from a small glacier and anonymous creek to the north, hidden from the road and reservoir by a parallel spur ridge. This and the angle of the rock layers make the east ridge sheer on the right, and awkwardly-angled on the left. From Nestor, it had looked like the layers might rise directly toward the ridge, making for good climbing on the crest, but the angle was not quite right, so while the crest was usually the best path, it was not particularly pleasant.

Crux step

After an initial talus-pile, the ridge narrowed, and I negotiated a steep class 3-4 step to reach more moderate ground. Things continued in a similar vein as I headed up, crossing softer and harder layers, with the latter creating short sections of steeper climbing. Some parts were very exposed on the right, but I could probably have avoided many of them via unpleasant side-hilling to the left. The crux was a steep band of rotten black rock blocking access to the upper ridge. It was featured, but I backed off a few lines, finding them either too steep or angled at the wrong direction. I eventually stemmed up a wide corner a hundred yards or so left of the crest; counterpressure was the best tactic for such rock, but I dreaded downclimbing it.

North from summit

Above this crux, the ridge eased, then steepened and turned crumbly as it neared the main north-south crest. Here I deviated fairly far left, making a chossy traverse, then picking my way back up and right through gullies full of marbles and crumbly bulges. Once at the ridge, a bit more exposed walking led to the summit, with its cairn and hermetically-sealed PVC register tube. As in the States, these tubes usually manage to leak just enough to soak the register, then prevent evaporation, so I did not try very hard to open it. It had been a short climb, but I did not linger long, as I imagined the descent would be slow and meticulous.

Sheep/goat beds

I more or less retraced my ascent route, then deviated farther down at the crux, chossing my way across some ribs lower down rather than stemming down the dihedral. Where the ridge flattens before the final talus leading to the spur, I opted to plunge-step down scree to the right, into the bowl north of Nestor. The upper part was fast and easy, but the lower section was too hard-packed and covered with loose fist-sized rocks, which would roll out from under my feet suddenly and unpredictably. I saw a line of a half-dozen goat or sheep beds, but no animals, and not much of a helpful game trail. I am not sure if this saved me time relative to descending the grassy gully, but I eventually reached the trees and, after thrashing through some unpleasant woods, rejoined my ascent route. From there it was an easy bushwhack down to the road, where I grabbed my bike and rode back to the trailhead. From there it was back to Canmore to restock and catch up with the world, then out of town to rest and figure out what to do next.

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