Fortress, The

Elevation (feet): 9,842
Elevation (meters): 3,000
Continent: North America
Country: Canada
Range/Region: Canadian Rockies
Province: Alberta
Latitude: 50.8278
Longitude: -115.239
Difficulty: Scramble
Year first climbed: 1957
First successful climber(s): H Gmoser, L Grillmair
Nearest major airport: Calgary International
Convenient Center: Canmore, Alberta

Thanks to Dow Williams for adding this peak.

The Fortress is located in the center of the Kananaskis Range in Kananaskis Provincial Park (central Canadian Rockies) along with other popular scrambles, Mount Engadine to the northwest and Mount Chester to the southwest. The Fortress was officially named in 1957 due to its appearance when viewed from the north on Highway 40. The Fortress should not be confused with the close by Fortress Mountain Ski Resort or the actual Fortress Mountain on the Continental Divide south of Jasper.

The only published route(s) up the Fortress are the two variations of the easy scramble route. I have climbed both routes, the Chester Lake approach and the Headwall Lakes approach, one in early snow conditions and the other dry. My preference is combining the two by ascending via Headwall Lakes and descending through Chester Lake. Both routes are scenic and pleasant outings. The summit affords great views of the three jewels of Kananaskis, Mount Assiniboine, Mount Joffre and Mount Sir Douglas. Skiing up Fortress is an option, but not published. Of course avalanche conditions can be as tedious back here as anywhere in the parks.

Getting There

From the Canmore Nordic Center, drive 40 km south on the Spray Lakes/Smith Dorrien Road (gravel). Turn left at the sign for the Chester Day Use area. You are guaranteed mountain sheep on the Spray Lakes Road and once in a blue moon, a moose or two. Watch for hazardous rock fall on the switchbacks above Canmore. At times this road will be closed due to rock and/or mud slides.

Red Tape

There are no permit requirements to enter, climb and/or park in Kananaskis Provincial Park. This is active grizzly country however. Take bear spray. There are no park headquarters on this road. Kananaskis Park headquarters are located on Highway 40 east of Canmore. Any recent notices will be posted on the bulletin board at that location. If they are open, check in with the ranger staff, they have tons of beta and are always friendly.

When To Climb

As with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed The Fortress in June and October of different years. I put up with a ton of snow in June and none in October. There are no published backcountry ski routes on The Fortress, although it is suitable for skiing.


The closest camping is located back at the north end of Spray Lakes Reservoir across the dam at random campsites located on the west shore of the lake. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas in Kananaskis. Refer to the Kananaskis Provincial Park website for more information regarding camping and/or lodging. A premium accommodation is the Engadine Lodge which is only several kilometers north on Spray Lake Road.

Mountain Conditions

The Kananaskis Provincial Park website is a very thorough park website, including trail conditions or closures, wildlife notices, weather conditions, avalanche conditions, camping permits, whitewater conditions, etc. It is an excellent source if you are going to spend any time here and comparable to any National Park website I have used. Outside of the parks web site, Canadian Avalanche Association is also useful, particularly for winter travel.

Trip Reports

NOTE: Trip reports were previously called "Summit Logs" - same feature, new name

There are 4 trip reports for Fortress, The.

Select any entry from the list below:

  • Log #20535 - by James Wade on Dec 11, 2006
    0 other people aside from my buddy past Chester Lake, the sky was quite smoky from a forest fire or something but a good outing, and the view was still incredible
  • Log #19418 - by Dow Williams on Sep 27, 2006
    In June 2004 Michael Thompson and I went in to attempt Mt. Galatea. The entire south face was still completely loaded with snow and ice. We then skirted around the backside of Gusty Peak only to find...
  • Log #17923 - by lee on Aug 29, 2003
    Needs a summit register at the summit. Read my trip report for details. Pictures hopefully posted soon. Cheers
  • Log #17924 - by Tim L. Helmer on Jan 07, 2003
    I scrambled Fortress Mountain alone. When I got near the top I met a Michael. He continues to correspond with me and may come back out here some day. For now He resides in Toronto.