Located in the Bow River Valley northwest of Lac des Arcs. Fairholme Range, Park, Alberta
Photo: Looking west-northwest to Grotto Mountain from Lac des Arcs
In August, 1858, James Hector and Eugene Bourgeau of the Palliser Expedition followed a creek up the slopes of the mountain to beyond the timberline. During their exploration they found a large cave and chose the name, “Grotto” for the mountain. Hector wrote that they entered the grotto and, following a steam, scrambled up 300 vertical feet to a point where they found, "a trickling fall several hundred feet in height, splashing in a clear pool with geen mossy bank." In this they performed their, "morning ablutions."
Named a Provincial Historic Site in 1986, Rat's Nest Cave near Canmore, Alberta, extends for approximately 4 km beneath Grotto Mountain. A cave guide entitled "Under Grotto Mountain: Rat's Nest Cave" by Chas Yonge not only examines the natural history of this fascinating system of subterranean passageways, but also explores 2000-3000 years of human occupation.
In his book, "Canadian Rockies Geology Road Tours," Ben Gadd points out that the cliff bands part way up the southwest facing slopes were formed after rock slides broke away below them. These were initiated after the steeply dipping layers were left weakened by glacial undercutting as the "U-Shaped" valley was being formed during the last major glaciation. Ben goes on to note the huge quarrying operation is doing more of the same thing.
Dr. Chas Yonge earned a PhD in geology at McMaster University and has published several papers on cave science in academic journals. He has caved extensively in Canada and internationally. In the Rockies, he has explored some of Canada's longest and deepest caves, discovering several new cave systems. Chas owns and operates Canmore Caverns Limited, a cave touring company.
The book was published in 2000 and is available through www.rmbooks.com
*A hiking route to the summit is described in Gillean Daffern’s Kananaskis Country Trail Guide Volume 1.
For a panoramic view from the summit of Grotto Mountain visit www.canadasmountains.com.