Distance: 6.5 km
Elevation gain: 950 m View map Download GPS track
Read's Tower is a bump on the lower slopes of Mount Sparrowhawk and is a popular summer scramble, but as I'd already scrambled up Sparrowhawk I didn't have much interest in repeating the forested approach to get Read's Tower when better peaks beckoned. As a winter scramble, however, it would be a fine objective, and a recent report indicated some risky avalanche slopes near the ridge were windblown and hence safe to ascend. As an added bonus, this also meant a trail would be broken through the forest for us!
The trail up Read's Tower (or Mount Sparrowhawk
or Sparrowhawk Tarns
) starts slightly south of the Sparrowhawk Day Use area and heads up along the northern bank of a creek. I've hiked it twice and snowshoed it once before and right away noticed that the broken trail wasn't quite going where it had before. What has happened is that the initial few hundred meters of trail have been oddly re-routed to be annoyingly circuitous as part of the "High Rockies Trail
". Regardless, we soon reached the extensively flagged and cairned turnoff for Read's Tower and Mount Sparrowhawk.
The broken trail made for quick going and we reached treeline after about 45 minutes, then an easy walk along the broad ridge brought us to the base of Read's Tower. A light and variable breeze kept the going pleasant in the surprisingly hot sun as we geared down to tackle the final 300 m of ascent of Read's Tower. While I hadn't expected it to be easy, this turned out to be far harder than I'd anticipated. A snowstorm earlier this week had dumped 20+ cm of snow at elevation and we found ourselves swimming uphill in the powder. In spots it covered loose rock while in others it covered a slick sun crust, making it a bit of an adventure guessing whether the snowshoes would have any grip on any given step. It took an hour to cover that last 300 m, but the views and perfect weather on the summit made it all worthwhile.