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Distance: 10 km
Elevation gain: 950 m+
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The Windtower is a fantastic and easy to attain summit east of Spray Lakes. While it likely qualifies as easy scrambling, the trail poses no significant obstacles and most competent hikers should be able to reach the summit without difficulty.

The trailhead is located just north of Spurling Creek on the Spray Lakes road, directly across the road from a small unofficial pullout where you can park. The initial portion of the trail leads to West Wind Pass, an important wildlife corridor that is closed from December 1 to June 15. [Update: I just talked to the Kananaskis Country Visitor Center and apparently this closure does not apply to the the Smith-Dorrein side, but rather only to the other side of West Wind Pass]. While I hiked this July 4, I suspect that given the southwest-facing slope that this route would be passable on opening day.

From the road the trail ascends northeast along the north bank of Spurling Creek (typically dry), reaching West Wind Pass in about 2.5 km. Just before the pass a number of trails peel off to the south along the rocky lower slopes of the Windtower. Those that ascend steeply appear to be scrambling routes; the route I followed was much gentler, appeared well traveled and was marked by cairns at every questionable spot. This portion of the trail is quite fun to hike as it regularly requires you to scramble up short rock bands (typically 4-6 feet in height, so nothing to worry about). The elevation gain along this stretch is also relatively gradual.

After about 1.5 km of southerly travel the trail turns sharply to the northeast (marked by cairns) and ascends much more steeply. The scree is initially quite loose, but becomes much firmer after just a few hundred meters. The steep ascent also frequently eases for short sections, allowing you to catch your breath if needed. After about a kilometer of relatively steep ascent, crest the saddle between Mt. Lougheed and the Windtower and attain rather spectacular views to the east.

From this point forward the ascent is surprisingly easy. The footing is firm and the grade is much gentler than what you have just come up. I didn't initially notice the change in grade until I noticed how fast I was moving along! The summit is also only about 500 m distant and just 160 m higher. There really isn't any excuse for not being able to summit once you've reached this point, unless the weather is deteriorating of course.

The views from the summit are spectacular - I'll let the photos speak for themselves. The summit block itself is shaped somewhat like an arrowhead, with the tip of the head representing the high point. The vertical drop on all sides except that which you ascended is more than 500 m, so be cautious peering over the edge if the wind is gusty! There are also two small rock wind shelters and a cairn on the summit; I found out after arriving back home that there is apparently a register in the cairn, but with the gusty wind and frigid temperatures on the summit I wasn't thinking all that clearly and never thought to look.

Categories & Keywords
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Subcategory Detail:Hiking
Keywords:Kananaskis, The Windtower, West Wind Pass, Windtower, hiking, scrambling