Mighty Windtower

One of the peaks of spectacular Mount Lougheed (pronounced law-heed), Windtower is one of those must-do hikes, especially if there is no wind in the forecast. It is only a 10km long (return) hike, so it is a great pay-off for the energy expended in getting up its 1000m elevation gain, and you are in the views quite quickly.

This peak is well deserving of its name because it can get very, very windy up on its flanks! As luck would have it, the day we set out to hike this mountain at the very beginning of May, it was sunny and calm. So calm, in fact, that we didn’t have to use the rock wall shelters that people have built up top to protect you as you hastily gobble up your picnic and then race back down to the protection of the forested trails far below.

The hike begins by following the popular route to West Wind Pass, a hike that is very worthwhile doing on its own.

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The West Wind Pass trail rose steeply out of the pine forest.
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The trail was a lovely, narrow single track trail and its views, when you could peer through the forest cover, were awesome!
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The views back of the Spray Lakes as we hiked up were phenomenal, with the peaks in the distance, reflected in the mirrored blue surface of the lake as it bent around the mountains’ flanks.
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This was our goal for the day: a scramble up the back side of this peak until we were on top of the tallest cliff there. This pic is taken from West Wind Pass, the turn around spot for most day hikers.

From West Wind Pass, the top of that cliff was our ultimate destination. You go far to the right to then hike up the backside of that slope. It looks easy from down here, right?

IMG_5592.jpgWith an elevation gain of 1000m (that’s 1km straight up!), it was relentless at times, especially once we were up on the scree slopes. But the views made it all worthwhile.

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As we climbed higher and higher, the views of the lakes became more incredible.
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Hiking on snow in regular clothes (no winter gear) on a warm day is so much fun… and it puts such a spring in the dogs’ steps. And to be able to do this on May 1st was incredible!

The dogs loved it when we hit bits of snow. They’d roll in it, bite chunks of it and welcome the relief it brought their paws from walking on so much jagged scree!

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Hiking up the scree, the trail was well-worn, but breath-snagging and muscle-stabbing… in other words, steep!
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Up and ever up we climbed, getting higher and higher on the ramp that formed the backside of Wind Tower peak.

There were precipitous sections to hike up, but we would eventually be a full 1km straight up above the trail head, and that means lots of climbing. The scree slope was long, dry, rocky and steep!

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Other hikers are in this photo (up top, to the right of our destination) to put this landscape in perspective. (This is a popular hike, because the payoff is so great, so you are not likely to get it to yourself.)
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Views back onto Spray Lakes.

The saddle between Lougheed Mountain and Windtower was spectacularly dramatic, and looking down from that saddle, into that deep bowl, didn’t faze the dogs at all!

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This is the saddle between Mount Lougheed’s incredible peak, and the smaller peak that we were climbing, up the Windtower.
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Peering down into the bowl from the saddle… it was a long way down!

The highlight of the day was the time spent at the very top of the mountain, taking in the 360 views all around. Usually it is impossibly windy up top, so that you can only spend a minute or two, before heading quickly back down. But we had a bluebird sky, not a breath of wind, on a comfortably warm day (17C at the trailhead) and brilliant sunshine.

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Our picnic spot: the top of Windtower Peak (2688m, 8818′), with the peak of Mount Lougheed in the background.

Up there, we had a long, leisurely picnic, one of our hiking friends made a birthday phone call to a relative (how awesome is that!? “Hey, it’s me. Just wishing you a happy birthday from a mountain top!“) , and then there was my favourite part… lying on my belly, peering down, way d-o-w-n over the edge.

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Lying on my belly, peering over the edge….
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… (the views from my belly perch)… looking down, down, way d-o-w-n over the edge of the cliff and into the forests below!

The valley was just greening up, and there were so many animal pathways down there… little highways crossing impossibly rugged terrain.

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So this is what the top of a mountain looks like. Rocky. Rugged. With spectacular views! That’s the back of the Three Sisters mountains that I’ve written about before there, along with the town of Canmore, to their right.

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Being up there is like being on top of the world, with the peaks cresting like ocean waves all around you.
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The mountain side, on our way up and down, was covered in beautiful clumps of flowers shouting out “Spring is here!” with their explosions of colour.
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Some flowers were only just starting to bloom this early in the season.

What a great day! Just a few short months until the mountain slopes are relatively clear of snow and we can lace up those hikers and bag us some more peaks! I can’t wait….

As one parting note… my daughter knew I loved this hike SO much that for my birthday, as a surprise, she had her favourite photo from this series of shots made into a painting! She commissioned a wonderfully talented friend of hers, Hannah Klose, to paint the cover photo I used for this post, so that I will always remember this experience, this incredible day, and this place. It was such an incredible gift!IMG_7876.jpg


Click here for more terrific hikes in Kananaskis Country (Canmore Area). And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

11 Comments on “Mighty Windtower

  1. Impressive countryside, although that hike looks steep.

    A friend once borrowed prints from some of my underwater photography and made a few paintings from them. One of the paintings holds a place of honor over our fireplace mantel, and makes those memories even more special. It actually has elements from shots in both Austrailian and Honduran waters. Appropriately, it’s a watercolor.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOVE that idea. Art is personal… but when it reflects an experience, or presents a place you’ve actually been and an exploit you’ve cherished, it becomes even more meaningful. What I’d like to do myself, is find time to learn to paint. Can you send me a photo of the fireplace mantel painting? I’d love to see it.

    Like

  3. Another spectacular hike Sheri. The mountains reflection on the Spray Lakes is stunning. What an experience! Thanks for posting this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Looks like an excellent diversity of trail conditions: woodland trail walking, rock scrambling, rock face ascents, gorgeous vistas, and spring-time snow play. Amazing for a day hike!

    And love the painting!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh wow I’m speechless. The tenth photo down with the reflection of the water is stunning. Remind what state this again please. I’m being lazy I could google it. I’m behind with my blog adn reading everyone else’s. Looking forward to the year settling in and catching up….Louise

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Hiking Wind Ridge – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  7. Pingback: Spicy Tent Ridge – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

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