Monday, September 28, 2009

Mt. Sparrohawk/Reed's Tower

This was most likely my last hiking weekend for 2009 as the fall season is upon us meaning there's only a few weeks left before the snow begins to fly in the Rockies. And for the next few weeks work is going to take up nearly all my time as we are into booking season once again. However I'm pleased to say we ended the hiking season with a challenging hike that yielded impressive views. It was a great weekend which included hiking/scrambling to Reed's Tower and Mt Sparrowhawk along the Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kanaskis, as well as some mountain biking at the Canmore Nordic Centre. I'm going to focus on the hike on this post as the biking at the Nordic Center provides some great XC riding, but being a XC ski resort that's exactly what it offers. Nothing really exciting to report back except that it was a well marked, well maintained, XC network, ideal for a 4 or 5 inch travel XC bike. It's tight, twisty, rough and well it may not be on my list of destinations it's definitely worthwhile if you are in the area already. Surprisingly, it reminded me of a lot of the Ontario XC riding just on a little bigger scale.

This season we've been using some of the Guidebooks by Craig and Kathy Copeland as our guides to hikes in the Rockies and I highly suggest if you are going hiking in the Rockies you pick up a copy of Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies. This book has been amazing! Accurately, ranking, describing, and giving directions for the best hikes in the Rockies. We've also been using a couple of their where the locals hike books, which also provides a good base for choosing hikes but the lack of a rating systems, as well as comparing the hikes on a more local scale resulting in a few hikes not yielding the expected blow you're mind status, but is still a great resource for planning your hikes.

Interestingly out of the 10 or so hikes we've done this year based on this series, this is the first one where I would tend to disagree on their opinion on how to do the hike. They listed this hike as Reed's Tower being the main goal and Mt. Sparrowhawk yielding great views but the amount of effort being required to reach it making it optional (The two peaks are the ones in the picture to the right). My personal opinion is that Mt. Sparrowhawk is the destination here and Reed's tower a sidetrip on the hike if you want to more KM's to make a full day out of the trip or if wind/weather stops you from reaching Mt. Sparrowhawks peak the more sheltered Reed's tower can be a consolation prize. Don't get me wrong the views on Reed's tower are great but I'm not sure I would have descended very satisfied if it was the highlight of the day.

So about the Hike itself this ones definitely a challenge. It's not your traditional hike where you climb some switchbacks out of the treeline, then have a mix of hiking through alpine meadows, and slight climbs/short steep ones, ending with a climb to/over a pass, or a scramble that is your goal for the day. This is essentially 6,000 ft of climbing non stop, next to no switchbacks, and more then half being considered an easy scramble. (i.e. no trail just you climbing on scree towards your end destination, I use easy because of the lack of route finding or technical skills needed to reach the base of Mt. Sparrowhawks peak but from a cardiovascular standpoint it's definately moderate to diffucult.) The hike starts at the Sparrowhawk Day use area along the Spray Lakes Road @ about 6,000 ft. with Mt. Sparrowhawk sitting at over 10,000ft. From there you start climbing through the trees for about 30 minutes till you reach your junction. Right takes you down a trail to the tarns which is a more popular hike (but I wouldn't suggest it in comparison to the other hikes in the Banff/Kanaskis area), left and you are hiking nearly straight up with few switchbacks towards Reed's Tower. It's about an hour from the trail head till you are out of the Treeline with great views from that point on. From there it's pretty straightforward and there's a bootpack trail to follow up to the base of Reed's Tower. If you choose scramble the Tower it's pretty straightforward start heading up the ridge for about 1000ft, or maybe a little less, of scrambling to the top. Here the views are good and the scramble is fairly easy with no route finding or technical skills needed just the fitness to get there.

When you get back down you walk around towers left side and begin the long Scramble to Mt. Sparrowhawk. After climbing for about an hour and half (maybe 2 hours) we reached the "pass" between Mt. Sparrowhawk and the peak South West of it. This was a point with mix emotions. It yielded gorgeous views on both sides of the pass and we where only a few hundred feet from the peak (I'm guessing about 800 or less). However, the winds and cold where being funneled down the spray lakes reservoir right at us making difficult to even stand in some of the gust. We stopped behind the little weather observation shed for a snack and had to make the decision to turn around. Primarily a result of the cold as Jess felt it throughout her body, and my gloves turned out to be inadequate to the point where a couple fingers had lost feeling and started to turn blue. (I would thought the black diamonds gloves would have been designed with synthetics that would keep their warmth once sweaty but I was wrong and should have paid more attention to the materials). A switch to wearing my extra pair of Merino Wool Socks on my hands help get them back to Temperature as we descended. Also the high winds posed some threat to walking on the peak. I think it would have been fine and being warmer or adequately geared up we would have carried on but needless to say the combination of the wind and cold resulted in the "pass" being our high point for the day.

We hiked back out going out around the opposite side of Reed's Tower. Unfortunately my camera's batteries died so I don't have any pictures from this side. But it's the route you should take if you are comfortable with a little route finding as it yields different views that are worth the extra kilometers, and the lack of a distinct trail makes finding your way back to the tarn trail an element of adventure on the X-Country hike. Well I guess this being the last hike of the season will result in things slowing down on here through the fall as I tumble into a little more of a training regiment for next summer, and ski season begins. Until them hope you've enjoyed some of my summer adventures and the pictures.

No comments: