The Windtower

Elevation: 2695 m
Elevation Gain: 988 m
While the sheer north face of the Windtower is impressive when seen from the Trans-Canada Highway near Deadman’s flats, this peak is, in fact, the westernmost outlier of the much larger Mount Lougheed massif. Mount Lougheed was originally named Wind Mountain in 1858 but was later renamed to honor a prominent politician. The name Windtower, no doubt, is a reference to the original name of the massif.
My Ascents:
November 3 2012, August 2 2010

It was an awful October for scrambling in the Canadian Rockies. Since Thanksgiving, the weather has been unseasonably cold and the skies overcast. I can’t recall seeing this much snow staying on the ground for this long in October in Calgary. News that local ski hills were opening last week made me cringe at the thought that the 2012 scrambling season was likely over. With a pleasant weekend weather forecast for Calgary (and, more importantly, Kananaskis), however, I decided that there might still be some scrambling left in this season! My scrambling partner of preference, Crux, was recovering nicely from a leg injury sustained a couple of months ago when he jumped off of our table (don’t ask) so he and I decided to try our luck on a smaller peak, Windtower Mountain. I climbed the Windtower once before in awful, rainy, overcast conditions so I was: a) confident of my knowledge of the snow-covered route and b) hopeful that I could finally enjoy the view from the top.

Crux found this odd little bench stuck about 1/3 of the way up the approach hike to West Wind Pass.

The bench did not look comfortable or, more importantly, sturdy enough to withstand the gale usually present at West Wind Pass but it did have a clever little poem. I didn’t bother to drag the bench uphill (I was already stuck dragging Crux up the hill) but when I came back down it had moved about a hundred meters up slope.

Has anyone ever enjoyed a calm afternoon at West Wind Pass? Here you can see the gusts ruffling Crux’s fur as we approach the pass. Suffice to say, it was not a warm wind...

Another brave soul exploring West Wind Pass below the north face of Rimwall Summit.

Crux modelling the new “babushka” look at West Wind Pass. It was so windy that I took pity on him and set him up with my balaclava to try to keep his ears warm.

The Windtower looking a little foreboding.

Looking back to Rimwall Summit and West Wind Pass as we start our ascent of the Windtower. The jagged peak on the right is the Little Sister. It was at this point that I officially started to question the "mainly sunny" forecast that the Weather Network had promised for Canmore and Kananaskis Country...

The crux of the ascent comes while trying to make your way east from West Wind Pass to the easy south slopes of the Windtower. You must overcome a series of small rock bands by cutting across them on good ledges. In the summer, this poses no challenge, however, with the amount of snow present here, you can see that there are no “ledges” left. To add to the difficulty level, I decided to tie myself to a puppy. Surprisingly, Crux and I were not the only fools attempting to cross these ledges!

This was as sunny as it got.

The easy south-facing ascent slopes of the Windtower come into view. From here, the route follows the gentle skyline ridge across (frozen) scree to the top.

The towering cliffs of Lougheed I (left) and Lougheed II (right) provide scenic relief to the frozen scree plod.

Effective camouflage. Crux walked right by this little fellow and didn’t even notice.

Looks pleasant, no?

The views of Mount Lougheed are spectacular from here. I can only will have to imagine how spectacular the view would be on a nice day!

I decided that the “vivid” color setting on my camera was probably wasted on this particular day and decided to play around with the “black and white” setting – frankly, it was hard to tell the difference between the two...

Near the summit, the weather deteriorated further as evidenced by Spray Lake disappearing into the cloud.

Cold summit puppy!

The "view" to the west.

Oh well, at least Crux and I got to enjoy one more summit together this season!

One last look at Mount Lougheed before running back down the frozen slopes.