The Windtower is an unofficially named peak and much of the history of early travelers and explorers are unknown. Some infamous individuals such as James Sinclair have passed through the area, specifically by the Spray Lakes Reservoir. However, not much information is found on who and when the first ascents of Wind Tower were.
The Windtower is the lowest of the four summits that make up Mount Lougheed and therefore remains unnamed on most maps. The latest edition of the Gem Trek map for this area does label this peak as the Windtower.
At Dead Man's Flat along the Trans Canada Highway the sharp, rocky peak that makes up the Windtower is visible. This is the eastern section of the Windtower that appears triangular in shape. The peak is the most northwesterly edge of Mount Lougheed and is the southeast portal of West Wind Pass. The Windtower is the composed of the Palliser limestone that encompasses much of the area.
Palliser limestone is thick and resistant. It is dark black in appearance and have calcite veins throughout the rock. This limestone is rather fossiliferous being composed of many fossils of crinoids. Crinoids are a type of echinoderm (phylum or division between kingdom and class for classification purposes of marine animals that are easily recognized by their 5 point radial symmetry) that comes from the same phylum as today's Starfish.
A unique feature of the Windtower is its extremely steep north face. The north face is divided into 2 sections by an offset gully and is approximately 450 m high. The western part of the Windtower is incredible as well and overhangs for the most of its height.
Overall I found this scramble rather enjoyable. It combined a bit of route finding, mixed in with various terrain and ultimately ... is above tree line for the majority of the trip. If done correctly it allows you to keep your tree dwelling to a minimal. It does not seem to get many visitors in comparison to its neighboring peaks, probably owing to the fact it is not published in any of the popular printed guides. This allows you to enjoy the peak without the crowds you would encounter elsewhere; a major bonus in my book.
There isn't much technical difficulty in the way of this scramble. As long as you take a moment to pick your line through the rock bands, they are relatively straight forward to get over. If you are ascending in dry conditions I would say the route is rated easy.
Windtower Trip Log
Once parked, the unmarked trailhead is directly across the road. There is an obvious path leading into the trees, just left of the creek.
A well traveled dirt path leads you to Wind Pass. It takes about 2.5km and 380m of elevation gain to reach the pass. As you get close to the pass it steepens a bit and switchbacks appear to make it easier.
Once you reach Wind Pass you get a decent view of what route to take across the rock bands by looking up at the Windtower. Hang a right as you enter the pass so you are now heading south. You will see a less traveled path leading up the mountain side. Less traveled but still very noticeable. Now is also a good time to take in some views. I have been through the pass numerous times and I believe only once has it not been very windy.
As you start making your way up the narrow trail, it will traverse along the back of the mountain. Depending on what time of year you are doing the Windtower, route finding might take a little effort. There was fresh snow on my ascent with no footprints which managed to camouflage the trail well. There are numerous ways to get past all the rock bands. On my ascent I followed a trail with cairns every 200m and it veered away from the rock and into the forest. Eventually I gave up on it and just bushwhacked through the trees until I got back above the tree line. On my descent I took a route which seemed perfect. No elevation loss, above the tree line and much quicker. Surprisingly it was also marked with cairns often and did feel to have a decent trail under the snow as well.
Continuing on the trail you will start coming across the small rock bands. While some of them might appear to be a simple wall, if you meander to the right or left there is usually a way to get up and over easily. Most times you can find a way which barley requires any hand holds.
Once you pass the majority of the rock bands, small clearings start appearing. All of them had small cairns pointing the way, some of which were harder to spot then others.
The last band you cross over appears to be more so steps from a distance then an actual obstacle. Cairns are placed randomly along it seemed as there were quite a few of them. No hands required, simply walk over and up onto the back side of the Windtower.
The rest of the adventure is basically just a slog uphill to the summit. Conditions on the day I went were basically verglas everywhere above tree line and hidden dips that had over knee deep of snow. There were trails every now and then hidden under the snow that indicated there were decent trails leading to the summit and switchbacks visible in the summer time. There is also no danger from exposure either, unless you're obviously walking near the edge.
Once you reach the summit its a panoramic view in all directions. There is a small man made rock wall to help shelter you from the wind that provides some protection while you nibble away on a snack. There is some care to be taken as once you approach the cairn there are significant drops on both sides. For folks who are not comfortable with heights, the summit is of reasonable size so you can avoid the exposure without problems.
Return is the same way.
GPS Plotted Route
Evidently wanting more ... I managed to add some elevation and distance to my route by losing too much elevation in my traverse. There are a few trails that traverse on the mountain side and they are fairly well marked with cairns. Problem with these is that it just seems to continue onwards. Stay away from the forest and keep on the rock just above the tree line to conserve energy and speed up the accent.
When you do the traverse it is better to stay above the tree line and gain elevation instead of simply traversing horizontally to the backside of the Windtower. This saves you a bit of energy as you can see the difference of route on the elevation print out. The ascent was done traversing horizontally, while the descent was done a more direct route.
Click here to download the GPS route in GPX format. You may have to right click and select "Save Link As" if your browser does not download it automatically. Be sure to save it as a .gpx file.
What were your experiences scrambling Windtower?
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