Mount Sparrowhawk

October 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

Attempt date: October 8th, 2012
Start time: 8:30am
Completion time: 8 hours
Elevation gain: 1350m (4429 ft)
Elevation above sea level: 3121m (10239 ft)

Participants:  Marko Pribilovic (Moderately Hungover), Jimmy Quigley (Moderately Hungover), Con Sweatman, Patrick Latter

Directions

Take the road out of Canmore towards the Nordic centre, continue past the Grassi Lakes and the Goat Creek day use parking. Follow the unpaved Spray lakes road for about 27-28km until you see the Sparrowhawk Picnic sign. Park here and the trail head is on the opposite side of the road from the lake.

Gear

  • Food
  • Water
  • Warm fleece
  • Winter Jacket
  • Winter socks
  • Hiking boots
  • Thermal underwear
  • Gaiters
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Poles

Trail

Con and I arrived early enough to go down to the lake and take some pictures in the dim morning light. As we made our way down to the water’s edge it was raining lightly and the clouds were low enough to obscure the peaks of the surrounding mountains.

Once the others arrived, we began to make our way up the well defined trail as the rain quickly turned to snow.

It wasn’t long until we broke out of the tree line and the snow had already begun to accumulate at this elevation.

Once you reach the base of Reed’s Ridge, you have to go left around it and up the gully. The almost white out conditions we were currently in were similar to what we had back in June when we had made the mistake of just following the ridge and ended up with no way to continue on to the summit.

This was Con’s first serious hike, as he had just recently moved to Banff from Winnipeg.

As we neared the top of the gully, it began to get steeper and we ran into hidden ice under the snow that made it dangerous to continue without crampons. Luckily, we managed to find a route to the far right that was free of ice.

Once we reached the top of the gully, we had a fantastic view of Reed’s Tower, which is the highest point of Reed’s ridge. You can see why you wouldn’t have a way down if you had gone the wrong way.

From here you go left and follow the wide barren slope up to the summit block. The loose rock was mostly frozen into place and the snow drifts were never more than knee deep so it wasn’t too bad of a hike up. The near white out conditions did make it difficult to keep motivation up as you couldn’t see how far from the top you were.

Looking back down you could now just barely see the top of Reed’s Tower.

At almost 4 hours into the hike we finally got sight of the summit block; it was far more daunting than expected. We decided to stop and have lunch and decide whether to attempt it or not.

As we ate our lunch the sun briefly broke through the uppermost layer of clouds right above the summit. It was an amazing sight to see this natural spotlight shine down above us.

Looking back down the mountain we were briefly above the clouds/storm. You could feel the cold wind suddenly change to blindly bright heat from the now exposed sun.

The brilliant sunlight gave us the motivation to at least attempt the summit block. We began to make our way around to the back as we followed the right most ridge.

Almost as quickly as the sun had come out out, it disappeared behind the clouds and snow.

Once at the back of the summit block the sun came out one final time and gave us one of the best views I’ve ever seen hiking. We were literally above the clouds for about 10 minutes.

We made our final push for the summit just as the clouds returned.

Once at the summit we took some photos and wrote our names in the logbook that is stashed in the rockpile at the top.

There is no cell reception for 30 mins in either direction at the base of the mountain but at the summit Marko managed to get enough reception to stream the music video ‘Gangnam Style’ and have a dance off.

The wind really started to pickup and there was no sign of the sun returning with the blowing snow, so we quickly made our way back down.