Read's Tower - Kananaskis Country - Hiking Alberta

 

Read's Tower under Mount Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Read's Tower, Mount Sparrowhawk, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The day's adventure begins at the Petro Canada Station near the junction of the TransCanada Highway and Hwy 22 west of Calgary for the drive west through Canmore, Alberta, followed by the drive south on the Smith-Dorrien Trail (Hwy 742).  Today's objective is the hike to Read's Tower on the trail from Sparrowhawk Day Use Area about halfway along the Spray Lakes Reservoir south of Goat Pond.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view of Read's Tower from the west end of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The good quality, moderate grade trail across the road from parking at the Sparrowhawk Day Use Area leads up through forest to a junction cairn where the left branch offers a slightly longer and gentler ascent than the brutally steep climb straight ahead.  There are many branching game trails along either steep route.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The cairn at the trail junction for two routes to the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. Left is 'easier'. Both are rugged.

 

As altitude is gained aggressively on the 2.0 KM (1¼ mile) one-way trail, which gains a gut-crunching 646 m (2,120 ft.) to the top of the ridge, spectacular panoramic views unfold of surrounding mountains and their reflection in the smooth surface of Spray Lakes Reservoir.  The reservoir is very low in preparation for the impending influx of water from massive snow melt at higher elevations.  Colorful rock shoreline frames mirror images across the surface of still water.  

Beneath the reflections, the lake's surface is largely clear of ice and low morning sun, radiating over mountains, creates a wide range of color in the water from emerald to deep blue.  It is very peaceful and a light, cool breeze counters the body warming effect of ascent to higher and cooler elevations in the warming sun.  The panoramic vistas become progressively more sensational.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Surveying the Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking south along mountain-surrounded Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lakes Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada 2,975 m Mount Nestor and 3,109 m Old Goat Mountain across the Spray Lakes Reservoir from Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view north to Goat Pond along the Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Trail conditions deteriorate progressively as elevation is gained aggressively.  Hiking poles provide invaluable assistance on the sustained ascent on the steep,rugged trail.  Rugged trail changes to sketchy trail on pebbles over smooth and slippery rock slab.  A deteriorating snow cornice on our left provides excellent views of avalanche damage in the valley below which separates Read's Ridge from 3,121 m (10,240 ft) Mount Sparrowhawk.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Checking out the safe edge of a snow cornice as elevation increases on Read's Ridge with a view north to Goat Pond along the Spray Lakes Reservoir in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Cornice degradation reveals avalanche aftermath in the valley between Read's Ridge and Mount Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Cloud builds over Spray Lake Reservoir looking north to Goat Pond in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view to Red Ridge just south of Read's Ridge from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Mercifully, the top of the west end of Read's Ridge is achieved where sitting down to enjoying the fantastic views makes sense in an incredibly beautiful place.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view south to mountains surrounding the Spray Lakes Reservoir from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Red Ridge and Mount Buller from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking south along Spray Lakes Reservoir from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Mount Nestor and Old Goat Mountain from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

There is more snow than expected but a dignified route through shallow snow reduces excessive post holing.  On the far side of a small patch of snow bound forest there is a clear path to the summit of Read's Ridge, at 2,353 m (7,720 ft) for an up close and personal view of Read's Tower.  We hike mainly on trail, for a fairly short distance beside the giant snow cornice, until arrival at the ridge summit cairn. 

The notch separating the base of Read's Tower from Mount Sparrowhawk is filled with deep snow and there is ample evidence of recent Spring avalanche activity.  The dip off the east end of Read's Tower is clear and we can easily gain access to the trail which will deliver us over the flat, steep top of Read's Tower to its summit. 

The effort to achieve the summit of Read's Tower consumes an additional 0.8 KM (½ mile) and 274 m (899 ft.) of elevation for a total round trip distance of about 6 KM (3¾ miles) with a formidable elevation gain of 920 m (3,018 ft.) within a fairly short distance.  Not for the weak of spirit.  Best done later in the season.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Looking back on a snow cornice on the continuation to the summit of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Photo looking back from Peak One on the route to the summit of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Higher altitude view from Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada An excellent view of cornices from the west end of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Many photos are captured at the summit and a brief video is taken to provide a sense of the overall surroundings and how they fit together.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The view of Read's Tower from the summit cairn on Read's Ridge with Mount Sparrowhawk past the notch behind in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A long lens view of Mount Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view towards the snow-filled notch between Read's Tower and Mount Sparrowhawk in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Red Ridge and Mount Buller from the summit of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The descent from the Read's Ridge summit to the east end of Read's Ridge is swift and easy.  Cloud is forming up.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view north on the descent of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A view south on the descent of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Spectacular view of Mount Nestor and Old Goat Mountain on the descent from the summit of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Final view south from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Cloud builds on the descent from the top of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada The snow cornice snakes its way along the north edge of Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The hike down the ridge is cautious and time consuming to reduce the risk for injury.

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada Treacherous trail conditions - pebbles over smooth rock slab make navigation risky on the steep descent off Read's Ridge

 

Read's Tower, Spray Lake Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada A final view of spectacular scenery before descent into forest on Read's Ridge in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

 

The views on the hike down are no less amazing than on the ascent.  Descent progress is swift after we reach good trail through forest at the trail junction cairn. Seija chooses to drive south on the Smith-Dorrien Trail for new views followed by the scenic drive north on Kananaskis Trail.  Prophetically, this is an excellent choice because, unknown to us, the north Smith-Dorrien Trail has been closed by a significant rock slide from the East End of Mount Rundle which has closed Canmore Hill

The curious barricade on south Smith Dorrien, for reasons explains why there is no northbound traffic on Smith-Dorrien while southbound traffic seems unusually high.

The drive to Calgary is tedious in heavy traffic returning from the May long weekend ritual migration from city to mountains but nothing can reduce the impact of images from the summit of Read's Ridge on this spectacular Spring day.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

This is one of my favorite areas to hike in! Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed blogs, they help make planning my hikes very easy and I always look forward to seeing your beautiful pics in person.

Thank you for your kind words, Jacklyn. There are numerous, grand, outstanding hikes in the Mount Sparrowhawk area for a wide variety of skill levels from relative beginner to seasoned, well-equipped backcountry aficionados. The narrow view of any photograph is an inadequate substitute for being there with wide-eyed vision combined with the ability to turn the head.

The hike to the summit of Read's Tower from Sparrowhawk is a bit of a thigh-thumping, gut-cruncher and certainly aggressive for a season opener, but the magnificent scenery makes the effort definitely worthwhile. I believe you can do it. It would be wise to do a few progressive elevation hikes prior to Read's Ridge. It is a steep hike, but, it is also a short hike. It does not have to be done quickly. It can be done in segments with rest stops to enjoy the incredible view. The panoramic views of spectacular surrounding terrain is unique to the area between massive Mount Sparrowhawk and Red Ridge over the Spray Lake Reservoir with Mount Nestor and Old Goat Mountain to the east. The best time is a clear summer day when lower terrain is entirely free of snow. You may wish to gather a couple of friends together and give it a try. I will be interested in hearing how you make out and your impression of the experience. Thanks for your comment, Sheryl.

What incredible scenery! This is a hike that's a bit beyond my ability, but it's wonderful to see the sights through your blog!

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