Added by James Hueser
Scramble to the summit of Sparrowhawk sitting at 3121 metres. From the summit, you'll be able view a spectacular sunrise from a spectacular summit as well as the greater Kananaskis/Spray Lakes area. Plan on this being an 8-9 hour adventure.
Mount Sparrowhawk was the first mountain I ever fell in love with -- I knew it well, and I knew that the summit would still be accessible with a bit of snow on it in October. With waning daylight hours, it was a perfect option - albeit intense - for a sunrise hike.
The trailhead is located on the east side of the Smith Dorrien Trail/Spray Lakes Road at the Sparrowhawk day use area (which is marked by a sign on the highway). The trail heads up the hill into the forest and is marked by flagging tape, but is also very distinct and shouldn't be difficult to find. Hope you weren't hoping for much of a warm up, the elevation gets going immediately!
I thought the forest would obstruct any sort of view - which is did for the most part, yes - but there were places where it opened up and I had to turn off my headlamp to let my eyes adjust to check out the lake and mountains with a starry (magnificently starry!) backdrop. We were even lucky enough to get a bit of a showing from the Northern Lights mixed in with the light coming off of Canmore. I could've just sat there for the rest of the night looking at the stars, but believe me, the top is where it's at!
The trail is well worn all the way through the forest; however, there are a few rocky bits where the trail does fade a bit, just keep an eye out and be aware if you feel like you're not on a path anymore. Worst case scenario, just keep heading up! Once you pick your way through the forest you'll start descending into the gully that eventually turns into the scree slope to the summit. As you make your way through this part, you'll likely glimpse a giant rock face in your headlamp's light to your right: Read's Tower. It looks huge here, but you'll notice it shrink as you gain the near 1400 metres to the summit.
The gully picks its way up to the eastern base of Read's Tower -- there are path's present, but can easily be missed if not paying attention. Read's Tower is an excellent place to take a small break - get some energy for the push to the summit and try to take in as much of your surroundings as possible. It's a unique view point.
Once you're ready to hit the trail again, aim to the right of the summit block as that's where you'll be ascending it from. I normally don't get a kick out of scree slogs, so hopefully that gives you an indication of just how amazing the summit is.
The scree slog takes you up to the pass between Sparrowhawk and Bogart -- you might need to take some shelter from the wind by the weather station located there. You can also spot the ascent route from here, as it takes you around the backside of the summit block. A bit steep, a bit scree-y, but doable.
I couldn't believe my eyes when I made it to the top of Sparrowhawk for the first time -- hopefully you won't be able to either! True 360 views with a picturesque lake and peaks to take in. Just imagine what it would be like with a sunrise illuminating it!
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles
- Walking crampons (if necessary)
- Appropriate clothing and layers
- Hand warmers
- Water and snacks
- Bear spray
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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