We hiked West Wind Pass on March 6. It was a birthday hike and I could not have asked for a more beautiful day. In winter, you can hike to the top of the pass which gives you spectacular views of the Spray Lakes and surrounding valley. During the summer you are able to hike the mountains on either side of the pass: the Rimwall to the west and the Windtower to the east. There is too much snow to make these summits accessible in the winter.
The trailhead for West Wind does not have a parking lot, it is simply a path off the side of the highway, opposite the lakes. It is available in Google Maps, which makes it not too difficult to find. The trail intersects with the High Rockies trail, and shortly after entering the trees there is a sign for this trail. Stay on the main trail heading perpendicular away from the road until you reach a fork with a small metal plaque with a handwritten “West Wind Pass” sign points you right and up the slope (see above photo). From here the ascent begins.
The West Wind Pass trail is 4.7 km with 356 metres of elevation. Once you begin climbing, you gain elevation quickly. Spikes were a must for this hike. There were many steep slopes that would’ve been very difficult to climb without microspikes, and nearly impossible to navigate back down without falling had we just worn boots. Poles were also a nice assurance for balance on the way down, and as always, helped lessen the impact of the steep descent on my knees.
The trail follows the side of the hill, peaking out of the trees and giving us a view of the Spray lakes as you climb. Though steep, we gained both elevation and distance quickly. We started the hike just before 12:30. About halfway up we stopped to eat. Even with our lunch break, we reached the top by 1:45 pm.
To the right as you ascend, sits the Windtower. It certainly seemed to live up to its name, as we watched snow continuously blow off the peak of the mountain. To the left, the Rimwall. The wind was strong once we broke out of the trees, and the warm hike we had enjoyed got a lot chillier. We hiked as far across the pass as we could before the footprints disappeared. We decided not to push on, as we were wearing hiking boots without gaiters and didn’t want to dig snow out of our boots after sinking in the fresh snow.
After getting some photos at the top of the pass, we hurried back into the trees to escape the wind. From there our descent was simple. Having poles and spikes helped us move quickly and without worry. In a few spots, the snow had melted into a slush making sections slippery even with the spikes. We slowed down, but navigated these areas without issue. We arrived at the bottom of the hike by 2:40 pm, making the hike about 2 hours and 20 minutes total. Without our break, you could certainly hike the trail in 2 hours, probably less in the summer.
This is a highly recommended winter hike for me. I had not heard much about this hike before we decided to do it, but the views were spectacular. I would consider this hike moderate, due to the steepness of the majority of the trail. However, it is still a short and sweet hike that has a high reward in terms of the viewpoint.