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Observation Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 3174
Trip Date: August 07, 2009
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Trip Time (hr): 4
Total Trip Distance (km): 8.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: As long as it’s dry, this is mostly an off trail hike, or easy scramble. All bets are off when there’s snow on the route.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (3rd)
Map: Google Maps


Finding myself with a free weekend in the summer is a very rare occurrence, so when it happened on the weekend of August 7, 8 and 9 I arranged a 3 peak extravaganza! The first summit would be a solo effort so I chose something without a lot of difficulties and a short approach, Observation Peak.

Observation Peak Route Map

There really isn’t a lot to say about this scramble, it’s pretty easy and it’s hard to get lost. Simply follow Alan Kane’s instructions and you’ll encounter no difficulties. A number of people have either attempted or done this mountain with snow and apparently this can be tricky due to avy slopes. I started the day with a pleasant walk down the approach road towards the access avalanche gully. It was obvious where to branch into the gully and soon I was sweating my way up the gully on grass (lots of mosquitoes) until it finally transitioned to scree.

Once on scree I followed a trail (still very loose) up interesting terrain. Despite appearances the terrain stayed within the realm of easy scrambling. Once near the “top”, I discovered I wasn’t. 🙂 The south ridge kept going and going but the views were so stunning and the day was so pleasant I didn’t care.

More easy scree slopes up to the summit ridge. It’s much easier than it appears thanks to a clear trail most of the way up.
The true summit lies at the north end of the ridge and is quite a bit further along it than I was expecting.

I think the summit of Observation holds the record of my longest stay on a summit – definitely the longest solo one. I spent 2 hours napping and enjoying the unbelievable summit panoramas in every direction. Smoke levels were very low and my camera almost overheated as a consequence.

(L to R), Quill, Conical, Siffluer, Loudon, Isabella Lake, Fuhrer, Perren, Marmot, Simpson, Recondite, Kentigern, Clearwater, Harris, Willingdon, Bobac, Dip Slope, Watermelon, Cataract, McConnell, Drummond, Puzzle, Douglas, Molar, Minnow and Hector (R). And many others.
L to R, Hector, Bow, Temple, BowCrow, Crowfoot, Balfour, Vulture, Olive, St Nicholas, Gordon, Portal, Thompson, Jimmy Simpson, Rhondda, Habel, Ayesha, Baker, Peyto, Trapper, Laussedat, Caldron, Mistaya, Mummery, Barbette, Freshfields, Patterson, Breaker, Aries, Midway, Forbes, Howse, White Pyramid, Chephren, Erasmus, Amery, Wilson, Weed, Murchison, Spreading and Cline. And many more, believe it or not!

Descent was fast and easy. I still can’t believe that I didn’t meet anyone else on such a gorgeous day, but I suppose many folks were still working. I’m sure glad I wasn’t!

One more panorama over the Recondite approach which runs up the foreground valley from right to left, past Isabella Lake and then back right all the way to Recondite, which is the pointy peak at center.

As a summer objective this is a fast outing (I took less than 4 hours up and down but had a 2 hour nap / break on the summit!) and has very respectable views – I highly recommend it.

Observation Peak
The approach gully is already visible after a very short jaunt in the forest on a faint trail.
The approach gully is already visible after a very short jaunt in the forest on a faint trail.
Looking up the avi gully. Stick to climber's right for the best trail / ascent options.
Looking up the avi gully. Stick to climber's right for the best trail / ascent options.
The route is obvious and easy - but loose in spots.
The route is obvious and easy - but loose in spots.
Looking back over my approach with Jimmy Simpson, Peyto, Caldron and Patterson (L to R) in the bg.
Looking back over my approach with Jimmy Simpson, Peyto, Caldron and Patterson (L to R) in the bg.
Telephoto towards the Wapta includes Olive, St. Nicholas and Gordon (L to R)
Telephoto towards the Wapta includes Olive, St. Nicholas and Gordon (L to R)
More easy scree slopes up to the summit ridge.
More easy scree slopes up to the summit ridge.
More easy scree slopes up to the summit ridge.
More easy scree slopes up to the summit ridge.
Fun scrambling on a pretty obvious trail.
Fun scrambling on a pretty obvious trail.
Views back over Peyto Lake.
Views back over Peyto Lake.
Looking north up the Patterson, Ebon, Aries, Stairway, Midway, Howse and Chephren wall of Rockies.
Looking north up the Patterson, Ebon, Aries, Stairway, Midway, Howse and Chephren wall of Rockies.
The true summit lies at the north end of the ridge.
The true summit lies at the north end of the ridge.
Views over Peyto Lake to Baker, Caldron, Mistaya and Mummery.
Views over Peyto Lake to Baker, Caldron, Mistaya and Mummery.
View up the Peyto Glacier to Habel, Ayesha, Baker, Peyto and Trapper.
View up the Peyto Glacier to Habel, Ayesha, Baker, Peyto and Trapper.
Incredible view of Caldron Lake Falls with Peyto, Baker and Trapper rising above.
Incredible view of Caldron Lake Falls with Peyto, Baker and Trapper rising above.
Views into the Siffleur Wilderness towards Recondite and Willingdon.
Views into the Siffleur Wilderness towards Recondite and Willingdon.
Baker rises over Peyto Peak.
Baker rises over Peyto Peak.
Portal Peak on the right and The Onion, Gordon St. Nicholas and Olive to the left.
Portal Peak on the right and The Onion, Gordon St. Nicholas and Olive to the left.
Iceberg Lake and Bow Glacier Falls.
Iceberg Lake and Bow Glacier Falls.
Traversing to the true summit.
Traversing to the true summit.
Still traversing over to the main summit - trying not to get too distracted by all the wonderful views!
Still traversing over to the main summit - trying not to get too distracted by all the wonderful views!
A very impressive view of Recondite Mountain.
A very impressive view of Recondite Mountain.
(L to R), Conical, Isabella Lake, Marmot, Kentigern, Recondite, Harris, Willingdon, Quartzite and Hector
(L to R), Conical, Isabella Lake, Marmot, Kentigern, Recondite, Harris, Willingdon, Quartzite and Hector
Summit cairn with Recondite in the bg.
Summit cairn with Recondite in the bg.
Relaxing on a very pleasant summit.
Relaxing on a very pleasant summit.
Relaxing on top of Observation.
Relaxing on top of Observation.
Relaxing on top of Observation.
Relaxing on top of Observation.
Views south (L) west and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway.
Views south (L) west and north (R) along the Icefields Parkway.
Looking over Bow Lake and Crowfoot and Vulture Mountains to the mighty Mount Balfour - highest peak of the Wapta Icefield.
Looking over Bow Lake and Crowfoot and Vulture Mountains to the mighty Mount Balfour - highest peak of the Wapta Icefield.
Mount Mummery with Mistaya on the left and Barbette on the right with the Delta Glacier melting into Delta Creek in the middle.
Mount Mummery with Mistaya on the left and Barbette on the right with the Delta Glacier melting into Delta Creek in the middle.
Barbette at left with the Freshfield Icefield (Conway Group) in the distance including Whiteavs, Mount de Margerie, Termier and Conway.
Barbette at left with the Freshfield Icefield (Conway Group) in the distance including Whiteavs, Mount de Margerie, Termier and Conway.
Mount Patterson is a favorite summit in the area.
Mount Patterson is a favorite summit in the area.
Midway, Aiguille and Howse in front of Forbes (L) and the Lyells (R).
Midway, Aiguille and Howse in front of Forbes (L) and the Lyells (R).
Howse and White Pyramid.
Howse and White Pyramid.
I would ascend Mount Chephren (R) the next day with Keith Bott.
I would ascend Mount Chephren (R) the next day with Keith Bott.
Mount Hector lies to the south.
Mount Hector lies to the south.
Peyto Lake.
Peyto Lake.
Looking up the Peyto Glacier approach to the Wapta at Des Poilus, Collie in the far bg and Rhondda and Habel in the mid fg.
Looking up the Peyto Glacier approach to the Wapta at Des Poilus, Collie in the far bg and Rhondda and Habel in the mid fg.
Portal Peak on the left and Thompson on the right. Carnarvon at distant left.
Portal Peak on the left and Thompson on the right. Carnarvon at distant left.
Mount Patterson and the Angel Glacier over the Mistaya River.
Mount Patterson and the Angel Glacier over the Mistaya River.
A seat with a helluva view!!
A seat with a helluva view!!
A seat with a helluva view!!
A seat with a helluva view!!
Recondite, Augusta, Kentigern, Clearwater, Willingdon and Bobac (R).
Recondite, Augusta, Kentigern, Clearwater, Willingdon and Bobac (R).
Conical, Isabella Lake, Perren, Simpson, Recondite and others.
Conical, Isabella Lake, Perren, Simpson, Recondite and others.
Isabella Lake (L) with Recondite and other Clearwater and Siffleur peaks visible.
Isabella Lake (L) with Recondite and other Clearwater and Siffleur peaks visible.
Views south include Bobac, Watermelon, Puzzle, Hector and Cirque (R).
Views south include Bobac, Watermelon, Puzzle, Hector and Cirque (R).
Cataract (L) with OXO or Puzzle Peak at right.
Cataract (L) with OXO or Puzzle Peak at right.
The Willingdon Group with Bobac at foreground right.
The Willingdon Group with Bobac at foreground right.
Mistaya Lake in the fg, Howse, White Pyramid and Chephren looming beyond.
Mistaya Lake in the fg, Howse, White Pyramid and Chephren looming beyond.
Great views of Peyto Lake as I descend.
Great views of Peyto Lake as I descend.
Back in the land of heat and green.
Back in the land of heat and green.
Looking back at Observation Peak from the approach road off hwy 93.
Looking back at Observation Peak from the approach road off hwy 93.
Looking back at Observation Peak from the approach road off hwy 93.
Looking back at Observation Peak from the approach road off hwy 93.
Vern chills out on an outcrop near the summit. Mistaya and Mummery provide amazing views.
Vern chills out on an outcrop near the summit. Mistaya and Mummery provide amazing views.
Looking north along Midway, Stairway, Aiguille, Howse and Chephren.
Looking north along Midway, Stairway, Aiguille, Howse and Chephren.
Views over Iceberg Lake towards Mount Gordon and Olive (L).
Views over Iceberg Lake towards Mount Gordon and Olive (L).

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