Bow Summit from Observation

Observation Peak is an easy peak east of Bow Summit along the Icefield Parkway, popular enough to have a good use trail to its summit. As the name implies, it offers fine views of the more impressive terrain west of the Parkway, including Bow and Peyto Lakes, and the peaks around the Wapta Icefield. After a long-ish day to Crown, I was looking for an easy hike on my way back south, and Observation seemed like a good option.

Peyto Lake

I parked along the abandoned road opposite the turnoff to the Bow Hut, then followed it over a bridge and past a marsh. Where it turns north, I found a trail leading through the woods, leading eventually to the right side of a gully. The trail stays right of the gully, meandering up a ridge and disintegrating into braids as the terrain becomes steeper and more challenging. I found a bit of class 3-4 climbing, but it can probably be avoided by traversing farther right around some small cliffs. Above the steep band, the trail reemerges in steep talus-fields, and the climb becomes a straightforward slog to the false summit.

Recondite above smoke

The sharp false summit has a perfectly fine view across the gentle divide between the Bow and Mistaya River drainages, but it is not the highpoint. Another half-mile or so of walking leads to the true summit, a mount of scree with a minor glacier on its east side. The promised views, though marred by wildlife smoke, were worth the small effort. The northeast was dominated by a sharp peak that I identified as Recondite, an 11er requiring a 50-mile round-trip with a fair bit of river-crossing and bog-stomping. To the south was Hector, a peak I had skied on my last trip to the Great White North. Across the valley to the west were the Wapta peaks and, behind them, Barnard and the higher range sheltering the Freshfield Icefield.

Freshfield peaks

I took in the view for awhile, then skipped back down the trail. Perhaps not surprisingly, I ran into a family on their way up, stopped to deal with their complaining child. Most of the peaks I had done up to this point in Canada — the 11ers — required enough effort to keep casual hikers away, and I had had them to myself. Therefore almost all the people I had encountered were the teeming hordes within shouting radius of their vehicles. While I enjoy my solitude and uncrowded wilderness, and avoid Colorado-level crowds, it is pleasant to occasionally see someone else putting in a bit of effort to enjoy the mountains.

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