Little Popes (Vatican Peak) GR:497950

elevation: 2,925 m. height gain: 1,360 m. (includes height loss)
area: Lake Louise,AB map 82 N/8

Ref: Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields
Note: In the book, this objective is described on the Popes Peak page.

narao shoulder

Narao Shoulder from the trailhead.
Snowshoe trip: RT 10.0; 5.0 up. This outing is meant to be done on skis to take advantage of the nice high alpine skiing and quick return. Unfortunately for me, because of a torn ACL, this isn't a favorable option. Fab decided to forgo his skis and accompany me on snowshoes. It was almost -20 Celsius when we started up the Lake O'Hara road. We beelined in the trees on a good uptrack about 1.5 kilometers from the parking lot, at the crest of a hill. The solidified snowpack granted easy travel; we joined the Ross Lake Trail for a short bit then we continued on an uptrack towards Narao Shoulder. From there, we traversed into the hanging valley. As we proceeded, we lost the sun; there wasn't much stopping... We gained the moraine higher up and negotiated the rockband before stepping on the final steep slopes. I was excited, the stable snowpack and firm surface would grant an easier access to the col and sub summit of lofty Popes Peak. Visibility was flat and a type of haze hindered the magnificent view. We trudged onward to the col with a good distance in between us, the summit appeared very close. The final jaunt up Popes' outlier is mercifully short; the view was amazing despite the haze. Our stay was brief, we didn't have the luxury of gliding back home and it was cold. As we glissaded down, we noticed a group of 5 skiers on the moraine, they were turning around. The skiing didn't appear to be stellar but it sure was much faster than walking! Backtracking up the shoulder was pleasant and the rest of the descent didn't take too long. This is a very rewarding trip, even on snowshoes!
good uptrack

Well-used uptrack to the shoulder.

nearing the shoulder

Continuing towards the shoulder.

to the hanging valley

Over to the hanging valley.

objective in sight

Our objective in the distance.

pleasant trek

Very pleasant trek up the draw.

gaining the moraine

Gaining the moraine.

on the moraine

We continued on the moraine.

weakness in rockband

The weakness in the rockband.

climbing the weakness

Climbing the weakness.

upper steep slopes

Starting up the upper steep slopes.

popes col

Glaciated slope to Popes Col.

little popes

Little Popes, or Vatican Peak according to The Raffinator.

divide mountain

Divide Mountain north of us.

last bit

Tracks all the way to the confined summit.

mount whyte

Mount Whyte to the east.

popes and narao peaks

Popes Peak and Narao Peak at the far right.

plain of 6 glaciers

Plain of Six Glaciers straight south.

thumb out

Sticking my thumb out for a ride down...


No worries mate, follow me!

weakness in rockband

Back down the weakness in the rockband.


Skiers are visible on the moraine.

looking back

Looking back.

nice flats

The flats before the gentle climb over the shoulder.

larch trees

Lots of Larch in the hanging valley.

up and over

Up and over.

highway below

The highway below, a familiar sight.
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