Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Line of the Week: Narao Left-hand Couloir

The Twin couloirs coming off of Narao Peak's summit always grab my attention as I drive by heading west over Kicking Horse Pass. The line on climbers right is the more committing of the two with a chockstone wedged in the couloir that requires ascending and descending through the small tunnel under the stone. Obviously not the place to fall or get taken away by slough, cornices, or avalanches, lets you get funneled through the toilet bowl! The left hand couloir is less committing, but no walk in the park. When I skied the line, there was a small cliff in the chute that required climbing/skiing around. Let this choke fill in. Still not a great place to fall.

Approach the line as you would for the Popes Peak tour described in Summits and Icefields, going over the Narao shoulder from the Lake O'hara parking lot. But instead of going right to the base of the hanging valley to continue up to the Popes col, follow a bench leading to the moraines at the base of the couloirs. But not so high you are on the steep slopes coming off of Narao Peak

A view down the line where you can see the route from Narao Shoulder. Cornices were coming down at this point!

The cornice at the top combined with the North East exposure makes managing the cornice hazard with early morning sun difficult. We elected not to top out the upper slopes as they opened up, instead transitioning at the base of a rock where the chute diverges near the top.

Line Length: 450m
Top Elevation: 2973m
Total vertical: 1400m
Round Trip Distance: 9.5km
Other options: The previously mentioned Popes Col tour is a classic described in Summits and Icefields. The Narao Shoulder offers some skiing as well. The Lake O'Hara parking lot is the starting point for numerous tours: Cathedral Peak, Collier, and Mt. Nibloc to name a few.

Hillmap route

This particular line was the scene of probably the most significant close call with a cornice fall that I have witnessed. I have stepped away or at least limited attempting lines like this since.

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