Technically, this is Popes Col but popularly just referred to as Popes Peak. It’s a north aspect and can make for some fantastic skiing and views, but does have some exposure. The true summit is reachable via a couloir and technical ice climb. You will also find the left/right hand couloirs here – both steep and committing lines.
Park at Lake O’Hara Parking Lot, just east of the Great Divide Lodge in Yoho National Park. This is the same staging area used for skiing Mt Cathedral. Head up the road for about 600m, then veer left up into the trees of Narao Shoulder. After gaining about 550m of elevation, you’ll hit the upper treeline. At this point, wrap around Narao Shoulder and head into the hanging valley below Popes Peak. It’s best to then head gradually north and down into the sparse trees to avoid exposure from the steep east face of Narao Peak. From here it’s a lengthy tour along the moraines. Looking at the col, there is an obvious route lookers right, however the exposure from seracs and potential avalanches make this route fairly hair-raising. The safer option is the less obvious route lookers left of the rock triangle at the base of the col. There is a short rock band to get through on the left side of the rock triangle. In good snow years, it may be possible to skin up, but likely a short bootpack/scramble will be necessary. Once above the rock band, you’re on the glacier. Head to the top of the triangle. The remainder of the climb is in clear view from here – only another 120m to go!
Descent: Follow the same route as the uptrack, or if you’re confident in conditions, head down the skiiers left side of the rock triangle. Head all the way down to the trees, at which point you’ll have to skin back up to Narao Shoulder. For better skiing through the Narao glades, head a short ways past you’re uptrack before descending into the trees. You will hit the Lake O’Hara road eventually. Follow it out and back to the parking lot.
For an account of the Narao Couloirs, check out Matt Ruta’s trip report here.