Narao Peak is part of the “Lake O ‘Hara” group located in Yoho National Park (British Columbia), one of four connecting national parks that make up the central Canadian Rockies. Narao is hemmed in by the Continential Divide, Unnamed Peak and Popes Peak to the east and Mount Collier to the south. Narao Peak was first ascended in 1913 and officially named in 1916 after a Stoney Indian word meaning “hit in the stomach”. This reference is likely tied to James Hector being kicked by a horse while navigating up the Kicking Horse River in 1858. Not sure what Narao Peak would have been named if the horse kicked Mr. Hector somewhere else.
The best view of the route is either from the summit of Mount Bosworth located directly across Kicking Horse Pass or Paget Peak directly across the Kicking Horse River Valley. Narao’s north ridge bleeds into three summits. By the size of the cairns built on the first summit you arrive at from the north, few scramblers venture on to the true summit which is the first of two jagged peaks with ice couloirs stacked between their steep northern slopes.
Below Narao Peak’s southern slopes is the site of the whipper I took featured in Climbing Magazine, the Watch Tower. The views from the summit are, as usual, pretty spectacular. Of note is the constant view you enjoy on ascent of Cathedral Mountain to the west. You also get a solid glimpse on ascent of the Wapta Icefield, including Mount Balfour, to the north through a distinctive “V” notch made by Mount Niles and Mount Daly. You can practically reach out and touch Popes and Unnamed Peaks as well as Mount Collier. And you get a good view of the Skoki Range to the east as well, including Mount Redoubt.
The only published route on Narao Peak is the scramble up the north ridge, however, the low angled northern snow/ice couloirs might be of interest to snow/ice climbers from the lower 48.
Getting ThereThe Trans-Canada Highway runs from Calgary through Banff and Yoho National Parks on its way to Vancouver. Pass through Lake Louise heading westbound and continue on the Trans-Canada on its way to Field, BC. As you pass the Yoho National Park welcoming sign and Mount Bosworth on your right, look for the Lake O’Hara parking lot turnoff on your left. Drive across the railroad tracks and park at the bottom of the road. You cannot bike the Lake O’Hara road and the Cataract Brook Trail has been decommissioned. The dusty road going in is somewhat of a hazard to hikers as the park staff who drive the road do so at twice the speed limit and they don’t expect to see anyone on foot since most everyone is using the bus service to reach Lake O’Hara itself.
Red TapeYou will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National Park coming from the east on the Trans-Canada. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Yoho National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Yoho National Park headquarters are located in Field, BC and you will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
When to ClimbAs with most climbs in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Narao Peak in mid October and found the route relatively dry, little ice or wet snow. Some years, that would not be the case in October. This is a north ridge and gets less sun than other routes.
CampingThe closest camp site would be the Lake O’Hara campground at the end of the Lake O’Hara road another 9km south. The Alpine Club of Canada also maintains the Elizabeth Parker Hut at the same location. In addition there is luxury accommodation at the Lake O’Hara Lodge. Narao Peak is a fairly obscure climb and any climbers that do tackle it usually just make it a day trip wherefore camping is simply not an issue.
You can go on line at Yoho National Park to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas.