Recondite Peak is located on the eastern boundary of Banff National Park. The eastern slopes of Banff National Park are the last refuge of true wilderness within the park. This mountain is more about scenic views, wild animal encounters, or hopefully only viewing, and long approaches then quality climbing or classic mountaineering.
Recondite Peak is the lowest on the list of Canadian Rockies 11,000 footers; 54 th on the generally accepted list of 54 summits. The summit is just over the magic 11,000 ft. mark at 3356 metres (11,010 ft.).
Officially named in 1927, Recondite is defined as little known or obscure. This mountain is hidden away and more difficult to access than other mountains. First ascended in 1927 by Howard Palmer, guided by Ernest Feuz.
Banff National Park is Canada's first national park and the world's third. Banff National Park is the second largest of Canada's Rocky Mountain Parks and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This spectacular park protects 6,641 square kilometres (2,564 square miles) of broad valleys, rugged mountains, glaciers, forests and alpine environments. There are more than 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) of hiking trails within Banff and 22 of the 54 11,000’ers.
Banff National Park is located in the province of Alberta in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. It is situated 128 km (80 miles) west of Calgary, Alberta. Vehicle access is by Trans Canada Highway (Highway #1) from Calgary.
The standard approach for Recondite Peak is very, very long with about half the distance without a real trail, often in wet soil or running water. Follow the Icefields Parkway (93 North) 33 km north of the Lake Louise Junction to Helen Lake trail head.
Join the hordes hiking to Helen Lake (6 km), then on the diminishing trail to Dolomite Pass (9 km), descend the pass to the north. A faint and rough trail follows the left side (west) of Dolomite Creek and after a few creek crossings, you enter the flats north of Isabella Lake; from here now the wilderness takes over.
Happy to finally see Isabella Lake
The trail appears, and disappears repeatedly along the west creek bed, I suspect long washed out, and the horses (probably the most common animal on the trail) don’t mind walking in water for kms.
After about 25 km from the trail head you reach the idyllic Isabella Lake warden cabin. Another classic Banff backcountry beauty hewn out of local wood.
About 4 km north of the cabin cross Dolomite Creek, follow right bank of creek then cross the Siffleur River. Head north towards a sizeable valley, follow the Siffleur’s south-east branch, if you still have energy plod another 6 km where views of Recondite begin to open up. Camp lower (as we did NTS UTM grid reference 460400) or push on to an upper campsite at NTS UTM 465400; about 40 km from highway.
A permit or fee is not required to climb in Banff National Park. A voluntary safety registration system is available for climbers in the rocky mountain national parks. It is necessary to register in person at the park information centres or warden offices during business hours. On completion of the excursion, the party must notify the park by telephone or by returning the registration form.
The summit and eastern side of Recondite Peak is within Banff National Park. Up to date information about climbing and mountaineering in the rocky mountain national parks available at:
CNP Mountain Safety
Camping and Bivouacs
Climbers are permitted to bivouac on long routes or otherwise where necessary to safely complete a climb. Some restrictions apply. A backcountry use permit is required, contact any Banff National Park visitor centre, where you may obtain the permit.
Lower camp at NTS UTM grid reference 460400 or the regular upper campsite at NTS UTM 465400 bivy sites are located outside of Banff National Park and random camping is allowed, but there are no facilities or designated camp sites. Be aware of wildlife and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.
When to Climb
Typical Canadian Rockies situation with July and August providing the best conditions for high elevation climbing. Often September and October have stable and dry weather, but conditions can change dramatically. Fall climbing does provide colder temperatures for snow climbing, but with less snow for climbing and bridging of crevasses.
Only one route was been forged up this remote peak. Other route potential is likely, but if you have the time to find them, best of luck.
- South-West Ridge, Alpine II
First ascended in 1927 by Howard Palmer, guided by Ernest Feuz. From the bivy site, head to the base of the South West ridge. Scree hiking gains elevation quickly. Near 2500m (8200 ft.) interesting limestone karst pavement presents some enjoyable solid ground.
Soon the false summit is within view, but some moderate and loose scrambling leads to a steep drop off. A steep gully leads to down to the South Face. Regain the ridge and continue to the false summit.
False Summit in foreground
The crux of the route is now very apparent. A deep and steep notch blocks access to the summit block. Plenty of natural rock horns allow an easy anchor setup for a rappel to the base of the notch. About a 12 metre rappel reaches the base. Leave rope in place for an easy top rope ascent.
False Summit from Main Summit
Very, very loose and steep ascent to left reaches the summit. Descend the same way.
Final scramble to summit - loose and exposed, and very snowy and wet for us
The rope left in place allows a quick ascent of the loose and steep 5.3, 12m pitch back to the top of the false summit. Continue back down South-West Ridge to bivy.
Bill Corbett’s book, The 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies, provides a comprehensive climber’s guide and history to the 54 11,000-foot peaks in the Canadian Rockies.
11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies