A few years ago my daughter and I headed towards Observation Rock on a day hike in the middle of October during one of her school breaks. We ended up turning around short of the goal at 2 PM so as not to get back too late with the shorter days. This time, with a good weather forecast, we planned on hiking out of Mowich Lake for a few days to include a bivy in the Ptarmigan Ridge cross country zone.
After a fabulous night under the arcing spotlight known as the moon, we had a hot breakfast and set off for Echo Rock (7871'), one I had not climbed before so it was on my list. We knew from research that Echo was a moderate scramble, but looking at this orange monolith from any direction is intimidating nonetheless. We dropped our packs at the edge of the Flett Glacier. There had been some annoying scrambling up a ridge to attain the gentler slopes of the Flett on our approach, so it was nice to relieve ourselves of the weight after tanking up and snacking.
We set off in the general direction of a notch that would take us to the other side of Echo in order to reach the summit. Although there were a number of class III moves involved, at no time did we encounter any significant exposure. Soon enough we came to the flattish summit area where we could orbit to see the views. The actual summit is a jutting slab maybe 12 feet above, so I climbed the notch and put my arms across the top and called it good, as I couldn't see trying to straddle an 8 inch sliver of rock. With age comes wisdom. We lingered on the top for a while before starting the more difficult descent, involving a few areas of down climbing. Aside from getting stuck on a sliding scree slope, my daughter did well in her cautious style and we were both glad to be done with it at the bottom.
With plenty of time left in the day we headed up the south ridge from Echo to attain the saddle above leading to the lower slopes of Observation Rock (8364'). We saw two people descending on a faint trail that led below the steep snow slope, a shortcut, if you may, back to our packs. Noted. I told my daughter she could use her poles all the way to the summit of Observation; the front side looks intimidating but the back side is a rather gentle slope. Once on top, we signed the summit register, the first one I had bothered with. The views from Observation are sublime....in all directiions vistas unfold before you with the mountain in one direction and Spray Park opposite. Gaze down on the Flett, Cat Eye Lake, Echo Rock, Moraine Park, Curtis Ridge and the Carbon Glacier, the Russell Glacier.....almost too many points to remember. This is truly a special place.
When we departed we took the aforementioned shortcut to claim our waiting packs, then found a much easier way down the Flett on our descent with the afternoon softened snow (wearing trail runners). Cool weather made for perfect hiking conditions on the way back, leaving Hessong Rock and Mt Pleasant for the next day. My daughter likes to sleep tentless, eat gourmet hot food, visit special areas but avoid excessive trashing of the legs; these two days surely satisfied on all counts.
Stats: 15 miles/4700'