The Wiwaxy-Hubert Ledges Route (Abbot Hut Part 2)

This the second in a five part series of posts on our adventures in the Lake O’Hara area. It takes you along on a virtual hike on the route we took, via the Wiwaxy Gap and the Huber Ledges to Lake Oesa… the launch pad for the third post in the series, where we climb the scree to Abbot Hut. While it is possible to do the shorter, most direct route, it’s not what I’d recommend. If you have good weather, strength and stamina (or can push yourself) to do this, take on this challenge.

If you missed part one, the overview, go here: Abbot Hut… A Bucket List Adventure (Part 1).

We’d been fortunate enough to book passage in on the earliest bus up and decided to make the most of our time in the Lake O’Hara area by taking in as much of the spectacular scenery as possible en route to Abbot Hut. We certainly went on a longer and more challenging route, but it was far more fun.

Our route took us, via the Wiwaxy Gap trail to its high point on the Alpine Circuit, brought us along the Huber Ledges that are cut into the high cliffs, then down to the shores of beautiful Lake Oesa for lunch. From there we rested, ate to fuel ourselves, and then headed up the scree slope to the hut.

The smoke hung thick in the air between the mountain peaks as we set out in the morning.
It added such moody lighting to the shores of Lake O’Hara.

Though it was a smoky day, the views were still pretty amazing (though nothing like they were on the day out when the skies were a bluebird colour and the sun shone brightly, revealing the incredible blues and greens of the lake colours on our way out).

I love the humour in these Parks Canada signs… you can’t say you aren’t warned when you see the stick figures tipping backwards on the route you’re about to take!
The trail up to Wiwaxy Gap starts out by going steeply up an avalanche path. Can you see all the splintered, broken, and small trees opening up the view for us?
The trail switchbacks up the steep slope, heading toward the gap in the cliff band above. We definitely had to stop a few places to peel off the layers. This was hard going!
Once we gained that height, the trail got really fun. Narrow and perched a top a dramatic ledge, it took us around corners with spectacular view points.
At times it feelt like you’re going to walk off the face of the earth!
We crossed avalanche paths (that’s our trail to the right) with amazing views, even with all the smoke haze in the atmosphere.
Perched on those ledges was such an exhilarating feeling!
Some were cut like steps.
And all the while, the landscape ebbed and flowed, playing hide and seek with us through the smoke.
This photo shows two of our group (you have to look really carefully) approaching Wiwaxy Gap, a col between the Wiwaxy Peaks and Mount Huber. We are definitely tiny specs in this massive landscape!
From high up there, we could just make out the stacked lakes below that led from Lake O’Hara (right) to Lake Oesa (not yet in the picture, to the left). Waterfalls linked each lake, tumbling over the massive cliff bands in the rock that lay between them.
We refuelled with snacks up there and rested a bit before heading out across the Huber Ledges.
Huber Ledges.jpg
Once again, the ledges were such a neat feature to hike along, making you feel like you were on a trail cut right into the side of the moutnain.
After completing the ledges route, we had to hike back down to the shores of Lake Oesa, losing much of the elevation we’d gained (darn it!).
Our trail along the ledges and through the rock rubble was marked with painted stripes like this.
Our lunch spot destination was the relatively flat surface of the glacially scoured rock that lies between the two lakes here. Can you see the way the lakes were stacked? It was truly incredible.
We were very, very small in this environment! Look carefully and you’ll see some of our group in amongst the boulders on the trail.
Lake Oesa.jpg
The colour of the lake got more and more intense as we approached.
IMG_7071 2.jpg
It took a great deal of concentration to hike on this uneven terrain.
As we approached the shoreline of Lake Oesa, we walked along great big slabs of split rock, laid there by Parks Staff to preserve the fragile plants of the high alpine terrain there. It is a super delicate ecosystem that we’re privileged to experience there!
And then we were there, at our amazing lunch spot, resting and fueling up for the next part of our trek… the long slog up the scree to Abbot Hut.

More to follow in the next blog post where you’ll see what it was like to scramble up to the hut. Stay tuned…

The amazing thing is that this route, when viewed from across the valley the day we headed out, looks absolutely impossible! It’s amazing what you can achieve, putting one foot in front of the other, trudging in the footsteps of those ancient and intrepid mountaineer explorers!

Look carefully across the lake in this photo and you’ll see our trail in. It’s not the zig zag trail.

Zoom in. We headed up the avalanche path that meets the lake on the left. Next, look to the right of the second avalanche path above the fourth wrinkle in the mountain’s side. Can you see the upward diagonal scratch? That was our trail. It went up to the col (the shoulder between the peak on the left, and the mountain that rises out of sight on the right), and then headed out, horizontally from there, to the right, along one of the rock band layers that makes up that Huber Mountain. Incredible, eh? The zig zag path below is the regular hiking path that leads to Lake Oesa on a more direct route and is the trail that most people take.

To be continued... next up: Gettin’ Screed (heading up the scree slope from lake Oesa to Abbot Pass).

To find out more info about the hut we stayed at, go here: Alpine Club of Canada. If you are wanting to book passage on the bus to the Lake O’Hara area for day hiking, go here: Yoho National Park Bookings. And if you want to find out more about the amenities at Lake O’Hara, go here: Lake O’Hara Lodge.

Don’t be too discouraged. Access is limited for a reason, to preserve the beauty and ecosystem of this incredible place. And people DO bail on their bookings… especially if the weather is bad.

  • SO it is possible to snag a cancellation (calling ahead 1-877-737-3783).
  • You can go to the bus shelter pick up spot at the base of the road and talk to a Parks Canada person (green uniform & a clipboard). You can get on the bus if there is space from no-shows that day.
  • Also, watch the Hike Alberta and the Scrambling In The Canadian Rockies facebook pages for notifications of people selling off their spots as their plans change closer to hiking season.
  • Cancellations are also posted on the Yoho Trail Conditions page by Parks Canada. Be flexible about your dates, keep this page open on your phone, refresh it frequently, and you’re far more likely to get in. (Thanks for the tip, Ian!)

Click here for more terrific hikes in Yoho National Park. And check out more hikes from Canada and our adventures around the world here.

15 Comments on “The Wiwaxy-Hubert Ledges Route (Abbot Hut Part 2)

  1. This hike looks incredible. Your detail and description make the reader feel like they are there (and want to be there!). I went straight to Google Maps to see where this is, thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love it! Great job, Sheri! Spectacular views and photos, to be sure.And excellent descriptions of the scenes, to boot! Thanks for documenting all this. I can’t wait for the next episode…’Gettin’ Screed.’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That landscape and the approaches seem almost unworldly, like something from a science fiction movie. Sometimes truth is more amazing than fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Abbot Hut Stories (Part 4) – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  5. Pingback: What Goes Up Must Come Down (Abbot Hut Part 5) – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  6. Mind blown. I think the smoke might have made the scenery even better and more surreal. The last picture of the trail going up the side of the mountain looks indeed impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi….

    The first picture on this side: is it on the trail up to wiwaxy gap? At least it look like that…


  8. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, it’s after we’d been to the Wiwaxy gap. Sadly, the Abbot Hut is now closed, due to erosion at the site undermining the foundation of the ancient stone hut. We were one of the last visiting groups there. But you can still do this hike. And it is well worth the visit!!!


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