Abbot Hut Stories (Part 4)

This the fourth in a five part series of posts on our adventures in the Lake O’Hara area. If you missed the earlier posts, go here:

This hut has incredible, rustic charm, a long mountaineering history, and plenty of tales to tell. While achieving the climb to the historic refuge, and being up there, on top of the world, adventuring, cooking, sleeping and eating with great friends was an amazing experience, what captured my imagination even more were the stories of the people who had come before us.

The hut has a sign-in book in which visitors can write and draw. There was certainly a common theme: surviving the scree slope and conquering fear. But what I found overwhelmingly wonderful was the sense of joy that permeated just about all of the writings in the 2016 & 2017 books.

Some of the entries were the basic, “Wahoo, we did it!” kind of posts… but some shared intimate details of personal struggles, revealing in their stories who these people were, who they wanted to be, how the experience of coming to Abbot Hut had profoundly effected their life journey, often revealing who they were becoming in the process. It was fascinating stuff.

Some entries celebrated the fabulous outhouse and its views (!! Really!!). Some celebrated friendships, old and new. Some thanked the ACC and Parks Canada for making opportunities like this available to all. And some… well, some were downright funny. Come along & see…

First, let’s refresh your memory… Abbot Hut is an historic ACC Hut that lies on top of the col that lies between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy above the Victoria Glacier (the one that lies at the end of Lake Louise).
Inside the hut’s cozy interior, we found two journals… last year’s 2016 sign in book, and this year’s.
You just KNOW there are good stories behind the comments on these pages!
Some had a sense of reverent awe…
… while some were overflowing with irreverence and exhilarating emotion!
You meet fascinating, like-minded people there. Five other people shared the hut with our group when we were there. “Happily surrounded by new friends and old stones”… I love that one.
There are certainly some people who don’t make it up there (see the last comment on this page).
Some are simply filled with admiration for the place…
And there were a lot of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” comments.
Then there were the ones that gave me goosebumps like this very intimate, very personal one, shared bravely so that others may heal & grow.
There were the stories of conquering the PTSD fears from grave mountaineering traumas.
And there were the stories of intrepid mountaineers… those people who use Abbot Hut as a base camp for their explorations, going beyond it as merely a destination. Yikes!
One lucky group was treated to a rare sighting of wolverines!
And some had lucky aurora sightings!
While we didn’t see the aurora, we were treated to incredible (and incredibly windy) views of the Milky Way. There’s simply no light pollution up there. Photo credits go to the very talented Alex Fricker, who found a sheltered spot and was able to keep his hand steady enough,  with the wind whipping around him, to capture this beauty of an image of our nighttime sky!
Can you imagine timing your visit for a meteor shower!?
I certainly echo this sentiment!
And then there were the comments on the scree gully we’d ascended that day, combined with entries expressing fear, trepidation and reservation about the down journey that was to come!
That gully… and what it took to slog and slip and wrench yourself up that scree was the source of artistic inspiration.
And humour!
And humorous advice… heh heh heh! (I’m kicking myself for forgetting to photograph The Great Zorb Escape entry that detailed an escape plan for getting off the col… that involved getting into one of those inflatable human balls, and then parachuting out of it in an epic bounce….)
Coming up that gully really did feel like a scene from a Tolkien adventure. Especially with the way we came up, blanketed in a smoky haze from the forest fires.
And then, there were the posts inspired by this epic outhouse (and its little rectangular window you see to the left, down low)!

What a location! At night, the winds blew so fiercely, it felt like you’d get blown off the narrow spine connecting the outhouse to where the hut stood!

I have to agree…
I’ve never seen anything quite like those views!
That iconic outhouse sure got a lot of attention!
The inspiration…
…and the sketch.

I’ll leave you with our entries in the book (and for the record, if anyone’s out there maintaining that proverbial record, there was definitely more than one bear in that sleeping nook upstairs!).

To be continued... next up: descending the scree and completing the Alpine Circuit (heading out via Lake Oesa, the Yukness Ledges & the All Soul’s and All Soul’s Prospect route).

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, 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.

7 Comments on “Abbot Hut Stories (Part 4)

    • We all come at hiking, and extreme hiking like this, for different reasons. It’s fascinating to see what motivates others to do it… and even more so, it’s fascinating to get a glimpse into who they are in the way they choose to share little bits of themselves. It’s interesting to see how people process adventure. And yes, it’s always great to be infected with the joy of others. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks again, Sheri. It takes a special kind of person to hike/climb places like this, and yet there remains diversity (of all types) in those that get the job done. Amazing people and an amazing place.

    Liked by 1 person

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

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