What Goes Up Must Come Down (Abbot Hut Part 5)

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

We woke up the next morning to clear skies and no smoke… a spectacular day in which to explore the remainder of the Alpine Circuit at Lake O’Hara… a spectacular day to make that dreaded scree descent.

I stepped outside to take a look down that slope and wrap my head around what it was going to take to get down it.
The sun was lighting the Victoria Glacier just perfectly, showing her off as the inspiring, breath-taking super star that she is.
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The outhouse was still there on its lofty perch, and its views were still as amazing as ever.
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The sun had yet to touch the startling blue waters of Lake Oesa.

Fuelled by a delicious breakfast of bodem style coffee and creamy porridge (made with dried fruit, milk powder, hemp seeds and other goodies to really start us off right, nutritionally speaking… thanks, Monika!), we packed up, tidied up and headed out.

We had ambitious plans: survive the descent down that hideous scree, have an early lunch at Lake Oesa, then head out & up and across the Yukness Ledges, come down to Moor Lakes, head back up the All Soul’s route to All Soul’s Prospect and then come back down through the larch forest to Lake O’Hara to catch (hopefully) the 4:30 bus out… followed by burgers at the Lake Louise hostel.

Helmets on, we got one last group shots on the step of the hut.
As we approached the slope, the snows on Glacier Peak were lit up by the soft morning light.
One look back… goodbye Abbot Hut!
We gave the group before us a little space, and watched as they began their careful descent, getting what technique beta we could from them.
And then, we were ready to do this! 1000s have gone before us. It couldn’t be that bad, surely?
One step at a time, we planted poles and stepped into the loose rock.
There was some dirt mixed in with the loose rock, which made the slipping easier.
The trick lies in loosening up, and just going with it… going with the flow of rock, that is.
Keeping a lookout for rocks you dislodge, then yelling “rock” to those below is good practice… but we found that the rocks we did dislodge didn’t travel far, so it was all good.
Pat was our “sweeper,” keeping careful watch from above.
Despite a few unintentional sit-downs, it was quite fun!
Still, we took it slow.
Eventually we came to a good point, part way down to regroup.
And those with the bionic knee braces checked in… it was all good!
Then it was time to turn toward the shelter of the cliff, avoiding the deep, small, very loose stuff that trickled and bounced below us down the gully toward the lake.
Next, we rounded the base of the cliff, turning to come off the scree.
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We stopped to water, shed layers and rest those knees and quads. They take quite a beating, working to keep your balance through the flowing scree. (Photo cred: Steve Frangos)
Then it was time to saddle up and git ‘er done.
With the most dangerous part successfully behind us, it was time to get on with our hiking day!
Without the smoke obscuring its intense beauty, Lake Oesa beckoned like a siren beauty below!

Just look at the difference a day makes in the images here… one taken the day we arrived, and one taken the day we left!

Pat held up the cliff for us as we went by… he’s all about safety, this one!
There was actually a tiny cave in there.
And then we were at the shore of Lake Oesa, where we shed our helmets, had a nice break & devoured our lunches.

The rest of the images you’ll see here lie on the other half of the Alpine Circuit trails (we’d done the first half, via Wiwaxy Gap and Huber Ledges on the way in), and are easily done by anyone coming to the Lake O’Hara area on a day trip. The place is stunning, with stacked lakes, gorgeous colour, mountains rising dramatically all around, the neatest ledge-trails to walk along and the most amazing chunky boulder fields to navigate. Everywhere you turn, there’s incredible beauty.

One look back as we leave from the SW shore of the lake.
Descending from Lake Oesa, we turned onto the Yukness Ledges trail with its great big blocky chunks of rock.
It was quite fun to descend through those amazing blocks of rock.
Our trail took us around that beautiful lower lake, with its strangely coloured, teeny, ice blue tarn off to the side.
It was beautiful to look back and see the lakes, with all their colour, stacked so perfectly in the landscape.
The Yukness Ledges trail is so far from “yucky…” it is a beautiful route to follow, made all the more perfect by the fantastic weather we were experiencing!
Quick stop for a group shot overlooking Lake O’Hara.
The Yukness Alpinist Route hugs the cliffs of Yukness Mountain and has some great big steps built into it by stone masons long ago, made from select pieces of the rock that abounds there..
The trail rolls up and down the wrinkled sides of the mountain, and the views from up there are incredible!
Hugging the side of the mountain, it was sometimes a dirt track, sometimes a rocky ledge, and sometimes a series of steep rock steps.
You round perfect corners with steep drop offs and amazing views (see the trail marker painted onto the rock?).
This was an incredible trail!
From the Yukness Ledges, you descend once more to the valley that drains out of Opabin Lake (another lake created by yet another glacier in the area).
It’s a picturesque valley with the most perfect little alpine creek, draining from the Opabin glacier, high above.
It’s a beautiful little valley with lots of short trail circuits to explore.
With plenty of beautiful wildflower meadows, it has carefully placed stepping stones so that passing through, we don’t crush out life in that beautiful, fragile ecosystem.
But it’s still an alpine valley, so there is a descent to do to come out of it.
Next up: UGH…heading up to the All Souls Alpine Route trail. I was so tired by this point! It looks like an impossible jumble of rocks, not a route, right?
But those carefully crafted rock slab steps were hidden in there. They never failed us.
Climbing up, ever up.
In no time, we were in the views again. This is where the trail approaches All Souls Prospect… an incredible lookout point, suspended on the side of Schäffer Ridge.
Monika, at the All Souls Prospect cairn doing her best, “Come on, it’s not so bad! You’ve done GREAT!” pep talk. (Believe me, I needed it at this point!)
Our last descent of the day. It was going to be steep, coming off All Souls.
One step at a time gets it done.
The last part saw us taking a brief trail through a larch forest… with the ultimate reward of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting at the Relais Day Use Shelter (the place where you wait for the bus out). Yum. Actually, who knows if it was truly yummy, as anything would taste good at that point!
At the end of the day, we rode the bus down, got into our cars, and met up down the road at the Lake Louise Hostel where the kids had been promised burgers, and we’d been promised a cold beer. A terrific end to a really fun adventure!

The Lake O’Hara area… it’s yours to explore, if you’re lucky enough to get in!

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.

11 Comments on “What Goes Up Must Come Down (Abbot Hut Part 5)

  1. What a beautiful area! Fantastic documentation on all 5 parts: i really enjoyed reading through these posts… I’ll have to try and get there some day!


  2. These photographs are really something else! It’s not an exaggeration to say I was left open mouthed at some of those beautiful open landscape shots, just wow!


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