A place I had always wanted to go but wasn’t sure when I could fit it in. At just under 3000m, Abbots Pass is on the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks and easiest access is a moderate scramble from the stunning Lake O’Hara region.
Catching the bus up on the day, my friends and I decided to do Wiwaxy gap, a hike which is part of the spectacular alpine circuit and provided and intense warm up to the rest of the day. A steady climb of over 500m over just shy of 2km, it definately warmed us up.
Amazing views at the top and on the way. Once at the gap, we traversed across the Huber ledges, losing a little elevation down to Lake Oesa, a gorgeous alpine lake. Here was where we would start the scramble to the hut way up above.
To be clear , this is not a hike. Scrambling requires routefinding, and at times very hands on movements.
Helmets were worn to protect us from any rockfall, and we began the slow steady climb up near 700m in just over 1km. Using the hiking poles definately came in handy! Stunning views looking back down towards Lake Oesa as we climbed higher and higher.
The route is marked by alpine symbols and at times rock cairns. Unfortunately, we found ourselves a little further to the right than we wanted, and the scrambling a bit more difficult.
Scree is hard to go up when every step you take moves rapidly from underneath you and it takes a while to get used to it – fun on the way down though!
We just had small overnight packs with lots of food and some wine, no tents required – the luxury of hut life!
Finally we reached the hut – after a full on day of elevation we were ready to relax. And what a place! Mountains framing the horizon as far as you can see , and the hut precariously built into the mountainside at the pass.
It is easy to see why this is a protected historical site.
We relaxed and played cards, enjoyed the scenery and helped out with collecting snow in buckets to melt for water. The sunset that night was one of my most memorable in my time in the Rockies.
The next morning we had breakfast and then got going at a reasonable time.
The way down is fun scree skiing where you let yourself slide down , hiking poles are handy for controlling your speed. Must be pretty careful to leave enough room between yourself and your mates below as not to send rockslides their way. Gaiters would have been useful t keep out the stones .
Once back down at lake Oesa it was time for a hearty lunch, while we decided to take on the Yukness Ledges alpine route for the rest of the afternoon.
This is probably my favourite part of the Alpine circuit, exposed but not crazy, with incredible views and connects you to Opabin plateau area which has a lot of beautiful larch trees.
From there we took east opabin track back towards lake ohara itself, and finished off a successful weekend with a nice cold can of coke from the day shelter Le Relais.
We were very blessed to firstly be able to do this trip as July and August are extremely busy months in the Canadian Rockies as it is the height of summer and school holidays. But we lucked out getting three spaces at the hut, booked through the Apline Club of Canada.
Furthermore, two days after finishing this trip, the smoke from all the forest fires burning in vast areas of BC and a few close by in the Rockies covered the area. Haze and smoke stuck around solidly for the next few weeks so we timed it extremely well.
Lastly, 10 days after our fabulous trip to Abbots Pass Hut, Parks Canada closed the hut due to significant erosion concerns off the eastern side of the pass, under the hut. They have since been carrying out mitigation and erosion management which has resulted in stabilization under this precious piece of history.
A truly phenomenal trip which was so rewarding just to get there, but also stay in one of the most historical huts in Canada.
It was built by the swiss guides in 1922 and stands as a beautiful piece of history high up in the mountains.