We set off from Lake O’Hara and headed to the Abbott Pass Hut on Day 1 of the 2011 Lake Louise Classics program. Our group consisted of Grant, Jason, and Josh, our guides, Adam, Yamnuska’s photographer/videographer, and five guests, Gary, Jen, Mike, Tracy, and me. Despite overcast skies and occasional sprinkles, we enjoyed gorgeous views the whole way to Lake Oesa. Above Oesa, we were on snow most of the way to the pass, which was far more pleasant than the notorious scree that hikers sometimes encounter there.
At the pass, we were greeted by an icy wind, the kind that almost instantly chills sweaty hikers to the bone. Fortunately, a fire was going in the stove when we reached the hut and Grant, Jason, and Josh had hot tea and appetizers on the table almost as soon as we got our wind gear and gaiters off. Tea was followed by soup, and we were feeling warm and comfortable by the time dinner was served (the food was excellent and plentiful—kudos to the Yamnuska kitchen staff!). Views from the pass were spectacular, but the cold wind kept most of us indoors throughout the evening.
Mt. Victoria was our objective for Day 2. We were up at 4:00 for breakfast and headed out with headlamps lit at 5:00. We found challenging climbing almost immediately after leaving the hut. Victoria’s lower slopes, which often offer easy rock climbing, were covered with steep snow and lots of icy rock. After a couple hours of tough climbing, we reached the Southeast Ridge and found an incredible amount of snow for late July. Grant said that the ridge involved easy walking on rock when he last climbed Victoria. But this year we found a 4-meter high knife edge of snow.
We inched along the ridge, with the guests mostly front-pointing on steep snow on one side of the ridge while our guides clung to even steeper snow on the other side. It was spectacular Alaska-like ridge climbing. But closer to the summit, the ridge became heavily corniced, and one by one our three rope teams eventually turned back. Although we didn’t make it to Victoria’s summit, I think everyone in our group would agree that we had an unforgettable mountaineering adventure on Mt. Victoria.
That evening, over a delicious dinner, we swapped stories about adventures and misadventures in the mountains. Although lots of good tales were told, none was quite as amazing or entertaining as Gary’s account of being bitten by a bear while camping!
On Day 3, we started up Mt. LeFroy at 5:00. After our adventure on Victoria, LeFroy’s 40-45 degree West slope felt like a pleasant hike. Josh and Jason traded step-kicking duty, and those of us in the rear got to climb an easy staircase in the snow. We reached the summit by 7:00 and were treated to sensational views of Mts. Victoria and Temple as well as the Ten Peaks, the Goodsir Towers, and even the Bugaboos. We were back at the hut by 9:00, where we assembled a second breakfast from the abundant food that the Yamnuska kitchen packed for us. Then we headed down to catch the 2:30 bus at Lake O’Hara.
Overall, it was a great trip. The guides were wonderful, the climbing was awesome, and the scenery was amazing. I would recommend the Lake Louise Classics program for any intermediate climber. But fair warning: get in shape for this one. They aren’t kidding when they say that this trip is strenuous!
2011 guest on the Louise Classics program