Mt Victoria, Mt Lefroy – Part 1 of the Lake Louise Classics
I was fortunate enough to do the first three days of our intermediate mountaineering program the Lake Louise Classics. This incredible group of people combined with some favorable alpine conditions had a very successful trip into Abbot Pass.
Everyone on the trip were ‘Yamnuska Alumni’ and not only did it give me a chance to get out for some fun but to also connect with dedicated guests. So Chris, Liz, Allan, Bryan, Roy and I, along with Yam guides James Blench, Paddy Jerome and Jason Billings left Canmore and headed for the bus to Lake O’Hara.
Four hours later this energetic group arrived at the Abbott Hut admiring the next day’s objective of Mt Lefroy. The Abbot Hut is the second highest permanent structure in Canada at almost 9600 ft and from the hut you can see clear to the top of Mt Lefroy. After some refresher training in short roping and anchoring techniques, we enjoyed a delicious Yamnuska prepared meal and went to bed for our 4am wake up.
Here is a hint: When staying in Alpine Club Huts, bring a set of earplugs. We shared the hut with another group… one of whom was a champion snorer and even those of us with earplugs had a broken sleep at best.
However, our keen group was wide eyed when we started our climb at 5am and although it was 5 degrees Celsius at the hut, we enjoyed excellent snow and ice conditions on the mountain. On the way up, the group moved very well together in 3 rope teams as we watched the full moon setting to the West and an alpine sunrise over the peaks of Banff to the East. The view alone was an amazing sight but this ambitious group of climbers knew that the day would offer even better views at 11,230 ft from the top of Mt. Lefroy. At 7:30am we were not disappointed as everyone topped out to enjoy blue skies and see as far as the Bugaboos and the Columbia Icefields. High up on this majestic peak it sure felt like we were standing on top of the world!
The beauty of an alpine start is that you get an afternoon nap! We all came back for a well deserved rest and planned our next day’s objective over dinner, scotch and brandy. Given the previous few days’ unsuccessful summits of Mt Victoria, we were naturally concerned about warm weather and snow conditions. James, Paddy and Jason decided that a 3am wake up with a 4am departure would be our best shot and instead of returning to the hut for our descent back to Lake O’Hara we would carry all of our gear to the top of Mt Victoria and descend the Huber Ledges. And that is exactly what we did!
Everything worked out as planned and as we worked our way through the snow and rock (our group did very well climbing alpine rock in crampons) we were treated to another spectacular sunrise complete with Alpen-glow by the time we hit the first ledge. By 8:30 am the snow conditions were deteriorating but we had one of Canada’s best avalanche forecasters with us in James Blench. When I became worried about snow conditions and being swept off the side of Mt Victoria, James shared his thoughts with the group and assured us he was not concerned. I immediately felt at ease if James was comfortable!
By 10 am we were on the south summit of Mt Victoria where we celebrated, had a short break then descended the Huber ledges. Bryan did his first rappel which we were excited to share with him and we all enjoyed the scrambling and lowering to Wiwaxy Gap and the quick trail descent to Lake O’Hara.
I felt honored to climb with this keen group of mountaineers and I would say special friendships have formed as we all glowed in the success of our trip over burgers and beer at the Outpost Pub in Lake Louise. We advertise this trip as the natural continuation of our Snow and Ice long weekend and our Intro to Mountaineering programs and based on how well our alumni of those programs did, I’d say that description is pretty accurate. I returned to Canmore while the rest of the group prepared for their journey to the Neil Colgan hut and more alpine climbing. I can’t wait to see the pictures and hear the stories from my new friends.