Svetlana, Daniel (16), Nathan (13), and myself.
Lake O'Hara, Hwy 1, Yoho National Park, bordering Banff National Park. Roughly equidistant from Lake Louise in Alberta and Field in BC.
The first thing I have to say about this destination is how truly infuriating it is to book! Your only option is to phone, 3 months in advance, and phone, and phone, and phone starting at 7am PST and every 30 seconds for the next 3 hours (at which time you might get through, only to be told all the spots for that day have been booked), and for days at a time, hoping for something other than a busy signal.. >:-(
I don't know what would be a better, fairer way to do this (especially with the conniving tour operators booking them all up for foreign tourists), but surely there is one.. I gave up after a week of this rigmarole in May (for July) and tried again in July, where to my surprise I got through on the first try!
Anyhoo, we drove down to Lake Louise and spent the night at the soft-sided tents/trailers campground. We felt safe from bears with the electrified fence surrounding us..
I had booked the 8:30 bus to Lake O'Hara, so we got up earlier enough to pack everything up in some semblance of order and drive the 10-15km to the Lake O'Hara fire road off of Hwy 1. We arrived with maybe 10 minutes to spare. Good thing I remembered the time change before heading to bed - the bus is on Alberta time, even though it's just inside the BC border. We loaded our stuff on and pretty much right away we were whisked up the 10km to the Lake O'Hara camp grounds, which is about 1 km short of the Le Relais day shelter, Warden cabin, and Lake O'Hara Lodge cabins. There were a few day hikers coming up the road that the bus driver had to watch out for, as well as various service vehicles from the Lodge, so we were going nice and slow, especially on the bends.
Given how this is one of the jewels of the Canadian Rockies, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at how 'front country' the facilities were. But I was. Next time I'll be packing much differently! Nice park benches, communal fire pit and a covered wood bin, shelters with stoves, clean and lit washrooms (solar power) with flush toilets, potable water (bit too much chlorine for my taste, but not bad enough to cause me to get my water from the stream across the road and approx 100m away), and 2 large sinks for washing up dishes..
The weather according to the forecast was looking to be rainy all the 3 days we were going to be there, but we were determined to make the best of it. We decided this first day that we would do the trail around Lake O'Hara and get our bearings. The weather was cloudy, but there were breaks in the clouds here and there.
After we did the loop we decided to loop around again and check out Lake Oesa via the switchbacks past the Seven Veils Falls. But luckily we didn't get too far before we got hit with a bout of sleet, so we only had a km to go to get to the campground shelter.
We got a fire going inside the shelter, and as soon as we did the sleet stopped and it started to brighten up outside again. So after we made something to eat we headed out on another walk, this time on the Linda Lakes Trail.
We reached the junction where we had the option of going on to the Morning Glory lakes and Linda lake on the left, or to the road heading back to the campgrounds on the right. We weren't sure how much light we would have left if we pushed on, so we took the road back to camp and called it a day. We got a fire going at the communal firepit and with the chill in the air it was a popular spot. We got some nice alpenglow off of the Wiwaxy peaks across from the campsite, watched the Grey Jays swooping down looking for easy meals, and cooked some marshmellows. Good times.
For day 2 we decided on Lake McArthur. The weather was fairly miserable, but after a breakfast of oatmeal and raisins there was nothing for it but to push on and hope it would improve in the course of the day. We soon passed the Elizabeth ACC huts. Looks like a pretty sweet set up, though I'm sure the occupants that day were rueing the $45 a piece spent (less if they were members, granted) only to have cloudy weather. The larches are already starting to turn, which bodes well for my Healy Pass/Egypt Lake hike at the end of the month.. Things got more vertical as we rounded the shoulder of Mt. Schaffer, though we took the 'low' level circuit. I debated taking the high level, but with the low-lying clouds it would have been pretty futile. We'll save it for next time.
Our arrival was a little anti-climactic, as the clouds barely allowed for a view of the lake, with little to none of the surrounding mountains. But it was still worth the effort. Soon after eating lunch, though, it started snowing in earnest, and it was time to retreat once again, sodden but warm from our exertions..
It was raining of course once we got down to the lower elevations. So no firepit tonight. We snagged what little corner of the shelter we could and ate, hung up our clothes over the stove, and visited with the other hikers until dark.
To be continued....