Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lake O'Hara

We left home before 6:00am this morning, as we had a hundred miles to drive before we met the bus that would take us up a private road to Lake O'Hara where we planned on doing some hiking in the region. I have been hiking in the Lake O'Hara region for more than 20 years and look forward to hiking this area of Yoho National Park just to the west of Lake Louise. Lake O'Hara is probably the premier hiking destination in all of Canada and the US, and I have been told by people that I have met up here over the years, that the hiking is as fine as any in the world. There are 48 miles of trails to explore and every one of these trails are wonderful. On this day, I had five other people with me, some who have hiked the area with me before, and several who were making their first trip in to the Lake O'Hara region. The area encompasses a large variety of terrain. From steep alpine routes to gentle strolls through alpine meadows. Today, we planned on hiking the Opabin Plateau area, a high alpine area to the southeast of Lake O'Hara, dotted with numerous small lakes, scattered larches and meadows.After the bus reached Lake O'Hara, we gathered our daypacks and hit the lakeside trail, working our way towards the far end of the lake, where we picked up the East Opabin Trail. This part of the trail consists of a series of switchbacks that allowed us to work our way up into alpine meadows, dotted with a fine collection of lakes, and later on this fall, a spectacular display of golden larches. I noticed that the trails were in excellent condition this year, which can be contributed to the efforts of the 'Lake O'Hara Trails Club' which has been around since the late 1940's,and whose efforts have created a wonderfull system of trails in the area. We could not have picked a more beautiful day for our hike in the area, as the temperature was in the high 20's along with crystal blue skies. Over the years that has not always been the case, as I have seen times where we have been caught by thunderstorms, while high up in the rocks, another time late in the year, I was leading a group up to Lake Oesa when we got caught by a snowstorm that saw us forced to turn around, and make a precarious decent down to Lake O'Hara. After reaching the meadows on the Opabin Plateau, we worked our way around 'Lake Hungabee' and then over the 'Highline Trail' and down to the 'Opabin Prospect' for lunch. The 'Opabin Prospect' has a drop-dead view of Lake O'Hara along with the surrounding peaks of Yukness, Schaffer, Odary, Wiwaxy, as well as Cathedral amomgst others. The first timers amongst us were in awe of my choice for our lunch break. From here, we scrambled down the 'West Opabin Trail' that lies below the cliffs of the 'Opabin Plateau' and then skirted around the shores of 'Mary Lake' before reaching the shores of 'Lake O'Hara once more. Unfortunatly, we did not have time to take the long route around the far end of the lake, where the 'Seven Vails' waterfall cascades over cliffs before reaching 'Lake O'Hara. We would have to leave that for another time, as we were schedualled to met our bus at the 'Relais' which would take us back down to highway #1. Still it had been a wonderful day, and one we would not soon forget.

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