The safest way to the summit is the South Ridge. A weekend outing that includes staying at the Abbot Pass Hut. The Hut when built in 1922 was the highest permenent structure in Canada.
The ridge is long. The difficulty is usually determined by the amount of snow on the route. A feature called the Sickle, half way along the ridge provides a bit of interesting climbing.
For Lake O'Hara. From Calgary take the Trans Canada (1) west through Canmore, Banff to Lake Louise. For Lake O'Hara you must continue for another 20 minutes on the TransCanada. Take the left route to British Columbia and soon after entering BC look for the turn off sign. The Parking lot is on the left hand side.
The start of the South Ridge is possible to reach from Lake Louise.
If your daring and willing to risk fate then the Death Trap is for you. It's a very tight, very deep and steep glaciated valley that runs from Abbot Pass down to the Plain of Six Glaciers. This is were all the big avalanches run, so be careful!
An alternative to the "Death Trap" is the asending the "Fuhrmann Ledges, a lower shoulder of Mount Lefroy and following the upper portion to Abbot's pass. This is briefly described in Bill Corbett's "the 11,000ers of the Canadian Rockies". Which is a worthwhile addition to anyones climbing guide's library.
If your looking for the safe approach, then Lake O'Hara is for you. The approach takes the day, but except for the last 500 feet of scree up to Abbots pass it is a nice day.
First catch the shuttle bus which is the only vehicle allowed on the road pas the parking lot (contact the Alpine Club of Canada for hut & bus reservations) or hike the 13km up the dirt road. It is closed to private vehicles. Follow the trail left around the edge of Lake O'Hara up to Lake Oesa and then continue up the steep slopes, north to Abbot Pass. The Last part is a bit of a chore, but the first part is on an amazing trail built by Lawrence Grassi. It has to be seen to be believed. Huge flat stones have been placed along the trail making this hike so much easier. Trail worthy of ancient Rome.
You will have to purchase a parks pass upon entry to the park at Banff. Should you wish to camp a backcountry permit will be needed. You should check in and out with the rangers at Lake Louise.
Backcountry wilderness permits can be purchased in Banff or Lake Louise. Park Passes are also required for your vehicle and can be bought at the east gates while entering the park via Calgary or at the Info Centers.
Rates for Parks Canada as of July 1, 2005:
Wilderness Backcountry: $9/night
Wilderness Pass: $63/year
Reservation Fee: $12/group
Also be advised that there have been Bear closures in the area. There are also areas the Lake O'Hara area that have restricted access. Contact the Info Centers for more information.
When To Climb
Abbot Hut is located at the base of the South Ridge. It is maintained by the ACC. For reservations call 403-678-3200. $24/night for non-members, $19/night for members.
One place that is recommended is the ACC/Hostel in Lake Louise. This place has a small cosy restaurent with good food as well as kitchen facilities and lots of room for approx 36$ Canadian a night. While this is twice as much as the ACC lodge in Canmore it is still a bargin when compaired to the cost of hotels in the area.
Elizabeth Parker hut
Another "camping" option near Lake O'Hara is the Elizabeth Parker hut, owned & maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada. Reservations can be made through the AAC: (403) 678-5855. The hut is locked; make certain you get the lock combination when making reservations.
Mountain Conditions and ACC
Banff Lake Louise Tourist Bureau
Joining a club such as The Alpine Club of Canada is recommended when climbing in Canada. While it is not obligatory, useful information can be had at any of their main Clubhouse in Canmore, or at their website which is open to everyone.
Staying at the club in Canmore is 15$ Canadian for members and 19$ for non-members. It can get quite crowded in the summer so a reservation is recommended. Staying at the hostel in Lake Louise is more at 36$ Canadian but is good value for the money.
Weather forecasts are available, on the web weather office or (403) 762-2088
If your seeking information on route conditions call the Lake Louise Warden office 403-522-1220. Banff or Lake Louise Public Safety Wardens 403-762-4506 or Mtn Magic Equipment (the boys on the climbing floor generally know how things are) 403-762-2591
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