"Summit!" The collective exhilaration of making it to the Abbot Pass Hut, in Banff National Park, plasters huge grins on every face. Bluebird skies, serrated peaks and glaciers in every direction – it’s easy to understand why this place is on any serious mountaineer's bucket list.
The impressive stone cabin, now a national historic site, was built in 1922 of rock winched up the pass from Lake Louise. Sitting astride the Continental Divide, the hut blends seamlessly into the crest of Abbot Pass. Maybe it's the altitude – almost 3,000 m (~9,600 ft) – but the hot chocolate tastes mighty good up here.
Guided Multi-Day Trek
We’re on the three-day Lake Louise Classics guided trip with Yamnuska Mountain Adventures out of Canmore in Kananaskis Country. It’s considered an intermediate mountaineering program and previous experience is definitely required. Our four and a half our trek to Abbot Pass began at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. The wide trail, gradual assent and constant view of the spectacular turquoise lake made for the perfect start. Once we reached the equally impressive Lake Osea, the more serious hiking began. The middle section of the trail was the most challenging, as it’s comprised of larger loose boulders. Slow and steady, one foot at a time was our approach.
Abbot Pass Hut
The view from the top, high above the treeline, is beyond breathtaking – Lake Osea in the distance far below and panoramas of Mt. Victoria and Mt. Lefroy. Sunrise should be spectacular. We’ll spend two nights in the Abbot Pass Hut, which accommodates 24 people. If you’re not on a guided trip, you’ll need to reserve in advance through the Alpine Club of Canada. There’s a propane stove for cooking and wood stove for heat. Of course there’s no running water here – but you can brag to your friends that you’ve visited the highest outhouse in Canada. Our guides take care of the meal prep and cooking, which means we can focus on resting and swapping stories with our fellow adventure seekers. When the sun sets we’ll head outside with hot chocolate – I’ve been told the stargazing is epic here.
Raw, rugged and totally peaceful is the perfect description of Abbot Pass. Tomorrow we’ll head out early and hike Mt. Lefroy. Our last day will be spent climbing Mt. Victoria, before descending the Huber Ledges to Lake O’Hara.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
Booking a guided trek has shortened my packing list considerably, as food and mountaineering equipment are included. I’m just responsible for my multi-day backpack, boots, sunscreen, toiletries, water bottle, sleeping bag and clothing. Yamnuska also provides a detailed list of what to pack. The temperature is much cooler at the summit, so a three-season sleeping bag, mid-weight down jacket and heavyweight insulated jacket are recommended. Travelling with an experienced guide also ensures that we’re challenged in the safest way possible and it’s a great opportunity to learn about the area’s history, geology and wildlife.