Lake O’Hara and Lake Oesa Hikes

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More photos:

Day 4: 21 Sept

Got packed up the night before so that we could set off early to catch the 8am bus into Lake O’Hara. We have to thank our host John for successfully phoning three months before to book our places on the bus .We would never have managed it without his offered help and were very grateful, as getting a seat is like gold dust.If you don’t get on the bus it’s a 6 mile walk in.

The day dawned quite overcast and cold but not to worry and we couldn’t complain about the weather so far.

We left very early giving ourselves about 40 mins for the few miles, as there were pretty bad road works on the highway and we were worried about trains blocking our exit route. In fact, a train WAS blocking the level crossing so we had to wait a good 15 mins before we could cross. We only just got across when another one crawled towards us the other way! I love these enormous trans-Canada trains.They look like something from another era and the sheer scale – well, we have nothing like that at home.It’s a two carriage train that does some of the famous Scottish Highland routes, tiny in comparison.And the Canadian engines themselves are almost Art Deco in style with polished chrome and bright colours.Just how trains should look.

The parking area was quite busy when we arrived and it was baltic with a light drizzle falling as we were directed to our seats on a clapped out looking ex-school bus. Some people were already hiking the 6 miles on the wide forestry road to the Lake. I have to say, it didn’t look a very interesting walk, pine clad most of the way with no views.We were told that the night before, the ‘resident’ grizzly was wandering around the car park area and a pack of wolves had appeared too! Drat – we missed them. What a sight that would have been.

It took about 20 mins to reach the Lake O’Hara Lodge parking area where a welcome café was in operation. We had some hot tea, coffee and truly excellent apple cinnamon cake. First class. I had been a bit disappointed so far in Canada’s home baking/cakes but this was the business.

SO…the famed lake O’Hara! Difficult of access, exclusive, mega expensive to stay in the lodge (about £600 + for 2 nights).I’d read about it so much in my Artists book so perhaps the reality couldn’t fail to be a wee bit of a disappointment at first sight.Certainly the light was grey, but it all looked a bit dull and nothing special, compared to where we had been.

Never mind – we had work to do! A walk into Lake Oesa beckoned. And it was a relief to get moving in that bone chilling cold.

There was a really noisy group from South East Asia behind us as we set off along the damp shore track. The racket they made! Whooping and shouting in a sort of bizarre way. I never can understand how people feel the need to react like that in a wild environment; it seems almost sacrilegious. Mind you, they were in better sprits then we were at that point as we trudged along the path, the wind of high expectations knocked out of our sails already.

We soon pulled away from them and reached where the path negotiated a minor eroded ledge above the lake.My blasted vertigo jumped a little at this point but nothing too bad really and then we turned up hard left onto a steep track that took us high above the lake. The views opened out and the sun was trying to get through. It was impressive.Then through a bit of forest before we emerged onto a bouldery, broken section – but always there was that great track to follow. Without this, the walking would have been quite awkward but you can penetrate such difficult country on these tracks, they are so beautifully designed. The angle was easy, very gradual mostly as we got higher.

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The mountains looked quite forbidding around and above us – rocky, harsh, broken slopes that weren’t attractive somehow and didn’t invite exploration. They weren’t like own hills which are craggy, sometimes rocky too but more beautiful and welcoming with their moorland grasses.

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We soon reached a series of 3 high,turquoise lochans and the light improved again. In no time, maybe just over an hour or so, we reached Lake Oesa itself on one of the best laid mountain tracks I’ve ever been on.We could learn lessons or three from this! There was only one other couple there as we settled onto some flat slabs for a drink of water and crisps.The lake is a high mountain lochan – turquoise, ringed by rocky peaks, very like some of our own high lochans. It’s a superb spot, real big mountain country yet reached very easily.

The weather unfortunately was staying cloudy. We noticed the other couple carrying on, making their way up the moraine and scree and obviously heading for the Abbot Hut where people overnight, reaching it from the more accessible side than the Plain of the 6 Glaciers where the gully is literally a death trap. That would have been a walk worth doing too, if we’d had time and I envied them.

Took lots of photos and then, with the weather looking grimmer every minute, we decided to head back down. The path up was now very busy and we stopped to chat to quite a few fairly older folk(well, older than us) still sprightly and bright, making their way up. They all remarked on our ‘lovely accents.’ I suppose that’s always a nice surprise.You never think much about how you sound. My husband in particular has a lovely Gaelic lilt to his voice, coming from the Western Isles . Gaelic was his first language alongside English. You can always tell a Gaelic speaker from their accent. My accent is plain old West of Scotland, a bit harder on the ear (think Andy Murray but not quite so posh (or male)).

It was good to finally reach the lake shore again, as sleet was now  falling more seriously and the wind was getting up.

We were now walking along the opposite shore to the one we had started on, a lovely, flatter track with great views. The Lodge bungalows lining the shore front looked stunning.What a location.

The Lake had grown on me a bit now, it was certainly far wilder than  other areas we had been, quieter. We were getting soaked now so we dived into the Lodge itself, a very welcoming, atmospheric, attractive place.Lots of people sitting about reading books and looking very relaxed – as well they should, paying that money!

We needed to catch the first bus back out at 2.30pm and had about an hour to spare so enjoyed a heat and more goodies in the café. We were soon joined by fellow walkers as by now the sleet had turned to rain and it was pretty miserable and bitterly cold.

Still, what a great experience.A very big ‘tick’ off the list of must-sees in the Rockies.

The Icefields Parkway to Jasper – To Jasper via the Icefields Parkway


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