Location: Lake Louise (Mount Lefroy)
Elevation Gain: 1900m from Lake O’Hara Parking Lot
Distance: 15.75km Lake O’Hara to summit and back (+11km each way on the bus road)
Total Time: 7.00 hours Lake O’Hara to summit of Lefroy and back:
- 1h50m up Lake O’Hara Road
- 4h30m Lake O’hara to summit of Lefroy
- 2h30m Summit back to Lake O’Hara
Difficulty: II 40-50 degree snow or ice (depending on season)
Cell reception: Reliable at summit, none on approach
Rating: 4/5 This route can easily move from 5/5 to 3/5, so it made sense to give it a 4 star rating. The approach up Abbott Pass can go from an easy step ladder on firm snow, to a scree nightmare later in summer. Personally I won’t be going back when there isn’t snow in the approach gully.
Notes: Do yourself a favour and do this trip in a day! Avoid the Lake O’Hara reservation and bus system, the sleepless nights in Abbott Pass Hut, and the heavy packs.
Route (Mount Lefroy West Face)
It’s hard to go wrong, from the door of the Abbott Pass Hut you can see the entire route. I chose the right hand couloir, while Rockies Central and Selected Alpine Climbs (I believe) show variations to the left in the next two major gullies. Snow conditions should be ideal when you attempt this route, otherwise you’re going to have a terrible time, especially on the approach up to Abbott Pass like I mentioned earlier. I stayed mostly left and tried to follow a series of ice runnels near the rock, occasionally having to move through random pockets of knee deep unconsolidated snow.
The problem: The 11km Lake O’Hara fire road is closed to public vehicles and bikes. You can either walk the 11km, or reserve a spot ($10 each way) on the bus that leaves every 2 hours from 8:30am to 5:30pm. If you take the bus you start from Lake O’Hara at around 9:00am which doesn’t leave you much time before the sun starts to hit the West Face route at around 11:00am which means avalanches and rockfall. So with starting so late out of the question, the only option is to start early and hike two hours up the road. This is where the next problem arises. Walking 11km in big mountaineering boots would be a nightmare, and walking with runner and boots strapped to your bag can be difficult when you are trying to take a small pack and be as fast as possible.
The (possible?) solution: Take a small 6L hydration pack with just enough room for crampons, food, water, and a down puffy. This left no room for my boots or helmet, so I stuffed it all inside a larger 30L pack for the hike in. Just above Lake O’Hara where the terrain became a bit more rugged and there was more snow I dumped the pack and switched to boots. Also only carrying 1L of water along the road lightened the load, and when I switched backpacks I refilled.
I added more food and a few other small items after this was taken, but this is what I would use for a majority of the climb. After stuffing the poor 6L Platypus bag with all of this (minus the helmet), I put it inside my larger 30L pack and strapped my boots to the outside.
I left home around 2:00am and was at the parking lot by 3:30am, but decided to catch a little more sleep in my car before starting. A combination of not knowing the route and being more than slightly afraid of hiking a dark service road for 11km persuaded me to push back my start time to 5:00am. It was just getting light when I left and I was thankful for waiting, even if it meant the snow wasn’t in the best condition it had been overcast the night before so there wasn’t a stellar freeze anyway. Once at Lake O’hara the trail is still very straightforward, follow signs for Lake Oesa on a well beaten trail until you reach a sign for Abbott Pass just before Oesa.
After switching bags I refilled my water and took off. At Lake Oesa I ditched my GoPro and bear spray in the trees/boulders, as I had sadly forgotten to bring the helmet attachment for my GoPro which made it pretty useless for me. On the way back I discovered someone had stolen my bear spray (not cool), but I guess I’ve learned to hide my stuff better now. Thankfully my GoPro was hidden a lot better.
Lake O’Hara to Abbott Pass took me just over two hours, and after stopping quickly at the hut I was slogging up Lefroy. I can’t imagine how bad the scree in the Abbott Pass gully is in summer, the last 100m are already melted and I can’t imagine doing a full 300m or so of that.
On the summit I was pleasantly greeted with insane winds and near whiteout conditions, so after a few quick pictures and videos I was hustling down. Four and a half hours from Lake O’Hara to the summit, and two and a half back. I know people have done this trip in better times but I’m still insanely stoked about it even a day after. No dealing with the bus, reservation system, cramped hut nights with loud sleepers, or huge packs.