Added by James Hueser
Get a bird's eye perspective of Lakes O'Hara and Oesa and the gorgeous peaks surrounding them on this challenging snowshoe. Spend a night at the Elizabeth Parker Hut run by the ACC.
Views in the Lake O'Hara area are unique from the “sea of mountains” look that defines many excellent weekend hikes in the Rockies. With Odoray, Yukness, Huber, Wiwaxy, Schaffer, Biddle, and Lefroy in such close proximity to each other, it is easy to imagine you are in Pakistan, Nepal, or Argentina, surrounded by massive peaks, even though the peaks around Lake O'Hara tend to max out around 3,500 m (11,500 ft).
To get to Wiwaxy Gap from Elizabeth Parker Hut, make your way back to Lake O'Hara for the main trailhead. There is signage for different routes in the area – head in the direction of Lake Oesa/the Alpine Ledge Trail. It follows the north side of Lake O'Hara, and branches off to start gaining elevation.
These kinds of trails are great in that there's hardly any route finding. If you ever find yourself off of a defined trail, you still just need to keep going straight up. On the other hand, you're just going straight up. It may only be a 400 m (1,300 ft) gain, but by late May, the snow has lost most of its structure, so there is a lot of post-holing involved, even with snowshoes on!
The slope is pretty steep and passes by lots of avalanche zones, so avalanche gear and knowledge - as well as caution - are mandatory. The physical and mental toll makes this an exceptionally challenging hike, but also very rewarding. The view from the top of the pass is well worth the effort.
Lake O'Hara is a pretty phenomenal place, and as such, certain measures have been put in place to limit human impact. The first part in planning this trip is figuring out accommodation, for which there are a few options: stay at the Lake O'Hara Lodge, Elizabeth Parker ACC Hut, reserve a campsite, or make reservations for the bus that transports people up the 11 km (6.8 mi) road.
All of these options likely require you to book well in advance - 3 months for the campsites alone, and the bus is usually sold out very early in the year. For those reasons, possibly the easiest time to access Lake O'Hara is during the off season, between October and June.
Back-country hutting at the Elizabeth Parker Hut is highly recommend! It is just like camping, except you can dry your shoes out at night by the fire, and the camaraderie shared between other badass folks in the hut is akin to staying in a hostel. There's nothing quite like playing crib, Scrabble, or Monopoly with complete strangers for hours at a time.
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles
- Avalanche beacon, probe, shovel
- Water and snacks
- Bear spray
- Appropriate clothing and layers
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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