Lake O’Hara Hike

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of exploring one of Canada’s most amazing places to visit; Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park. Lake O’Hara is a protected area because its a sensitive alpine environment, so the Canadian government has a reservation system to limit the amount of people visiting. Less than 50 people per day are eligible to visit this park between mid-June and early October. I’ve been bidding on this reservation system for over 5 years, and was very surprised to wake up one morning to an email notifying me that I was successful. My successful day was June 20th, which was a work day, so I took the day off of work.

I drove out on the night of June 19th and stayed at Deer Lodge hotel in Lake Louise. I arrived around 8pm at night, checked in, and spent some time in the hot-tub while looking at the beautiful sunset. The sky was quite red due to forest fires in the area. I met a gentleman visiting from Montreal with his daughter, so we chatted for a while.

The next morning I woke up around 630am, packed up, dropped off the key, and drove down to the small stripmall at the bottom of the hill at Lake Louise. For breakfast I purchased a wrap and a coffee from Trailhead Cafe. After eating my breakfast I drove about 15 minutes to the trailhead for the Lake O’Hara bus and waited until it was time to board the bus at 815am. Just an FYI if you are not successful on the reservation system to get to Lake O’Hara you can walk the 11km (one-way) road up to the top, but it will add 6 hours to your day (3 hours each way). You’ll likely be too tired to complete many of the hikes available to you at the top.

The bus ride to the top took about 15-20 minutes. Upon arrival you’re able to get water at the nearby campsite, buy food from the store, and use the restroom facilities before starting your hiking adventures. Today I chose to complete the premier hike called the Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit, which is one of the more difficult hikes, however it gives you a taste of everything that the area has to offer. All of my photos on this trip were taken with my iPhone 12 Pro Max, because sadly my Tamron 15-30mm lens for my Canon EOS R decided to stop working. I later found out that it was because the screws for the front element had become loose, which I was able to fix on a later day. I still think the photos turned out fairly nicely all things considered.

The 10.6km hike starts off at Lake O’Hara. You start walking clock-wise around the lake about 1/4 of the way before proceeding up some grueling switchbacks, gaining nearly 900 metres in only a few kilometers. On the way up the view of Lake O’Hara continues to get better and better!

At the top of the switchbacks you arrive at Wiwaxy Gap, where you can see Wiwaxy Peaks, Mount Huber, Lake O’Hara, the valley on the other side, and even Lake Oesa, which is where you head to next.

To get to Lake Oesa you continue along a narrow ledge losing a few hundred metres of altitude gradually, but it’s not too scary. There’s also some beautiful alpine flowers I saw along the way.

Lake Oesa was a stunning turquoise blue and was surrounded completely by mountains. From here some people choose to hike to Abbot Pass Hut, however I was limited on time, so perhaps another day.

Departing Lake Oesa you’re presented with a beautiful waterfall, and bunch of smaller, yet still beautiful lakes (Lefroy Lake, Victoria Lake, and Yukness Lake). The journey from here is slightly upwards over somewhat loose shale, so be careful.

After passing Lefroy Lake it starts to become a bit more technical with some slight scrambling, before levelling off again, presenting you with yet another beautiful view of Lake O’Hara.

After the scrambling section you follow along the cliff edge before descending towards a group of lakes; Moor Lakes and Hungabee Lake.

The general area around Hungabee Lake and Moor Lakes is another alpine meadow area, with water runoff going every direction. This is some of the most vivid coloured water that I’ve ever seen in my entire life!

The rest of the hike gives other nice perspectives of Lake O’Hara, however can be skipped if you’re feeling tired. You can skip it by taking the West Opabin Trail back to Lake O’Hara instead of continuing along the route and gaining another couple hundred metres on loose shale. This was one of the most spectacular hikes that I’ve completed in my entire life, and it was an absolute privilege to see this protected area. Buses back to the parking lot run at 230pm, 430pm, and 630pm. I was able to grab the 230pm bus back to the parking lot.

Be sure to check back soon as I explore more hikes; Carnavon Lake, and Crypt Lake. I also have an upcoming trip to Iceland, which I’m really looking forward to sharing with you.

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Chile – Day 12 – Torres Del Paine National Park

Today I woke up at 7:00am. Catherine was still sleeping so I made us some coffee as well as some cheese and eggs on toast for us. Once I had made breakfast I woke Catherine up and we had breakfast together. After breakfast I made us some salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch later on. We quickly got ready and hopped into the truck for a 2 hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. During our drive the scenery just kept getting more beautiful.

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Torres Del Paine National Park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in the southern Chilean Patagonia and is known for its three massive granite peaks, which are actually an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park receives about 250,000 visitors each year and is a very popular hiking destination in Chile. I would absolutely come back here to hike more than the one hike that I did here, and would easily spend a week or two here just hiking.

The entrance to Torres Del Paine is setup similar to a passport office but has multiple steps. “Step 1” has a booth where you fill out a double sided piece of paper with a lot of your personal information, including your address as well as your passport number. After you fill out the paper you take it to “step 2” which stamps the paper and takes your money; in this case 21000 Chilean Pesos ($42.30 CDN) for 3 days of entry. “Step 3” involves taking your stamped piece of paper over to a different desk where they will stamp it again with a different stamp and provide you with instructions and a very detailed map.

After checking into the park we slowly drove to Mirador Condor Trail (a hike I wanted to do), while taking multiple stops for photos. We arrived at the Mirador Condor Trailhead at about 10:30am. The hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours return and has an elevation gain of roughly 200 metres over 4km (2km each way) and has a beautiful view from the top overlooking Pehoe Lake. When we started the hike the sky was fairly clear except around the three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range but the temperature was a cool 15 degrees Celsius. We were both wearing jackets when we started the hike, but I quickly took my jacket off because I was starting to get hot. Catherine kept hers on the entire time because she is usually always too cold.

Half way up to the viewpoint we noticed the wind started picking up, but we had no idea what we were in for until we actually got to the top. At the top we could barely stand up and we later learned in the day the top regularly sees 160 kph winds, which is very substantial. At the top I took the opportunity to make some hilarious faces with the wind morphing my mouth into all sorts of ungodly positions. The viewpoint is absolutley breathtaking. On one side you see the beautiful shimmering turquoise coloured Pehoe Lake and on the other side you see the remains of a 2011-2012 fire that an Israeli backpacker deliberately set by lighting up some paper rolls. The fire burned 176 square kilometers of the reserve, destroying 36 square kilometers of native forest, which you can see in my photographs. The Israeli government sent in reforestation experts to the park and has committed to donate trees to replant the affected areas.

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While on our way down from the top we ran into an older couple named Martin and Sophie who were visiting from the Netherlands. We talked for a bit and then realized that we were going to be on the same Lago Grey glacier tour tomorrow. After talking for a bit I was really starting to deteriorate because of my cold and being out in the cold wind so we head back towards the truck. The return only took about 30 minutes and we even saw some condor birds on the way down; they’re huge!

Once we arrived at the truck we were both quite hungry so we ate the salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches that I made for lunch. We continued on driving throughout the park stopping at multiple lookouts and doing short hikes. Another one of my favorite stops was the Salto Grande waterfall. It’s not a very large waterfall but the colours were absolutely stunning.

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We ended up leaving the park at around 5:30pm and arrived back at our loft around 7:30pm. On the way back we passed Puerto Natales airport where I saw a BAE-146 (Avro RJ-100) taking off. These old workhorses are a dying bread and most have come to South America to spend their last years before they get turned into scrap metal. Many work for the airline DAP which flies to Antarctica.

Catherine made us some pasta with chicken and some red sauce for dinner. I wasn’t feeling too good so we laid in bed and watched “The Impossibles” movie. I’m surprised that I had never seen the 2movie before but it was actually pretty good and is based on a true story on a family that was affected by the 2004 Thailand floods.

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