Mid-week hike that was as much about my passion for fall larch season as anything else.
My hiking buddy Peter blew off his work on the Monday to do the Birdwood traverse (in Kananaskis). He emails me:
> hey clayton,
> how was work yesterday? hahaha! the larches say hi.
Then after I call him a nasty name he asks me if I've seen the forecast. When we get a sustained high pressure system in the fall, the result is warm temps and blue skies - perfect for larch. Now, had I gone to work on this day instead of larch hunting, something would have been accomplished - but doubtful it would have been as noteworthy.
O'Hara access is limited by advanced bookings for the bus but you can queue up on a first come - first serve basis and take advantage of the cancellations (if any). The option is to hike the 11.5 km road. What I ended up deciding to do was just hike the road because if there were no cancellations it would put me two hours later into the core, and I almost beat the bus to the campground, where I got water and started the fun part of the day. My goal for the hike in was to maintain a 5 km/h pace (there are km markers on the trees) and I was pretty close to that. Frosty temps kept me moving anyway.
From the campground, I took the trail behind the Le Relais dayhut up past Schaffer Lake to the notch then summited Mt Schaffer, a moderate scramble over mostly loose blocky stuff with a few 'moves' since I went up the more difficult line. I proceeded a little way past the summit to a flat area for an early lunch (my pack on this day included such treats as smoked oysters and crackers, mini-Mars bars, lemonade, plus the usual wraps and such). From the summit back down to the notch and over the side towards Lake McCarthur which was difficult as the trail is straight down hard packed dirt with loose crap on top - gravity overload. I was hot when I reached the lake so went for a wade and dropped some layers. After a break there I headed back toward Opabin basin and sloppily missed the turn at Schaffer Lake for Big Larches trail (grrr) but the Opabin basin was outstanding with lots of little streams, ponds, and golden larches. Exiting to Lake O'Hara, I grabbed a cherry popsicle at the Le Relais hut and then caught the bus (this requires no booking, just $10 cash) - a bumpy nap, and boot it home. Long but very fulfilling day.
© Clayton Ditzler