Lake O’Hara – I think this might be paradise

A gloriously cunning plan came together at the last minute, after our original weekend plans were scuppered. I sat refreshing the Lake O’Hara website until I saw that someone had cancelled and there was a free night of camping for either Friday or Saturday night. I missed the first Saturday, and then a Friday spot, but was successful in snagging the next Friday spot that someone had cancelled – presumably because they didn’t fancy the rain-filled forecast.

Due to the afore-mentioned rain, we didn’t bother booking the early bus up. Instead we opted for the 3.30pm bus, and while the menfolk sat at home putting the final touches on packing (by which I mean, assuming I’d done a good enough job, and sitting around playing computer games) I set off from home on my road bike.

It wasn’t raining at all! Well, not at first. It was mostly uphill, and a bit headwindy, but it often seems to be in that direction. I’d allowed four hours, which is about what it took. Four hours and 95km later, I was slightly soggy but pulling into the Lake O’Hara trailhead parking lot, pretty sure that I had beaten the menfolk in their fancy car.

I stashed the bike in the trees, did a few laps of the parking lot to confirm they hadn’t somehow snuck by me, then sat and ate the rest of my food while I waited for them to arrive. Which they did. With some nice dry clothes for me, and thankfully with at least 10 minutes to spare before it was time to jump on the bus. I did a quick carpark change into dry hiking/running clothes, draped my stinky bike clothes artfully about our car interior to dry, then we leapt onto the bus.

The buses that run up and down the Lake O’Hara access road are big old school bus type things. Loud and roaring, they do the job without much grace, but a certain amount of jolliness.

At camp, we nabbed a site, got the tent set up and semi-assembled, then went prowling about. The boy wanted to find friends, while we wanted to go for a walk to the lake.

We managed to convince him to walk first, then he spent the rest of the evening in seventh heaven as a hoard of other small children descended on the camping area.

His new best friend was a fellow 4 year old, a Czech-Columbian girl named Kati. She was just as boisterous as him, and they had great fun running about in the rain and the mud.

We huddled in the tiny shelters to cook dinner. Our fellow campers were all lovely and friendly, and despite the cramped quarters it was a much more enjoyable experience than our recent Assiniboine stay. The rain showers passed, and we emerged to sit around the fire pit in the social area – chatting, and stepping in to prevent the children from getting too Lord of the Flies when necessary.

After a lazy sort of morning in the tent, we eventually got up and found that the morning was gorgeous and clear, and congratulated ourselves on winning the weather forecast lottery.

After a delicious and fulfilling breakfast of a Clif Bar, I set off to run the alpine loop while the menfolk went for a hike. I shot straight up to Wiwaxy Gap, trying to make up a little time after a late start.

Then it was over to Lake Oesa, which I’d never seen before, and it was at about this point I began to realise just how beautiful this area was. We’d been up to Lake O’Hara before, but never much higher, and higher is really where it’s at.

From Lake Oesa, a trail through the scree lured me around to the Yukness Ledges Alpine Route.

I was surprised how much of the alpine routes were runnable. Although I spent a lot of time distracted by the scenery, and not running at all. And I couldn’t bring myself to put my camera away, which made running a little more awkward anyway.

Then it was down to Hungabee Lakes, and through a little nest of lakes that had drawn herds of photographers to them like bees to some particular bright coloured and pollen laden flowers. It wasn’t just photogenic, it felt like a dream. It was the sort of place that made me just want to stop and lie down and gaze at the world in wonder.

And yet, I kept running. Up along All Souls’ Alpine Route, and a quick stop at All Soul’s Prospect.

Then down, down down, and as fast as I could go back to camp. There I tagged off Alex who took off on his own run.

The boy had already been out for a hike, so we sat and lunched, and he played with Kati. There was chatting, and relaxing in the sun, and then more food and lazing.

Alex made it back in time for us to catch the 4.30pm bus, so we jumped on it. Although it was running about 10 minutes late, I managed to retrive my road bike and be ready to start pedalling at around 5.20pm.

I had some lights for the bike. I wasn’t sure how good they would be, but as long as I didn’t dawdle too much, I figured I shouldn’t have to do too much riding in the dark. The up-side of riding uphill most of the way there though, was that it really was downhill nearly all the way home. And not raining! And reasonably warm! And basically a perfect calm, clear September evening. It was hero riding weather, and I enjoyed every pedal stroke.

I even made the 95km home without having to turn my lights on!

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