Lake O'Hara Alpine Circuit, Pt. 2
The next leg of the Alpine Circuit took us along the southwest quadrant of Lake O'Hara, descending away from the crystalline waters of Lake Oesa and past a small waterfall.
From here the trail ascended again, carving its way up the expansive bouldered cliffside of Yukness mountain, a section appropriately named the Yukness Ledges. The trail here is expertly designed, allowing hikers to navigate colossal rock-slab stairways up the mountainside. This section of the circuit was one of our favourites because it was it exhilarating to maneuver and afforded remarkable views of the lake and adjacent peaks of the Kicking Horse Valley.
The trail eventually curved south putting Lake O'Hara out of view and plunking us down alongside humble Hungabee Lake. Lacking the lustre of the previous three lakes, we continued south another 400m to Opabin Lake, which effortlessly welcomed us for a pause with its deep blue-green hue and tranquil setting.
The trail then climbed a small knoll heading away from Opabin Lake, and past Hungabee Lake to Obapin Prospect, a lookout extending from the treed mountainside that provided one of our favourite views throughout the circuit.
The final leg of the circuit was the ascent to the All Soul Prospect, an overlook that provided a vast panorama of the Lake O'Hara region and was the pinnacle of the day's trek. The final push up the 275m elevation gain had us reminding ourselves that earlier in the day we had successfully ascended 500m in a mere 1.6km, so couldn't we do this too? The climb up the narrow and at times nerve-racking path provided a reward that immediately wiped the day's exhaustion from our minds. Upon reaching the prospect, we instantaneously sat down and took it all in.
The circuit finished with a very steep descent down to Schaffer Lake. Here a peaceful alpine lake offered a place to rest our pounding knees and swollen feet before the trail gradually sloped back down the MacArthur Valley to the Lake O'Hara lodge.
Hikers arriving back at the lake between 3-5pm can finish their day with mountain tea and cake in the lodge. As we had taken a slightly leisurely pace along the trail and arrived back at the lakeshore minutes before our scheduled bus departure, we had to forego any such rewards. Next time we visit the region we plan to spend the night at the highly rated Lake O'Hara campground!