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A Daunting Hike To Abbott Pass Hut On The Alberta-BC Border

A Daunting Hike to Abbott Pass Hut on the Alberta-BC Border

Updated April 2019

Please note that the Abbott Pass Hut is closed while repairs are made to stabilize and repair the hillside. Check in with the Alpine Club of Canada to learn more. 

About a month ago I was invited by the media group representing Travel Alberta to join them on a two day combination hike and scree climb to the precariously situated Abbott Pass Hut on the Alberta – BC border. Their goal is to produce a three to four minute video of the journey for the Travel Alberta website for release later this fall.

Our group consisted of four hikers, three mountain guides and ten others – including crew, client and agency people.

In our hiking group – talent is what we were called – none of us had been in anything but a home video before. We had to agree before going that we would cooperate at all times with photos, videos and interviews. Sure – no problem I figured. And fortunately, the on camera sessions got easier over the course of the two days.

When you see a picture of Abbott Pass Hut you might ask yourself why in God’s name anyone would want to go there.

Abbott Pass Hut - situated on the Alberta - BC border

Abbott Pass Hut – situated on the Alberta – BC border

For me going to the Abbott Pass Hut was all about the challenge.

And I love the mountains. I revel in their beauty and delight in the solitude. That’s not to say that I’m not intimidated at times and in fact occasionally terrified on a talus slope when the boulders underneath you start to move. Trust me, I am.

But with the security of a mountain guide and their expertise with route finding, I had no problem agreeing to go.

Out of the four hikers, I was the oldest by far. In fact I could have been their mother. What I had going for me was experience and I figured I was in shape enough to make it up the close to 3,000 feet of vertical with a pack on my back.

And as it turned out there were many in the group of ten who had never done anything like this before. In fact our guide Tamara said that she thinks it was probably the first time Abbott Pass Hut had anyone walk through the door in jeans. (Thank heavens the weather cooperated because not all were dressed appropriately!)

The hike to the hut starts off easily. Over the course of about an hour you make your way up on a wide trail from  the incredibly hued Lake O’Hara to the equally gorgeous Lake Oesa.

Read: Hiking to Lake Oesa in Yoho National Park

The hike takes you past Lake O'Hara in Yoho National Park

The hike takes you past Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park

Passing by a small waterfall en route to Lake Oesa

Passing by a small waterfall on route to Lake Oesa

Turquoise-coloured Lake Oesa

Turquoise-coloured Lake Oesa, the start of the more serious hiking

Above Lake Oesa it’s time to don helmets and get serious. Initially the scree slopes are easy to cross; it’s the final 2,000 feet of climbing that gets gnarly.

The trail across the easy scree above Lake Oesa

The trail across the easy scree above Lake Oesa

"Climbing the ledges"

Climbing the ledges

Once you get into the section of unstable boulders you need to focus on every footstep. You don’t want to get a leg or a hand caught under a boulder. And you certainly don’t want to dislodge one and send it bouncing down the mountain.

The only part of the climb I really disliked was the middle section. Through here the boulders were larger and more mobile. At times it felt like you were on a sliding mountain. Whenever a boulder started to go my adrenaline surged. One step at a time was my mantra.

Steep scree up and down to Abbott Pass Hut

It’s steep!

"Our team just minutes from the top"

Our team just minutes from the top

As we got close to the top the grade seemed to steepen even more – but solid outcrop appeared so you felt a sense of safety grabbing onto it.

And once you got to the saddle the views were out of this world. – as was my sense of accomplishment.

The backside of the saddle that takes you down to Lake Louise is called The Death Trap. One of the guides said he’d done it once before and never again. Ice randomly breaks off from the glacier plus there are numerous crevasses to traverse.

Jordan admiring the glacier views and the so called Death Trap from Abbott Pass

Jordan admiring the glacier views and the so called Death Trap from Abbott Pass

A closer view of the Death Trap

A closer view of the Death Trap

The trail falls off quickly; Lake Oesa several thousand feet below

The trail falls off quickly; Lake Oesa several thousand feet below

Beautiful lighting on the surrounding mountains

Beautiful lighting on the surrounding mountains

"Plaque at Abbott Pass Hut"

Plaque at Abbott Pass Hut

Logbook with a view

Logbook with a view

Early morning reflection in Lake Oesa

Early morning reflection in Lake Oesa

Back view of the hut and the outhouse with a view

Back view of the hut and the outhouse with a view

Heading down to Lake Oesa

Heading down

Easy beautiful hiking on the last stretch back to the bus

Easy beautiful hiking on the last stretch back to the bus

Would I do it again?? Maybe – but there are so many great hikes in the Rockies I’d like to do, that I think for now I’d rather explore new country.

Tips for the Abbott Pass Hut hike

The hike to Abbott Pass Hut is a serious one. Accidents happen regularly on the scree slopes and people have been killed. Follow these tips for a safe hike.

  • Wear a helmet at all times through the scree.
  • Use a pole. It helps tremendously for balance. Keep it in the uphill hand.
  • Stay to the middle of the scree slope. More accidents from rockfall occur close to the mountain.
  • Never pull on a rock. They are way too easy to dislodge.
  • Be very aware of who is climbing ahead of you and behind you. Yell ROCK if one starts bouncing down.
  • Bring the proper clothing and the 10 essentials. There’s a huge temperature change from bottom to top and it’s cold at night; it was below freezing in mid August.
  • Hire a guide if you’re route finding skills aren’t great. We used Yamnuska Guides out of Canmore. They do the cooking too.
  • Allow 3-6 hours to hike to the hut in the summer. The hut is rarely visited in the winter.
  • Book the hut ahead of time through the Alpine Club of Canada. It holds 24 people. Rates are $22 per night for members, $32 for non-members.
  • The hut is used by the real mountaineering crowd – those out to climb nearby Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy.
  • The guitar in the hut needs a new set of strings – if you happen to be going.
  • Propane and firewood are provided. Toilet paper is not.
  • Bring a sleeping bag.

Would you consider the hike to Abbott Pass hut?

A Daunting Hike to Abbott Pass Hut on the Alberta-BC Border

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 54 Comments
  1. What a unique experience and how brave you are! I love hiking and I guess I would do almost everything to have such an amazing view. The part that scares me is the rocky route (related to bad children memories), but maybe with a mountain guide I would overcome my fears.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story of a really special place.

  2. Can’t wait to see the video when it’s released. I’d love to check out Abbott Pass Hut, but I’m afraid the steep grades might get the better of me. I wish I had some of your adventurous hiking skills and experience. The lake and mountains are quite stunning. Beautiful shots.

  3. Can’t wait to see the video when it’s released. I’d love to check out Abbott Pass Hut, but I’m afraid the steep grades might get the better of me. I wish I had some of your adventurous hiking skills and experience. The lake and mountains are quite stunning. Beautiful shots.

    1. @Cathy I can’t wait to see the video either. I’m not one to look for the limelight so I hope my speaking is kept to only a few sound bites here and there. And it was a positively breathtaking experience. My legs took three days to fully recover.

  4. It’d be lovely to do , just to say I’ve done it. The views are just incredible. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Now can you imagine carrying the materials to build the hut in 1922? I wonder how many guides didn’t make it.

  5. It’d be lovely to do , just to say I’ve done it. The views are just incredible. Thanks for sharing this with us.
    Now can you imagine carrying the materials to build the hut in 1922? I wonder how many guides didn’t make it.

    1. @Marcia I can’t even imagine the difficulties that lay in building this hut. They had to come up the Death Zone with all the materials. And they certainly didn’t have the lightweight equipment we have. These men (I’m assuming men) had to have been a courageous lot.

  6. Wow! I’m not sure that some of that would actually count as ‘trail’. What a hike! Good for you Leigh!

  7. Wow! I’m not sure that some of that would actually count as ‘trail’. What a hike! Good for you Leigh!

  8. I loved your reference to “being old enough to be. . .” I don’t know how many times when we ask some ‘youngin’ behind a hotel reception desk where something is and are told in a hushed cautionary tone, “Well, it IS several blocks away. . .” Which usually prompts Joel to say to me minutes later, “How old do they think we ARE??!!”

    Keep up the good adventures Leigh. . .this is one I am glad you did so that we could enjoy it through your photos.

  9. I loved your reference to “being old enough to be. . .” I don’t know how many times when we ask some ‘youngin’ behind a hotel reception desk where something is and are told in a hushed cautionary tone, “Well, it IS several blocks away. . .” Which usually prompts Joel to say to me minutes later, “How old do they think we ARE??!!”

    Keep up the good adventures Leigh. . .this is one I am glad you did so that we could enjoy it through your photos.

    1. @Jackie I was pleased that I had no problem keeping up with anyone in the group. I’m not sure how many of my readers would be keen to do this one – not many is my guess though people seem to be enjoying the photos.

  10. Another gorgeous scenery and hike! You constantly amaze me with these challenging hikes you do and this just looks scary. Love the reflection shots. That Abbot House outhouse may have to go on the record books for having the best views. Glad you made it through and looking forward to the video.

  11. Another gorgeous scenery and hike! You constantly amaze me with these challenging hikes you do and this just looks scary. Love the reflection shots. That Abbot House outhouse may have to go on the record books for having the best views. Glad you made it through and looking forward to the video.

  12. are you kidding me.. i would be petrified too! I’m terrified of height.. but my hubby would LOVE IT! The beauty of the place, more than makes up for it though.. right? Great shot of you balanced on that precarious tip.. well done!

  13. Thanks for sharing your unbelievable experience with all of us and thanks to remind my trekking days. I still remember those days where my friends and I had enjoyed a lot. I love trekking so much and after reading your post I’m very curious plan for next trekking.

  14. Thanks for sharing your unbelievable experience with all of us and thanks to remind my trekking days. I still remember those days where my friends and I had enjoyed a lot. I love trekking so much and after reading your post I’m very curious plan for next trekking.

  15. I really want to do this hike this summer, however it’s damn near impossible to get a reservation on the bus, would hiking to o’hara plus up to the pass be ridiculous?

    1. @Stephanie Lots of people do it – so yes it’s possible to add the 11 kms in. You can’t linger but I have met many people who were very satisfied with their day. Sometimes there are cancellations you can pick up.

      1. Thanks for the post and tips! Would you recommend this as a day hike? I would assume it would be tough but the dates we were able to book with the bus and camp spots at the lake the hut is already booked up! Is that crazy?

        1. @Carlie It would be one heck of a long day hike – doable if you’re in shape and you’re prepared for a long day (maybe even walking out the last 11 km)

  16. Very excited to say that I am finally going to make my bucket list of doing this a reality in just over 8 weeks from now!! Booked the hut and will be securing my flight out to Calgary shortly! As things stand now, unless I find people on the trail to hook up with, I’ll be heading up on my own. Quite exciting for me! Any pointers or suggestions for clubs in the area or groups to hook up with that might help out with hooking me up with other hikers when i go would be greatly appreciated!

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