The Abbot Pass hut is an alpine hut located at an altitude of 2925 metres (9,598 feet) in Abbot Pass in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada. It is nestled between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy, straddling the continental divide, which, in this region, defines the boundary between Banff National Park in Alberta and Yoho National Park in British Columbia. While close to the border, the hut lies entirely in Banff National Park, and is the second-highest permanently habitable structure in Canada (after the Neil Colgan Hut). The hut is maintained by the Alpine Club of Canada.
The pass and the hut are named after Philip Stanley Abbot, who became the first mountaineering fatality in North America after he fell in an attempt to make the first ascent of Mount Lefroy in 1896. The hut was originally built in 1922 by Swiss guides working for the Canadian Alpine Association to shelter clients attempting to climb Victoria and Lefroy. Much of the construction material was carried from Lake Louise on horseback across the Victoria Glacier and winched or carried on guides' backs up the pass on a route known as The Deathtrap because of its exposure to avalanches and crevasses.
The CAC operated the hut for 40 years, and in the 1960s turned the operation over to Parks Canada, which renovated it with the help of volunteers. In 1985, the park service turned the hut over to the Alpine Club of Canada, which has renovated it several times since. The hut was designated Abbot Pass Refuge Cabin National Historic Site of Canada in 1992, and, in 1997, a federal plaque was placed outside its front door.
Because many guests of the Chateau Lake Louise were trying mountaineering for the first time, Edward Feuz, a Swiss guide, suggested that the CPR build a rest stop between Lake Louise and the hut. In 1924 the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House was built to accommodate overnight guests.
Abbot Pass (and the hut) may be approached from either the Lake O'Hara area on the British Columbia side (hiking past Lake Oesa), or the more technically demanding route from Lake Louise on the Alberta side. The hut is rarely used in winter due to avalanche hazard.
The approach via Lake O'Hara is by far the most popular route into the hut. It is safer and less technical than going in via the Deathtrap or the Fuhrmann Ledges. It involves about 900 metres (3,000 feet) of elevation gain and 3 to 5+ hours from Lake O'Hara to the hut depending on conditions and the strength of the party. People should not automatically assume they can always get to the hut, since some groups have been caught out overnight on the trail or stranded at the hut in bad weather conditions.
The first hurdle on this approach is getting on the bus to Lake O'Hara. The bus is operated by Parks Canada and is used to control the number of people going to Lake O'Hara. Reservations are difficult to obtain; however an automatic reservation on the bus can be obtained by booking a reservation at the Abbot Pass hut with the Alpine Club of Canada. Persons doing so should carry proof of their reservation because they will not be able to get on the bus without it. The alternative is to walk 10 km up the access road carrying all their equipment.
From Lake O'Hara, people going to the hut can follow the signed hiking trails to Lake Oesa to a sign marking the end of the Parks Canada trail, at which point it becomes largely scrambling. A trail has been built to the hut by the Alpine Club, but parts of it are sometimes erased by rockslides, so route finding skills are helpful. It is steep and covered with scree. A helmet is a good safety precaution in case of rockfall, and an ice axe in case of ice or snow on the trail. One avalanche fatality has occurred on the route, so it should not be undertaken when avalanches are possible.
The route from Lake Louise involves significant objective hazards. A broad path leads from the Chateau Lake Louise along the lake shore past the teahouse and on to the Plain of Six Glaciers. It then continues on into the deep gorge between Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy - known as The Deathtrap. Persons going through this should move rapidly in case of serac fall or avalanches from the glaciers above. It involves crossing a number of crevasses in the glacier and may be impassible due to wall-to-wall bergschrund at the upper end. This is not an attractive route and should only be attempted by strong alpinists when there is deep snow cover on the glacier.
The hut is often used as a base for alpine climbing on Mount Victoria and Mount Lefroy (both over 3400 metres / 11,000 feet), and as a destination in itself for ambitious hikers. One of the reasons for the popularity of the hut is that climbers can ascend both Victoria and Lefroy in a weekend.
The normal route up Mount Lefroy (3423 m / 11,230 ft) is via the west face, going straight up the slopes from the hut toward the summit. There are routes up three separate gullies from the hut. The choice of the best one depends on snow conditions.
The most popular route up Mount Victoria (3464 m / 11,365 ft) is from the hut via the southeast ridge to the south summit. Another popular route is a traverse of Mount Victoria, which can be done in either direction, either to or from the hut.
In a rarely observed feat of ursine mountaineering, a grizzly bear was once seen doing the traverse of Mount Victoria via Abbot Pass. They are only occasional visitors to the hut. However, a grizzly known as "Bear 125" used the pass on a regular basis until he was shot dead in 2014 in British Columbia's annual grizzly bear hunt. In BC, most of the province is open to grizzly bear hunting, whereas in Alberta they are protected as a threatened species.
The hut sleeps 24 on its upper floor, and has both a wood stove for heating and drying, and a propane system for cooking and lighting. The kitchen is stocked with standard cooking utensils. Wood and propane are flown in annually by helicopter, by the Alpine Club of Canada. There is an outhouse a short distance from the hut. Since human waste must be flown out by helicopter at great cost, visitors should avoid dumping garbage in the toilet.Mount Victoria
Elizabeth Parker hut
Lake O'Hara (Map). 1:20,000. The Adventure Map. Chrismar Mapping Services. ISBN 0-929140-39-7. This map shows trails and area highlights in detail
Lake O'Hara (Map). 1:20,000. Guides for Hiking and Recreation in the Canadian Rockies. Gem Trek Publishing. ISBN 978-1-895526-38-7. This map shows trails and area highlights in detail
Lake Louise and Yoho (Map). 1:50,000. Guides for Hiking and Recreation in the Canadian Rockies. Gem Trek Publishing. ISBN 1-895526-64-7.
82N/8 (Lake Louise) (Map). 1:50,000. National Topographic System (NTS). Canadian Government.