Monday, February 6, 2017

CR2016: Odaray Grandview

On July 27th Joan and I made one of our earliest starts ever at Lake O'Hara, 9:20. If that doesn't seem early, you must realize that there's a sequence to breakfast at the lodge. First on offer are serve-yourself items such as hot oatmeal, granola, yogurt, and berries. Then your order is taken for a fabulous main breakfast, and for your preferred lunch sandwich. After breakfast is consumed you join the line to assemble your lunch sack, using your sandwich choice and the other goodies available, especially three varieties of exquisite Lake O'Hara cookies. Today we did not linger to chat with our table-mates.

We launched into imperative #1 for the day, hustling past the Elizabeth Parker hut and dashing (for us) up the utilitarian trail to Schäffer Lake, to arrive at the McArthur Pass kiosk in time to be or to join one of the four parties per day allowed to sign in for the Odaray Highline/Grandview. This is a voluntary program to limit the disturbances at McArthur Pass because it's a major transit corridor for grizzlies and other wildlife. In past years it's been difficult for us to reach the kiosk early enough, but this year the challenge of qualifying for an Alpine Circuit pin from the lodge seems to have siphoned off some of the traffic. Fine with us!

The first leg of the route. You can see that a large area on the flank of Odaray Mountain has been closed to hikers, due to a grizzly bear incident in the 1970s.
Here's a photo of one of the cabins that constitute the Elizabeth Parker "hut."
This is looking back at the hut as we head on.
Two young women passed Joan and me, reaching the kiosk before us. When we got there, another couple was waiting to see if anyone else would show up, which is a great trail courtesy in this situation. The six of us formed one group, the third party of the day. Theoretically there were two additional members of our new group five minutes ahead of us on the trail, but Joan and I never saw them. Here is a photo taken later, from the heights, that includes the sign-in kiosk, the bright spot about one-third in from the right, and two-fifths down from the top. Click on the image to enlarge.
Now it was time for imperative #2, keeping up with the other four in our group. It's difficult and dangerous to keep up a clipper pace without keeping your eyes on the rocky, rooty and twisty trail at all times. Joan and I like to stop to scan for marmots, pikas, or weasels, take photos, and check out interesting flowers.
For a while there was a gentle stretch along the Highline, and I took this photo.
Even from this intermediate height there are good views back to Lake O'Hara.
On reaching the closed area the Highline trail ended and the trek up to the Grandview began.
At this point our group had clearly split into three fast and three not-so-fast hikers, and the fast folks graciously slowed down.
It's not a quick trail, unless you're half mountain goat.
Up and up.
We all reached the Grandview, a wide bench partway up Odaray Mountain. Puffy clouds were starting to appear.
Joan took in the view from a nice flat rock, and we both had a light snack.
Here's a panoramic view centered on Lake O'Hara.
With binoculars or the camera on full zoom there's a lot to see, such as this closeup of hikers atop All Souls Prospect.
Over to Lake McArthur.
Another group arrived, and half of that group plus the other four in our group continued on, aiming for the "Little O," or Walter Feuz peak (2962 m/9719 ft).

We were growing suspicious of the weather's direction, and opted to return sooner rather than later, but with a brief side trip. Not until two years before had we learned that if we picked our way over to the northwest corner of Grandview we could see into the Duchesnay Basin. We did so again. Look at that funny dark cloud snagged on Cathedral Mountain.
A closeup of the Odaray Prospect, once a destination hike but no longer reachable because of the closed area.
Consider the clarity of the pond at the foot of Odaray.
Joan and I began our return, and I photographed this old red trail blaze, embellished by some hiker with two eye stones. One hiker dubbed it "Daphne Duck."
We began to descend the Grandview trail, and before the steep portion ended we met a one-man, one-woman trail maintenance crew working uphill. It began to sprinkle lightly, off and on, but we had time to notice dwarf alpine hawk weed, a weasel, which hunts smaller mammals such as pikas, and were buzzed by a hummingbird, either a calliope or a juvenile rufous.

There was one spot on the Highline where Mount Goodsir (11,703 ft/3,567 m) was visible to the west.
By the time we reached the sign-in kiosk Joan and I heard rumbles of thunder. We abandoned all thought of stopping for lunch, and secured our hiking pigs inside our day packs. Then we snapped waterproof covers over the packs, but it was so warm we chose not to put on our rain jackets.

Imperative #3 was to march straight back to our cabin. Just beyond Schäffer Lake it began to rain steadily. We were wet but not soaked by the time we reached our cabin; however, the air had turned cold. We hung our gear up to dry and ate our late lunch on the porch of the cabin, complete with a glass of wine each from small bottles given us by Lindsay and Andrew, the newlyweds we had met at Canadian Artisans B&B in Canmore.
Even if the hiking day was cut short we had a great time and good luck with Odaray Grandview.

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