Opabin Plateau
A larchy loop on a hazy day


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Distance - 9.2km Elevation gain - 300m
2.5 hours in / 3 hours back

The Lake O'Hara area is one of the best for larch. This year, we got permits for one of the prime larch weekends.
Looking ahead to it, we had a wonderful high pressure system sitting on top of the Rockies, and looked ready for awesome sun.
Sadly, a few days before the trip, a fire started just SW of O'Hara, and with the system still not moving, smoked out the whole mountains.
The larch were in wonderful colour, but the heavy smoke in the air took a major toll on the skies and the tinge of any photo not close up.

Opabin Basin has one of the biggest stands of larch, and was our destination for the day.
We start off by going around the south shore of Lake O'Hara, then around the north of Mary Lake, and start up the headwall.

Lake O'Hara in the morning.

A look up the headwall.

Mary Lake.

The group hiking above Mary Lake.

The wall of Opabin Prospect on the ascent.

The West Opabin trail does two large elevation pushes. The first gets you about halfway up the headwall to a nice lookout over the main valley.
After a short flat section, the second part takes you right up into the larch and the first little tarn of many.

The group makes it up to the ledge.

Breaking over onto Opabin Plateau.

Looking up through the larch at Mount Schäffer.

The trail leads up into the hanging valley.

Stepping stone pathway greets us to Lawrence Grassi's trails.

The first tiny pool on the plateau.

Once the headwall has been breached, we wander through the larch, and pass a couple more small tarns, gaining a small bit of elevation.
The biggest one on the Plateau flats is Hungabee Lake, which is surrounded by larch.
This late in the season, many of the lakes are very low, but for many of them, that just means lots of rocky shorelines.

More of Grassi's meadow-saving stepping stones

The Wiwaxy Peaks and Mount Huber across the main valley.

Another tarn and the Wiwaxy Peaks.

Hungabee Lake and its larch.

Past Hungabee Lake, the trail makes one final small ascent to an upper level which holds Opabin Lake, nestled under Yukness Mountain.
The lake was quite low, and we had lunch around the shore in an area that is underwater earlier in the year.
The deep section does not lose its spectacular deep blue-green, though the look was definitely muted in the smoke.
The small Opabin Glacier is above to the SE, and is used as an access (with Wenkchemna Pass) from Moraine Lake.

Looking down on Hungabee Lake.

The group hikes up the final slope.

Meadow walking on the plateau.

Opabin Lake ahead of us.

Opabin Lake with Yukness Mountain beside, and Ringrose Peak behind.

The rest of the group hikes in to the lake.

The clear green of Opabin Lake.

Opabin Glacier above us through the haze.

After lunch, we took the East Opabin route back. There are also many small trails going through the area, but we just did the big loop around.
The east route takes us back along the other side of Hungabee Lake, then past the tiny, mostly-dry Moor Lakes and back down the headwall to Lake O'Hara.

The trail starts out from the lake.

Looking down to Hungabee Lake.

Hungabee Lake from the north east shore.

The group crosses a rocky section with a great flat route.

The trail again turns to paving stones along the Moor Lakes.

Hiking down the East Opabin headwall trail.

When we made it to the bottom, we had some time left, so continued counter-clockwise around Lake O'Hara to finish the day as a loop.
Normally in the Rockies, a breeze picks up by the afternoon, but the absolutely still waters show just how dead the air remained.
It had been awesome for weather, but once the smoke was in it, we needed some movement to clear the air again.

Looking across Lake O'Hara from the east end.

The trail around the lake.

The trail meanders up and down, never ascending significantly.

The group hiking around the lake.

Classic Rocky Mountain rich colours in the lake.

Looking down into the clear lake.

The final trail back to the staging area.

A final look across Lake O'Hara from the west side.

Photos taken by Rachel

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