Schaffer, Mount (McArthur Lake)


Trip Details
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Summit Elevation (m): 
Summit Elevation (ft): 
Total Distance (km): 
Difficulty Notes: 

No major difficulties other than catching a bus or walking up the approach road 11km... Fall is the best time to hike this one.

Trip Report

After scrambling Mount Kent the day before I was up at 04:30 on Thursday, September 30 2010 to spend a few solitary days in the Lake O'Hara region of Yoho National Park. Of course, I realized that I would not be alone in this beautiful area, but I needed a few days of peace and meditation before starting a new contract and getting back to the real world again. Amazingly I managed to book a spot at the Elizabeth Parker (EP) ACC hut with only a week's notice - normally you have to play a lottery the previous year just for the right to book a spot! (I think if you have a flexible schedule this is the best way to do it - just phone a couple of days before you want to go in and you may get lucky.)


I didn't have too many plans for the 2 full days I was spending in the area, but being a peak bagger at heart meant a couple of quick Google searches to scope out any scrambling opportunities in the area. I found 3 potential scrambles; Little 'O' (Odaray), Mount Schaffer and Wiwaxy Peaks - East Tower. Based on proximity to the ACC hut, I chose Mount Schaffer as my first objective.


The plan was to dump off my gear at the hut, scramble Schaffer, check out Lake McArthur and then do a highline traverse up All Soul's Prospect, down to Opabin Plateau and then hike back to the hut for the night. I knew that there were two routes up Schaffer but that's about it. One route is the North Ridge route. It's rated alpine II and 5.4 but varying reports didn't consider it much more than a climber's scramble. Another route was the 'easy west slopes' from Lake McArthur. Since I was solo I decided to try the easy scrambling route.


After dumping my gear (and some of Bob Barlow's gear too :-)) at the EP hut, I resumed hiking on the excellent trail to Schaffer Lake and Lake McArthur. I arrived at Schaffer Lake quite quickly and found myself looking at a third scrambling option for Mount Schaffer! The west slopes right above the lake looked like an easy way to gain a col and then a nice ridge all the way to the summit. I decided to hike up towards Lake McArthur until it made sense to traverse into the 'Schaffer Bowl' (as I later learned that's what it's called) and up to the col and ridge.


[Note the frost on the ground. Hiking up from the EP ACC hut to Schaffer Lake, this is a morning view of Little Odaray, which is also a scramble but is restricted due to wildlife concerns in the area.]

[Crossing a stream just before Schaffer Lake.]

[From Schaffer Lake's west shore I spot my third scrambling option to the summit - directly up west slopes to the col and then climber's left up the skyline ridge.]


My plan worked perfectly. Soon I was staring down at the tranquil colors of Lake McArthur, sparking blue and clear below me with a nice ridge arching to the summit above. While I was only on intermittent trails in the Schaffer Bowl, from the col to the summit I was on a very obvious trail marked with cairns. It didn't take long before I was on the summit of Mount Schaffer with the amazing environs of Lake O'Hara staring back at me from all directions.


[Looking north from the ascent slope at Odaray, Cathedral and Wiwaxy Peak (L to R) with Schaffer Lake at bottom. ++]

[Looking up at the easy scrambling terrain.]

[Great views of Odaray and Cathedral.]

[Stunning views of McArthur Lake with Park Mountain in the bg.]

[The ridge route to the summit of Schaffer - there's a great trail all the way up!]

[Fun, blocky terrain.]

[Incredible views of Park Mountain and the McArthur Lake area.]

[More of the quartzite ridge with beautiful Cathedral (C) and Stephen (L) in the bg.]

[Looking directly down the climbing / scramble route on the north ridge - the EP Hut clearing at center.]

[Nearing the summit now, Park on the left and gorgeous Mount Owen on the right.]

[Stunning views of Lake O'Hara and Wiwaxy Peaks with Cathedral on the left and Victoria - North Summit on the right.]


I spent over 1.5 hours at the summit, taking photos and lounging around eating my lunch. I met Caroline at the summit and a guy on the way up to the summit and we talked about the various routes. Both of them worked at the Lake O'Hara lodge and both came up the north ridge route and descended my ascent route through Schaffer Bowl. Next time that's the route I'll take (if the north ridge is dry).


[Some of the best summit views I've ever experienced. From L to R, Biddle, Park, Owen, Duchesnay, Odaray, Carnarvon and Cathedral++]

[McArthur Lake is stunning in the early morning lighting. Park and Owen are very attractive mountains.]

[Ringrose (L) and Hungabee (R) loom over Hungabee Lake (L) and Opabin Lake (R).]

[Looking through Opabin Pass towards Deltaform and Tuzo in the Valley of Ten Peaks.]

[Yukness is still a favorite scramble, rising above Moor Lakes which are clothed in colorful larches at this time of year. Lefroy towering above on the left.]

[The twin West and East (R) summits of Wiwaxy Peaks are identical in height. I would summit the east summit the next day.]

[A long way down to the sublime Lake O'Hara and it's lodge. A lone kayaker barely visible on the calm lake surface and switchbacks to Lake Oesa clearly visible on the far right end of the lake.]

[I fell in love with Cathedral on this trip and climbed it with So Nakagawa a year later in August 2011.]

[Vern drinks in the incredible views from the summit of Mount Schaffer.]

[One of the nicest summit panoramas I've ever taken. From L to R includes, Wiwaxy, Victoria, Huber, Lefroy, Yukness, Ringrose, Hungabee and lakes (L to R), Mary Lake, Lake O'Hara, Moor Lakes, Hungabee Lake and Opabin Lake. ++]

[EP hut with a small local tarn.]

[Lake O'Hara with the falls coming into the end of the lake from above.]

[Nature's incredible color scheme in the waters of Hungabee Lake (L) and Opabin Lake (R).]

[Yukness and Lefroy.]

[Another wide panorama of the Lake O'hara region. ++]

[Mount Owen]

[Mountains in the Van Horne Range.]

[From L to R, Little Odaray, Odaray and Mount Stephen.]

[The west face of Lefroy.]

[Gorgeous colors and lines on Mount Daly.]

[Mount Stephen's south face.]

[Continuing on the ridge will eventually land you on Mount Biddle's elusive and rarely climbed summit.]

[View of Odaray including Schaffer Lake far below.]


For descent, I chose to go down scree slopes to Lake McArthur where I spent some time exploring the lake shore and relaxing for another hour in the warm sunshine before resuming my hike of All Soul's Prospect.


[Looking back up the easy west ridge on Schaffer.]

[Descending easy scree slopes down to McArthur Lake.]

[Figures around McArthur Lake shoreline.]

[I can't believe it's October! What a great way to spend time off...]

[McArthur Lake is a great place to spend some time by yourself, meditating or sleeping or both. ++]

[Hiking back to Schaffer Lake via the highline trail from McArthur Lake. Owen on the left and Odaray on the right. ++]

[Stunning views. ++]

[The trail from McArthur Lake to McArthur Pass is excellent.]

[Looking back at Mount Owen from the McArthur Lake trail.]

[Looking along a neat section of trail that bypassed cliffs on the right, towards McArthur Pass and Cathedral Mountain.]

[Back near Schaffer Lake, looking up at the easy scramble route that I used to ascend Schaffer.]

[Mount Huber reflects in a small tarn near Schaffer Lake.]



Fantastic pictures - glad you had a good few days with the larches!

I hiked Schaffer and the Opabin Plateau in 1983 when I was 16. Your magnificent photos bring it all back. I fell hopelessly in love with Lake O'Hara and its surrounding then, and I hope to return one day. Thank you!

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