Yukness Mountain

Elevation: 2847 m
Elevation gain: 810 m
Samuel E. S. Allen used the Nakoda (Stoney) word “Yukness” to describe Yukness Mountain in 1916. “Yukness” means “sharpened with a knife” and this peak does, indeed, appear to be sharpened when viewed from Lake O’Hara. The first ascent of Yukness Mountain is credited to a survey party who climbed the peak in 1918.
My Ascents:
September 2 2010

Sometimes the weather forecast is just TOO GOOD to justify working. Upon seeing a forecast calling for clear blue skies and warm September sun, I easily convinced Gord (and myself) to take a Thursday off work to visit one of the most beautiful areas in the Canadian Rockies: Lake O’Hara. While beautiful, Lake O’Hara is a pain in the a$$ to access. Vehicles and bicycles are not permitted on the 12 km fire road which is used to access the lake. Two daily buses ferry people to and from Lake O’Hara, however, reservations for spots on these buses must be made 3 months in advance using an antiquated telephone reservation system. Every time that I attempt to reserve a spot on the bus for a day 3 months down the road, I spend 2 – 3 hours hitting “redial” and hearing a busy signal before finally getting through and being told that there are no spots left. It is also possible to arrive VERY early at the bus stop and to add your name to a stand-by list in the event that someone with a reservation fails to show up. A final option is to complete the dull 12 km hike up the fire road on foot. Hoping to make it up to the lake on “stand-by”, Gord and I left Calgary on Wednesday night and spent the evening in an overpriced hotel nearby. At the crack of dawn, we were out of bed and waiting at the Lake O’Hara bus stop hoping to catch the bus and enjoy a day scrambling up Yukness Mountain (the only peak from the Lake O’Hara area included in Kane’s Outings guide).

We were in line for 'standby' seats at 7:30am which allowed us to watch the sunrise on Mount Victoria.

Early morning light on Mount Stephen. Even at 7:30am on a Thursday, there were already 6 people in line ahead of of us for standby seats on the bus!

Rather than chance not getting a seat on the bus, we opted to hike the 12 km fire road to get to Lake O'Hara, at which point our scramble would finally begin. It was a cool morning, punctuated by beautiful views of the surrounding mountains in the morning light.

Miraculously, we were able to cover the last 7 km of the fire road in only 5 minutes (a Parks Canada truck and a sympathetic employee may have helped in this matter). At the top of the fire road we were greeted with this breathtaking view of Mount Biddle.

Early morning fog on Lake O'Hara.

The sun rising over Lake O'Hara. Our objective Mount Yukness can be seen on the right.

A snowy morning on Mount Lefroy!

Early views of Mary Lake (front) and Lake O'Hara (back) in front of Wiwaxy Peaks as we hiked up the Opabin Plateau.

Mount Huber peering over larch trees.

Wiwaxy Peaks and Mount Huber dominate the view of the valley behind us.

Calm waters on another small alpine lake.

The objective lies directly above!

Looking up the valley to glacier-covered Opabin Pass.

Opabin Lake below Opabin Pass.

Opabin Lake: a perfect place to soak any socks that you may have sprayed with bear spray...

Continuing our ascent: Mount Schaffer (left) and Mount Odaray (right) from the for-now gentle (and dry) ascent slopes of Mount Yukness.

Taking in the view.

Enjoyable hands-on scrambling en route to the col.

As we gained elevation, there was more and more snow and ice to contend with. Another party of scramblers is faintly visible at the col on the center-right in this photo. The summit lies to the right.

The other scramblers. They got to the col pictured here before throwing in the towel. We weren't nearly so smart!

Breathtaking views of Lake Oesa below Mount Victoria on the other side of the col. The opposite face of Mount Victoria provides the scenic glacial background to Lake Louise.

Mounts Victoria (left) and Lefroy (right) provide the bookends to Abbot Pass above Lake Oesa.

Abbot hut at the top of Abbot Pass.

The stunningly exposed pinacles that line the summit ridge of Mount Yukness.

This strangely-shaped pinnacle is often photographed with climbers on top (see photo in Kane's description of the route) however, based on the snowy conditions and 800 m fall to Lake Oesa on the backside, we thought better of it.

The summit of Mount Yukness on the right. The route involved scrambling on snow-covered ledges just above the cliffs to the right before gaining steep gullies which funneled rockfall as the ice melted, and finally walking along the midly exposed and slippery summit ridge.

A little chilly up here...

Carefully making my way down towards the cliffs to avoid having to climb and then downclimb pinnacles on the narrow summit ridge. The Opabin glacier now far below.

Gord scrambling up a steep and snowy gully, giving me his 'why the hell are we doing this?' face. Opabin Lake a long way below him.

Finally on the summit ridge! Spectacularly exposed to the left, disturbingly slippery to the right...

Gord climbing up the final ledge to the summit. Mount Biddle punctuates the horizon the south.

Summit #28...probably the most difficult yet this year!

The appropriately-titled Glacier Peak (creative, I know).

Mount Hungabee to the south.

Mounts Hungabee and Biddle bookend Opabin Pass.

Mount Biddle and the Opabin Glacier.

Father-son shot atop snowy Mount Yukness.

Mary Lake (left) and Lake O'Hara (right) in the valley below Schaeffer Ridge, and Mount Odaray.

Odaray Mountain now a long ways down the valley.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara far below.

Well-worn hiking trails around alpine tarns in the valleys below.

Looking north towards the Waputik Icefield. Rounded Mount Niles on the right in front of Mount Balfour.

Old man summit shot!

Lake Oesa below Mounts Huber, Victoria, Lefroy, and Glacier Peak (left to right).

Trying to put his sweater on without taking his helmet off. An unsuccessful attempt.

Avalanche on Mount Hungabee! The afternoon silence was frequently shattered by such occurences.

Another impressive avalanche. This time on Glacier Peak.

Fast-forward, and we're all down the mountain! Posing in front of Opabin Lake.

Making our way along the well-worn trails around the tarns.

Wiwaxy Peaks beyond the world's most scenic mud puddle.

Finally back to Lake O'Hara. Looking back at Mount Yukness (center-left). Only the north (lower and easier) summit is visible from here.

Classic Lake O'Hara shot. Mounts Hungabee (left) and Biddle (right) on front of the Opabin Plateau and the Lake itself. Now it’s time to make sure that we catch the bus back down…no more walking!