Trail Work Highlights

TRAIL WORK HIGHLIGHTS

In the 1979 newsletter, Tim Wake wrote to members suggesting that “A history of the trail building at O’Hara, focusing on the work of Dr. Link, would make an interesting and informative booklet for visitors to the O’Hara region”. He went on to solicit members’ ideas on a “qualified individual” who might be willing to write such a booklet. The following year he announced that Jon Whyte, of Banff, had indicated an interest and his first edition of Tommy and Lawrence was published in 1983.

While Tommy and Lawrence was a “charming volume”, to repeat Chic Scott’s description, with stories providing many insights into the lives and work of the two primary trail builders Lake O’Hara, it wasn’t exactly a concise history of trail construction. The book is nevertheless recommended to anyone interested in the early days of development of this unique trail system.

An excellent narrative of trail work done from 1980 was prepared by Patty Cucman and appears as an addendum to the second edition of Tommy and Lawrence, which was issued in 2010.

Most newsletters include an update on trail work and the following summarizes some of the major projects and events of the period.

1977

  • A new trail linking the campground to the Linda Lake – O’Hara Fire Road Trail was completed.
  • Due to serious deterioration of the trail beside Seven Veils Falls a new access route to Lake Oesa was also constructed (The highly visible switchbacks on the lower section of the new trail have been much criticized – see an article by Board member Minuetta Kessler in the 1989 newsletter).

1979

  • A new trail was constructed from the Alpine Meadow to the Odaray Plateau.

    1983

  • Implementation of the first volunteer trail improvement program using canvas bags for transport of gravel to designated locations along the lakeshore trail.
  • Hardening of the Lake Oesa trail using large slabs of rock transported from the Yukness Ledges via helicopter.

1984

  • Approaches (Opabin and Oesa) to Yukness Ledge were improved.
  • A new route on East Opabin was put in to bypass two bridges.
  • Re-routes were constructed around the Big Larch and Morning Glory Trails.
  • A new bridge was put in near the cabins.
  • Tread hardening was started on the trails leading through the Alpine Meadows.

1986

  • Completion of a new suspension bridge on the East Opabin Trail just above Lake O’Hara, replacing two old bridges.
  • Extensive use of wooden stringers and gravel to harden certain trails on the Opabin Plateau (This technique, termed turnpiking, was controversial and subsequently resulted in some modification of Parks Canada techniques – see an article in the 1987 and 1988 newsletters).

1987

  • Opabin prospect and Moor Lakes trail upgrading.
  • The Adeline Link Circuit, otherwise known as the lakeshore trail, was re-dedicated in a ceremony on September 21. A plaque recognizing the name of the trail and its builders was erected by the Trails Club. In 1944 Mrs. Link was the first person to walk the completed trail.

1989

  • West Opabin trail upgrading, involving definition and crowning of the trail and installation of rock water bars and rock slab inlay. All rock was flown in from adjacent talus slopes.
  • Trail Guidelines document written for Parks Canada by Don Gardner identifies different landscape units and trail construction techniques appropriate to each one.

1990

  • McArthur Lake Trail upgrading.

1991

  • Upgrading near Schaffer Lake and McArthur Pass using helicopter-transported gravel.

1993

  • Completion of upgrades to the trail from Shaffer Lake to Lake McArthur, a multi-year project.

1994

  • Reconstruction of steps and water bars on the Lake Oesa trail switchbacks.
  • Upgrading of 2 km of trail between Morning Glory Lakes and the Duchesnay Basin, including widening to improve sight lines.

1997

  • Application of gravel to trails from Elizabeth Parker Hut to both Morning Glory Lakes and the Big Larch trail.
  • Gravelling of the lower McArthur Lake trail. 1999
  • Cathedral Basin trail upgrade with rock steps and drainage ditches.

2000

  • Don Gardner conducted an assessment of the majority of trails in the area and wrote a report making recommendations for preventative maintenance.

2001

  • Repairs to the most heavily used trails – the lakeshore trail and the Lake Oesa trail.

2003

  • The East Opabin suspension bridge was destroyed by a spring avalanche. Ironically, repairs to the bridge were planned for that summer.

2004

  • Construction of a new East Opabin trail which stays to the east of Opabin Creek in its entirety, requiring no bridge.

2005

  • Establishment of a stable source of funding for trail work, thanks to a memorandum of understanding between the Trails Club and Parks Canada. This initial agreement was for a 5-year period. The Trails Club provided $15,000 per year, allowing Parks Canada to dedicate a 2-person trail crew assigned to agreed upon maintenance priorities.
  • Repair to the railing of the bridge crossing below Seven Veils Falls on the lakeshore trail.

2006

  • Removal and replacement of the bridge over the Lake O’Hara outlet on the lakeshore trail.

2006 – 2012

  • A separate Trail Report summarized each year’s accomplishments, hence the newsletters themselves do not contain this information.

2013

  • Improvement of the Big Larches trail with the addition of significant stone steps
  • Major repairs to the lakeshore trail following flooding.

2014

  • Re-alignment of the trail to All Souls Prospect below Schaffer Ridge, establishing a more gradual rising traverse which avoids late-lying snow patches, steep grade and erosion issues that plagued that section of the former route.

2015

  • Water bar replacement on the East Opabin trail.
  • Mapping of Opabin Plateau trails and closure of some informal paths.

2016

  • The lower section of the original Lake Oesa trail was re-established, terminating at Seven Veils Falls viewpoint.
  • Re-alignment and installation of rock steps to address erosion concerns near the top of the trail to Wiwaxy Gap.