Robert L. Peters

18 August 2008

Fuhrmann Ledges beta…

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Lake Louise, Alberta

I met the famous mountaineering guide Peter Fuhrmann on the way up to Abbot Hut about a decade ago. He was busy painting blue-square route-markers on the few stable rocks that seemed to survive the annual avalanche-flushing of the nasty 670-meter scree gully that one has to scramble up from Lake Oesa (altitude 2265 m) leading to the col straddling the continental divide that the hut is balanced on. The following day, I saw a party gingerly traversing the lower glaciated slopes of Mount Lefroy, having ascended via the “Fuhrmann Ledges” (a century-old route established by the Swiss Guides that Peter F. re-established a half-century later). Ever since, I’ve wanted to suss out that ‘alternative’ route to Lake Louise, and last week finally presented the opportunity (the highlight of this year’s mountaineering holiday). Highly recommended (the crux is route-finding [getting onto the correct ledge is crucial] not technical, as the most exposed sections are protected with fixed hardware)! Total distance from Abbot Hut (at 2925 meters) to the Chateau is an estimated 13-14 km, with a vertical drop of 1215 meters—count on 5 to 8 hours for the descent… enjoy!

Photo/topo: Joe Mckay (who allegedly ‘improved the route’ with fixed ropes). From the hut, traverse the lower glaciated slopes of Mount Lefroy (leave early to avoid excessive rockfall; roped travel is recommended as there are crevasses) in a downward angle heading due North, descending more or less in the middle of the talus/scree slope (half-way between the cliff bands on the right and the drop-off to the Death Trap on the left—look for round orange paint marks as you pick your way through some delicate obstacles). At the North end of Lefroy, move to the lower outside edge of the large ‘balcony’ and look for one of numerous stone-men (cairns) and more orange paint daubs that mark the route to the correct ledge system to circumnavigate the steep cliffs. Follow these ledges right around Lefroy (towards the East, then heading directly South for nearly 1 km), exiting onto a (somewhat nasty) 300-meter-high scree cone which leads down to the large lateral moraines (the glaciers have been melting remarkably fast of late) pointing down toward Lake Louise. After crossing the exit stream below the Lower Victoria Glacier (we had to wade across this year, as the flow was considerable) head left across the valley just before you hit the trees to get up onto the established hiking trail returning from the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea-hut (2075 meters elevation) and leading back to Chateau Lake Louise (1710 meters elevation).

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