The Ghost of Abbot Hut

In celebration of Halloween, I am sharing my very spooky haunted hut adventure. This story is 100% true. I do not often encounter ghosts, but when I do, they are intense. So grab some popcorn, sit back, and start wondering if you are ever really alone in the backcountry…

August 2008

On a gorgeous Saturday during the August long weekend. My husband Mike and I had big plans to hike to Abbot Pass Hut, drop our overnight kit, and then continue up the ridge to Mount Victoria.

It was a smoking hot day as we made our way up the grueling scree slope above Lake Oesa. We were the only ones on the slope, and it was a rare day off from our business and our kids. Life is grand!

Grinding up the scree slope. Lake Oesa is below.
Arriving at Abbot Pass Hut. One of the few stone huts in the Alpine Club of Canada.

Abbot Pass is named after Phillip Abbot, North America’s first mountaineering fatality. He died while while trying to make a first ascent of Mt. Lefroy, which is directly opposite of Mount Victoria. After he died, the Swiss guides erected this stone hut in 1922 as a shelter for mountaineers.

After dropping our kit, we ascended the rock wall above Abbot Hut. It was a glorious day with hours of sunlight left.

Short roping on the cliff above the hut.

We were almost at the ridge top when we saw the storm coming in. We thought we had plenty of time, but quickly realized the storm was moving fast. Soon, lightening was streaking across the sky. Not wanting to be the tallest thing on the tallest mountain carrying metal ice axes, we made a hasty retreat to Abbot Hut below.

We were safely back inside when the heavens opened. At first it was hard rain, but it quickly changed to sleet. As the temperature plummeted, the sleet changed to driving snow.

Alone in the hut, we decided to unpack and get ready for an early dinner.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

“Mike, did you hear that?” I asked. He sure did. He was unperturbed, so I ignored it.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Pause…

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Pause, pause pause…

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!
Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!
Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Okay, this banging was getting annoying. I decided to go investigate. The banging sounded like it was from upstairs. I climbed the narrow steep ladder, and checked the two windows at either end of the sleeping area. Both windows were shut, and no shutters were banging.

Windows all secured in the sleep area upstairs.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Hmmm. That’s strange. Now it sounds like it’s coming from downstairs.

I headed back down. I checked the kitchen windows. All secure.

Kitchen all buttoned up.

I hunted around the living area – all windows secure. Ah, I know! There is a locked custodian room beside the kitchen. It must be coming from in there.

The locked room is to the left of the kitchen.

Satisfied, I sat down and began flipping through some old magazines and books that a kind soul had lugged up decades earlier. I found a great book on the famous guide Bruno Engler. It was fascinating reading.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Bruno told some hilarious stories about the pace of guiding – if you could smoke your pipe while hiking up, you would go slow enough for the guests to keep up.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Another story of guiding Mary Schäffer. She was so fast and wanted to climb so many mountains, that the guides would take turns taking her out. The guides would protest that they’d had enough, and it was someone else’s turn to go with her.

Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!
Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!
Bam. Bam. Bam Bam Bam!

Holy! I couldn’t take it any longer. “Mike! Isn’t that banging driving you crazy?” Huh? Um, yeah, sure. I guess so.

Exasperated, I put on my down jacket and got ready to head outside. There must be a loose shutter on the outside that I couldn’t see from inside. Or perhaps something is leaning up against the stone hut and needs to be secured.

I flung open the door and a single swoosh of air came blasting in. After that, it was calm as the wind rushed past, parallel to the door of the hut.

Storm raging outside, coming up the col from Lake Oesa below, and down towards Lake Louise on the other side.
Sorry! Video starts sideways. This was in the days of cameras, not phones.

I looked outside and could see the snow blowing straight up the col. I went outside and did a full walk around of the hut. All the shutters were firmly in place. There was no debris up against the hut. The firewood was all securely stowed a little ways away. Even the outhouse was tightly buttoned up. I could not find a single thing that could have made the banging sound.

The ice build-up on the window. No shutters banging here.

Perplexed, I went back inside.

I listened for the banging. Quiet. I went upstairs and listened. All quiet. I then went back down and listened at the locked custodian door. Still quiet. It made no sense why the banging should stop, because the wind was still howling from the same direction, and it was increasing. If anything, the banging should be louder.

After dinner, I went back to my Bruno Engler book. He was telling a story about climbing Mount Victoria and spending the night at Abott Pass Hut. Oh, this ought to be good!

It was a stormy night. Just like tonight. Sweet!

Bruno soon heard banging on the outside of the hut. Wait. What?

Bruno was getting scared. He told his companions to barricade the hut door! Bruno explained that every time there is a storm, the ghost of Phillip Abbot tries to get into the hut. Abbot was North America’s first mountaineering fatality. He slipped and fell to his death while trying to make a first ascent of Mt. Lefroy. Bruno was positive that Abbot had fallen during a storm, and since then Abbot has sought the refuge of the hut in foul weather.

I stopped reading and looked around. Quiet. It was still quiet, yet the storm raged on outside.

Then it hit me. I’d accidentally let in the ghost of Phillip Abbot! When I opened the door to find the source of the sound, he swooped in. He was now no doubt resting comfortably in front of the fire, warming his toes and drinking a little brandy from a flask.

Happy Halloween!

I hope you enjoyed my ghost story. Do you have any spooky tales? Any ghostly hauntings? If so, please do tell!!!

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Posted in Adventures
15 comments on “The Ghost of Abbot Hut
  1. Love it (and love the photos!)

  2. Great ghost story, I should have read this one on a stormy night! Now I’ll be afraid to go to Abott Hut again!

  3. Deve ser mto bom praticar esse tipo de esporte..sem contar a paisagem ..lindo!!

  4. Great story, Alisen! And, I laughed at Mike’s reaction – sorry, lololol.

  5. I became so fascinated with Abbot Pass when I hiked the Plain of the Six Glaciers in Banff. After watching your video and seeing pictures from the storm, all I can say is (holy crap) I’m so glad you made it back to the hut in time. Even if you then had to deal with the ghost of Mr Abbot! What a night!

    • alisendopf says:

      LOL! Dealing with Mr. Abbot was WAY better than the storm.
      That is great you got to Plain of the Six Glaciers. You must have walked past the tea house and got the full view of the pass?
      When the hut was built in the early 1920s, they used pack horses on the glacier to get the materials up to the pass. Now, the glacier has retreated so much, it is no longer a safe route to the pass. In addition, that pass is quite narrow and is only a scree slope (not rock foundation). What we have just discovered, is that slope and pass is being held together by frozen water in the scree. That water is now melting out, which means the pass is slumping. The Abbot Hut was closed two summers ago for fear the foundation would slide away.

      • Yup, we walked the extra kilometre or so to get to the Abbott Pass viewpoint. Glad I had the opportunity to see it as it sounds like its days are limited. I don’t think I’m that hardcore to hike to the actual hut like you did. Sounds like quite the challenge!

  6. bj.richmond says:

    If you don’t mind me asking, what’s the nature of your job?

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