Wapta Traverse - May 2006
The Wapta Traverse is likely the most popular multiday ski traverse in the Rockies. The traverse is typically completed from north to south, starting at Wapta Lake, next to the Icefields Parkway and traversing southward to exit at Sherbrooke Lake, near the town of Field on the Trans-Canada Highway. Along the traverse are four ACC huts: Peyto Hut, Bow Hut, Balfour Hut, and Scott Duncan Hut.

Reid Holmes and I skied the Wapta traverse from May 3 to May 5, 2006, spending our first night at Peyto Hut and the second at Balfour Hut. We ascended Habel, made a ski ascent of Thompson, and a partial ascent of Balfour (see below).

See Reid's photos.

photo: skiing across Peyto Lake
Day 1: Peyto Lake to Peyto Hut
distance skied: 12.1 km
We left Calgary sometime around 9:45 am after Reid visited the Chinese embassy for a travel visa. By the time we left a car at the West Louise Lodge and shuttled to the parking area near the Bow summit it was already 1:30 pm. We easily located the old road and we were glad to find it mostly snow covered. Peyto lake was still solidly frozen allowing us to ski across and into the morraine on the opposite side. At this point we carried our skis across and up the morraines most of the way to the glaciology research station. Along the way we passed a group of five from Kimberley and Cranbrook. From there we skied onto the glacier and gained the headwall to reach the Peyto Hut at about 6:30 pm.
photo: We near the top of the Peyto Glacier. The Peyto hut lies on the ridge behind Reid.
The group of five soon joined us. We ate dinner and enjoyed the view from the table by the windows. Thanks to the Kimberley/Cranbrook crew who treated us to some tasty dessert. Time passed quickly and we didn't get to bed until around midnight.
photo: enjoying the view from the Peyto hut
Day 2: Peyto Hut to Balfour Hut
distance skied: 21.6 km
peaks summited: Habel (Rhondda North), 3087 m, North Ridge
peaks summited: Thompson, 3089 m, Southwest Face
We didn't make it out of the hut until around 8:00 am. From there we skied to the base of the north ridge of Habel and dropped our packs. The ski up the ridge went well. After skiing a short distance along the ridge we dropped our skis and followed the ridge on foot to the summit.
photo: descending the north ridge of Habel
By the time we began our descent from Habel the sun had warmed the snow just enough to provide us with a fantastic ski run (see the turns on the right).
photo: This is Habel as seen from Thompson. You can see our tracks from the beautiful descent. Just after we climbed Habel a party of five followed our tracks up.
On the way down we met the group of five who were following our tracks up. They had buried our packs in the snow to keep the ravens from eating our lunch. Upon reaching the packs (the guys had got there just in time and we only lost one granola bar) we deliberated about skiing up either Gordon or Thompson.

We decided to try for both (although we'd later run low on energy) and headed for Thompson. We met a pair from Alaska on splitboards and skied to the summit with them.

photo: Reid and one of the Alaskans arrive at the summit of Thompson.
The descent wasn't as fantastic as the run down Habel, partly due to the crunchier snow and the steep drops on either side which required some care.

After two summits, the sun started getting to us and we spent over half an hour sitting on our packs, sipping a few millilitres of water (since we each only had one litre for the day). The climb up to the Olive-St. Nicholas seemed long given the heat and dehydration and we opted not to ski up Gordon. Instead we zipped down the Vulture Glacier to the Balfour Hut.

photo: Mount Thompson as seen from the middle of the Wapta Icefield where we left our packs
While skiing down the Vulture Glacier we had great views of Mount Balfour and the ski route we would take the following morning up to the Balfour col.

At the hut were a guided group of three and another group of four. Reid and I enjoyed a leisurely five-course dinner with plenty of re-hydration before an early bedtime.

photo: the northeast face of Mount Balfour as seen from the Vulture Glacier
Day 3: Balfour Hut to Sherbrooke Lake
distance skied: 29.3 km
We were up at 5:30 am and out of the hut by 6:30 am. The guided group had left before us and we followed their tracks up the glacier. The morning snow was solid and it took just over two hours to the col.

From the col we skied down to have a look at the Trolltinder Glacier and the route up Mount Balfour. We'd skied too far and returned over the col to climb over a notch and back down to the Trolltinder Glacier. We skied a short distance along the glacier, dropped our skis, and kicked steps up to the east ridge of Balfour. After a short walk along the ridge, we realized we were off route, or so we thought. We descended back to our skis, at which point we met the group of four from the hut. They informed us we'd indeed be on the right route. Instead of reversing our steps and climbing back up we decided to head back to the Balfour col (which is too bad since it would have a great day to summit Balfour and we weren't so far from its summit).

photo: We descend from our highpoint on the east ridge of Balfour.
We skied down the mellow Waputik Icefields to near the Scott Duncan hut where we took another break. From here we followed the Sherbrooke Creek exit. Not being confident in the strength of the ice on Sherbrooke Lake, we skied along its western shore. The final trail down was icy and patchy snow. Reid skied all the way to the car while I carried my skis for the last few kilometres.
photo: Reid crosses a logjam at the south end of Sherbrooke Lake.
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