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On April 27th we loaded up the truck and hit the road headed for Canmore in the Rockies with the objective of completing one of the most classic ski tour traverses in Canada. The Wapta traverse is a breathtaking journey across the Wapta and Waputik ice fields, which continually offers breathtaking views, glacier powder ski/board runs, and a number of secondary mountaineering objects along the way.
We started our trip skinning across Peyto Lake heading for the Peyto glacier. This section of the trip is fairly straightforward route finding in good visibility, however as we quickly came to discover, it can be quite difficult in white out conditions. From the toe of Peyto glacier it is a short ski up moderately steep terrain to the cozy Peyto hut. This traverse can thank much of its popularity to the isolated alpine huts that make it possible to break up the trip, carry less overnight gear and get out of the weather if need be.
A short jaunt up the Peyto glacier brings you to the start of the Wapta ice field, were there is the option of either skiing down to bow hut or crossing the ice field and continuing on to Balfour hut. We chose to ski the legendary 300m Bow headwall, a gradually steepening glaciated powder run that takes you all the way to the hut. The crux of the trip starts from here, the traverse from Bow hut to Balfour should not be attempted in bad visibility due to heavily crevassed terrain and the fact that the route follows a moraine that will be hard to find without a map and compass.
From the Balfour hut you ascend to the Balfour high col, this is the most exposed section of the traverse due to overhanging seracs, steep slopes, and a section of very large crevasses. From the last hut (Scott Duncan) we decided take to the Hector glacier exit point, a quick ski from Scott Duncan to the top of the Hector Glacier and its all down hill from there. We rode and skied almost all the way to the shores of Hector Lake; powder turns being a great way to finish off a fantastic trip.
All in all the we had a great time on the Wapta traverse and its clear to see why this piece of Canadian back country is heralded as a must do trip in the ski-mountaineering community. I highly recommend this super classic trip to any ski mountaineer who is looking for a great way to spend a few days. If you have any questions about the logistics behind doing The Wapta traverse feel free to stop by the shop for a chat.