If you are using this information for your own trip, please read this disclaimer and description of my abilities.
A day on the Wapta Icefield with clear skies never disappoints.
Last winter, I headed up onto the Wapta Icefield via the Bow Hut approach twice, and never saw a thing. Travelling by GPS in a total whiteout kind of took away from the experience of being on a vast expanse of ice. And I’ve hiked up to the Wapta in good weather in the summer many times before (via both the Bow and Peyto glaciers), but had never had the experience of skiing up there in good weather. This past Sunday was my chance.
To access the Peyto Hut approach in winter, park at a parking lot on the left hand side of the highway just North of the major parking lot for Peyto Lake indicated on Hwy 93. The approach to the hut can be found in Chic Scott’s Summits and Icefields, so I’ll leave you to find a more thorough description there. We chose to get a fairly early start (7 am) with hopes of getting good snow on the glacier with minimal sinking. The forecast was calling for sunny skies and warm temperatures and the avalanche ratings were at ‘Considerable’ across the board. Still, by taking the approach to the right hand side of the canyon coming from Peyto Glacier, we were able to avoid some of the more exposed slopes.
With excellent coverage on the Peyto Glacier and minimal sinking, we reached the Peyto Hut 4.5 hours (and 10 km) after embarking, where we enjoyed a hot pot of tea and a tremendous view looking out on the ocean of ice and peaks. This is one of my favourite places on the planet. Looking out on the Wapta Icefield sipping a cup of tea in a hut is a juxtaposition seldomly found anywhere else. It is in times like these that I am so thankful for The Alpine Club of Canada that maintains these huts and of which I am a proud member.
After a quick lunch we took off towards the Bow Hut side of the Wapta, reaching the crest of the Wapta where you can see Mounts Rhonnda, Baker, Trapper, Peyto on one side and Saint Nicholas, Portal, Thompson, Crowfoot, and Olive on the other – spectacular. The sun was intense, but a cool wind provided much needed relief from the heat from time to time. We turned around upon reaching the halfway point to Bow Hut, knowing we had a long journey back to the car. It was a swift ride down the glacier with bomb-proof coverage of the crevasses below and a hard surface to glide on.
Both Paul and I were guessing at the time all day after forgetting our watches, so we thought we arrived back at the car around 5:30pm, tired and drained from a day out in the sun and wind. We were surprised, then, when we started the car and found out it was after 8pm. A day of skiing will do that to you. It was more than 13 hours later, and we didn’t mind at all.
© Meghan J. Ward, 2010.