The cold classic Wapta
Four friends and I completed the Classic Wapta traverse last week (saturday to tuesday). We did very few side trips unfortunately as it was cold and windy a lot of the time. Check out the pictures and descriptions below for more info.
As we left Lake Louise on Saturday morning it was snowing lightly. Starting across Bow Lake the weather cleared and we had some good views looking towards our destination. The lake was still totally frozen and we had no trouble crossing it.
Due to warmer than expected temperatures and a slightly later than planned start we moved quickly up through the canyon. In this narrower section the sides were covered with old slide debris but there was no new activity while we were in the area.
Continuing up towards the hut we stopped for lunch in the trees, enjoyed the warm weather and gave our feet a chance to dry out in the name of blister prevention before the last climb to the hut. Once we got to the hut we spent a few hours doing crevasse rescue practice, focussing on building strong anchors. The skiing on the tow of the glacier looked like fun, unfortunately we ran out of time before the weather socked back in and the wind picked up.
On day two we woke to -15 and flat light. Although we had made our white out plan the night before we luckily didn't have to resort to using it.
As we rounded St. Nic and headed towards to Nic/Olive cul the winds were really strong. Probing in this area also showed less than a meter of snow in places so we were happy with our decision to skin with the rope on.
Although the light was much better as we crossed the cul the strong winds and our cold fingers stopped us from climbing Olive. We headed around and took off the rope for an enjoyable ski down to the Balfour hut.
We were able to get a look at the next day's objective. We were happy to see that someone had put a track in exactly where we were planning on going (the lower route). Looking at the crevasses and ceracs I was definately feeling intimidated and was happy to have two really knowledgable members in our group.
After enjoying a late lunch in the hut we headed over to the Diaberlet glacier. Unfortunately the wind really picked up again and the light was becoming really flat so after a look down into Yoho we headed back to the hut to warm up and rest for our early morning the next day.
With adequate light and a track to follow (yeah minimal trail breaking) with headed out on day three in -15 with cold winds.
Moving quickly and feeling really small we continued up towards the Balfour cul. We were fortunate to make it through the real crux with good light and with all the ceracs staying in the place. As we headed over the cul the winds were super strong and cold. One party decided to take the rope off while the other pary decided it was too cold to think straight let alone deal with ropes. As we continued across the glacier on the skiiers right we probed over three meters of snow in several spots. Unfortunately the light turned really flat and the unroped party stopped to put their rope back on. We didn't take any pictures during this part of the day as it was simply too cold. As we did the final short acsent to the hut we took the ropes off to cross the steep slope to the hut. We were happy to escape the wind inside the Scott Duncan hut and joked about setting up a safetly line to belay each other to the outhouse! Being older than the other huts, the Scott Duncan hut is not well sealed and, therefore, not very warm. We made ourselves hot water bottles and spend the rest of the afternoon playing dice games in our sleeping bags.
On the fourth day we didn't even measure the temperature as we were scared to know. It was definately around -20 before wind. Luckily the wind died down as soon as we got on the glacier and we had a beautiful skin towards Mt. Niles.
We decided to take the lower route from Mt. Niles down to Sherbrooke Lake. As a group we decided that next time it may be better to take the upper route (although none of us have done it so don't know for sure) as this way is very commiting and if something does go wrong you are struck in a very definate terrain trap. We weren't worried about natural avalanches but it was still an intimidating place.
As we headed out onto Sherbrooke Lake we were happy to have some warmer temperatures and be out of the wind! We had great views across the valley.
Looking back the way we came! Happy to be warm but sad that the trip was over we made the quick descent down to the Great Divide Lodge and walked up to get our car at the truck pull out (parking is temporarily closed at the Great Divide Lodge). After driving up the parkway to get the second car, we headed into Lake Louise to grab and burger and a beer. We all finished the trip feeling very grateful to have been safe and to live in such an amazing place!