Thursday, 7 March 2013

Wapta 2013

Feb 22nd - 24th, Attempt of the mini-Wapta Traverse

Synopsis: 5 stars out of 5, a great stretch of above treeline skiing with new discoveries all made easier with huts.

A great plan was hatched, Steve had last been to the Bow Hut in 1988 and Marni hadn't been on the traverse in 25 years, D was lucky enough to go across 2 years ago and I hadn't been past the Olive/St Nick col.  We booked huts for the mini traverse, Bow, Balfour and Scott Duncan, prayed to the weather gods and made meal plans.

The four of us pulled into the closed Num-ti-jah Lodge parking lot just before 11 am after dropping a car off at the Great Divide Lodge.  After getting our gear organized and shouldering the pigs, wine is amazingly heavy, we were off across the lake at about 11:30.  Yes, one member of the team was in leather tele boots however I spent a good deal of the weekend trying to keep up!

The trail up to the Bow Hut was pretty packed which made for fast travel and we stopped at the end of the trees in a bit of shelter for lunch 1/2 way.  

Out of the trees the wind was definitely a factor however the visibility was pretty good and soon we could see Bow Hut up on the ridge.  In all it took us a little under 4 hours to gain the 530 metres to gain the hut and when we arrived there was a small crowd huddled around the fire, always nice to arrive at a warm hut!  

After getting all our stuff stowed in various place we headed out with Dave and Dexter from the hut for some turns.  Given we didn't head out the door until 4:15 pm we kept it to an hour and climbed above the hut for a run.  Snow was nice and light boot top powder with less wind effect than I expected however visibility was close to nil.  We played leap frog on the way down to keep our bearings and made it back to the hut without a major garage sale.

The next day dawned fairly clear and cool - around -12C - and we got organized for the trip to Balfour Hut.  Our party left the hut close to 10 am, looking forward to getting up on the glacier.  Given we felt the need to rope up at some point we pulled it out at the tongue and Steve lead us up the never ending slope towards St Nick.  

Visibility did come and go along with a bit of a breeze however we crossed the Olive/St Nick col just after noon after gaining just over 500 metres and the sun come out to greet us.

We had a few good turns after coming around the corner after the col and started down the shallow slope towards the hut.  We were very happy to pass a large party going the other way; it meant that the hut was likely empty (it was) and we had tracks to follow to speed things up on the flats on the way down.  

We arrived at the Balfour hut just after 2 pm, had a late lunch and headed out for a bit at 3:30.  Deanna and Steve hiked around the hut, checking out the views of Hector Lake.  Marni and I scoped a route up to the Balfour high col.  The weather was looking better and visibility on Balfour actually came in from time to time.

We spent a great evening with the hut all to ourselves.  The only glitch was the co2 alarm waking us up in both official languages, but an open window soon took care of that.  However during the night the wind really picked up and it was cool, about -15C in the morning.  With all the wind and no fireplace the hut wasn't warm. We woke up to seeing our breath, however Marni got up and made us all cafe mocha's to get things going.

Once we scraped the ice off the windows, we could see spotty visibility up to the high col however the wind was hammering.  It was one of those days you wanted a belay to the outhouse!

After a bit of humming and hawing we headed out into the teeth of it just before 10am and headed up Balfour.  Once we were out of the venturi, the wind wasn't bad however the visibility did start to go.  

We carried on for and hour and got to the point that we could see the final passage to the col.  It didn't look good and after a huddle with the usual discussion in situations like this, we turned around.

We got back to the Balfour hut at noon and after a quick lunch (glad we left some water) we headed back to Bow Hut.  Visibility wasn't bad until we got mid way up the Vulture glacier, then it got pretty soupy.  Fortunately we were able to use the moraine on the climbers right as a handrail and with a few huddles complete with map study and healthy debate, we crossed over towards the col at the right time and Deanna lead up to the Olive/St Nick col at 4:15 pm.

Once to the col the wind was absolutely honking, although the viz improved a bit.  We skooted across to the start of the descent to the Bow Hut however the wind continued.  At one point I skied ahead of the group and turned back to watch as their heads slowly appeared above the blowing snow.

Needless to say the ski quality left something to be desired and we were all very happy to land at the hut just after 5.  After a 1000 metre day with overnight packs it was a pleasure to find we had the Bow Hut all to ourselves.

We had a great night, quite a bit warmer than the previous one and woke once again to cafe mocha's.  After a leisurely morning we had a quick, largely uneventful ski down to the car.  

It was hard not to gloat as we passed 3 parties totally more than 25 on their way up to the Hut.

Great weekend, great place with great people!