Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wapta Traverse, Part 2

Ok, so I have been a slacker with part 2, but that is because I got to the coast of BC and the weather went splitter for 36 hours...so I rallied a crew and we punched the Garibaldi Neve Traverse in a day. Oh well, like any good mountain person, responsibilities get thrown out the window for fun. But here is part two, with another post to come about the Neve Traverse!

The next day dawned cold with an arctic haze. When it gets to be below zero farenheit, any moisture in the air tends to freeze pretty quickly, and today was no exception. With a low of around -30 celsius there was no rush on getting out the door. At those temps your skins and ski wax don't really work that well.

We spent the morning brushing up on the essential skills for the terrain we were travelling in. Avalanche and crevasse rescue in and near the Peyto Hut was definitely in order. Everyone needs to review their rope systems and knots from time to time, and there was no better excuse to wait for it to warm up then practicing essential skills!

Knot Practice at Peyto Hut

Finally, around midday we mustered up the courage to brave the cold and headed for a day trip up the north summit of Mt. Rhondda. Sitting across the glacier from the hut, it is an easy day trip, with about 2,000' of elevation gain up glaciers all the way to the summit ridge. The cool thing about the summit ridge is that it is the continental divide, at roughly 10,500', as well as the border of BC and Alberta, and on a good day the views are amazing.

Up and Down Mount Rhondda

We retreated back to the warmth of the hut, and got ready for the 8km traverse over to the Bow Hut for the next 2 days. This is a pretty simple leg that takes you up about 600 vertical feet to the broad col between 2 summits and then down the Bow Glacier to the Bow Hut. You spend virtually your entire time on the glacier, just getting off to basically go to the hut. The nice thing about the Bow Hut is that it is fairly popular (meaning social) and stocked with fire wood, so you actually have quite the warm and cozy atmosphere there.

Skiing down to the Bow Hut

We settled in for 2 nights, with the plan for the next day being a day trip to the summits of Mt. Gordon and possibly St. Nicolas. Things were starting to warm up, and overnight the temps only dipped down to the mid -20s celsius. Inspired by our new found warmth we got ready for a great day of ski mountaineering...

Part 3 on Monday!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Wapta Traverse, Part 1

Last week I was fortunate enough to guide the Wapta Traverse for the Alpine Club of Canada. If you haven't heard of the Wapta Traverse, it is by far the most classic ski mountaineering traverse in North America, and I would say it is our version of the famous Haute Route in Europe. The traverse can take parties anywhere from a day(the super-humans), to an average 4 days, or a leisurely 5-7. The longer you take on the traverse, the more time you have to summit numerous peaks enroute.

The route starts via the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta, where you climb up from the 'highway' (it is a loose term for a 2 lane road that is barely plowed in winter!) to the continental divide, where a high plateau of interconnected ice fields and glaciers weaves its way back down to the trans-canada highway. You average about 7-10km of travel a day, with about 2-4 thousand vertical feet to get from hut to hut.

We were going for the classic Wapta Traverse, which starts via Peyto Hut. Upon starting our journey, the weather forecast was looking frighteningly cold. I don't mean chilly, I mean forecasted daytime highs of -25c and lows of -35c. For those of you on the farenheit scale, -40 is where both celsius and farenheit are the same. These temps are with out wind chill. COLD.

So of course it all starts with some gear sorting andpacking, making sure we have the essentials. We met in Lake Louise the night before and divided the group gear and checked our equipment to make sure we had it all.

Gear Packing in the Lake Louise Hostel

There are a few key essentials to remember about this trip. First is that it is glaciated, so we need to carry harnesses, ropes, and ice axes as well as the necessary crevasse rescue gear. Second is that it is a hut trip, so we don't have to carry too much excess stuff, and can try and go with lighter packs! Stoves, cooking utensils and foam mattresses are all provided, so basically food, spare clothes, sleeping bag and down booties are all you really need to add to your day pack. Don't get me wrong, the food weight adds up, but it is a lot easier than carrying a stove and tent!

The next morning we began our journey at Peyto Lake with our 10km and 2,000' slow climb to the hut.
Skiing across Peyto Lake.

We spent about 5 hours making the journey into Peyto Hut and settled in for a cold cold week on the Wapta...

Part 2 tomorrow!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

March Powder

Just a quick post with some photos from a week ago. March has meant the return to snowstorms on quite a regular basis. Someone the other day mentioned to Dale that in the Columbia Basin, the snow pack is estimated at 70% of normal. Well, we both agreed that with 2-3m on the ground here right now it is pretty much an average winter. Just goes to show you the magic of the Valhallas...the snow just keeps coming.

Speaking of the snow, check out these shots...

Chris, another satisfied customer!

Storm shots...Graham getting some.

Marta getting some pow before heading back east

We even got some sun...and powder in Shannon.

Friday, March 6, 2009

End of the Good Stability

Well, the snow is back here in full force. Yesterday saw 50cms of new snow, and day time highs of -10c. You know what that means...COLD SMOKE. Best powder day of the season for sure, I skied 8,000' vert with most of the group, spending the day in the white room. Photos to come.

For now, here is a video from the end of the bomber stability high pressure two weeks ago.