The Wapta

April 08, 2006April 9, 2006| (37km, ~2000m) |
participants: mike warren / brad cooke / florian jungen /

[Some photos from Florian starting here at Flickr and a googlemap of the route.]

Starting early from Florian's place, we grabbed a delicious appetite suppressant at Beano and tootled out to the parking lot at Bow Lake. We arrived pretty early (by our standard) and groggily suited up and shouldered our packs.

The thought of doing the traverse in a day had been discussed, but in case the weather gods frowned upon us, we had brought a couple pounds of food and a sleeping bag each to take high advantage of the ACC huts liberally sprinkled across the Wapta icefields. (As usual, I also had my Sil tarp in case things went really sideways.)

We motored up the gully to Bow Hut and went in to have a quick bite and fill our bottles. Little did we know that some sort of joint CMC/ACC meet-up was going on and our progress had been lazily monitored from the deck of Bow. Mike Mortimer assigned himself to come over and "check us out" as we lunched and tried to use the Sport Pipe on the back deck: his concern was that perhaps we hadn't booked ahead to use Bow hut...?

Of course, we hadn't — nor any of the other huts. Luckily, a party of three which we passed came out and said there was room for at least 3 at Belfour, which is where we'd be stuck if the sun kept up. We assured Mike we'd be moving on shortly (i.e. as soon as he left us alone for a few minutes).

Cruising up the pre-made track onto the Wapta proper, we passed the usual hordes (Bow Hut holds about 30 people and is usually full) via Brad's preferred "direct" method of ascent. Some brief discussion of knocking off St. Nick and/or Olive while we were at the col concluded that the Wapta-in-a-day was a better objective and we'd best get on down to Belfour if that was to be a possibility.

We enjoyed some pretty splendid turns down the glacier, making big, lazy Esses on the softening crust nearly right to the front door of Belfour by about 1pm.

The plan was to re-energize Florian and ourselves with some soup and then see how conditions up towards Belfour Col were shaping up. A couple of guys (Blair and partner) were just heading out to kill the afternoon doing some turns.

Our idea that the Wapta brings out the weirdos was again confirmed by the rest of the hut-occupants.

The sun kept shining and didn't make the seracs or snow look any more stable, so by mid-afternoon we'd decided to stay put until the morning. Brad unsuccessfully tried to convince one of the other larger parties that spending a couple hours traversing under all the corninces and seracs you could possibly find on this side of Belfour — their planned route for the morning — was a bad idea. He failed.

None of us heard our alarm for 4am, but Blair and his friend were getting up and Florian luckily thought they were Brad and I, so he woke us up. It wasn't very cold out, pretty cloudy and was trying desperately to snow. We decided to go up and have a peek anyway and see if the weather didn't improve, so powered down some tea and porridge and were on our way. We chose the direct way up the ramp and enjoyed pretty good visibility until we were above the icefall. The clouds started closing in as we made our way towards what we figured was the col. Luckily, our compass bearings worked out and we made it down towards the Bath Glacier exit through variable visibility and stopped in to check out Scott Duncan hut and take a lunch break.

Some tea was a good stress-relief (it turns out Scott Duncan is also now equipped with propane) as we'd had a few disagreements about which way to go over the col. The two guys from yesterday appeared to be heading up for some tea, also, but apparently decided to just go for the exit.

The rest of the trip out was straightforward and pretty enjoyable, despite the sloppy conditions low-down. Traversing out of the clouds and towards the head of Sherebrooke Creek gave us some great views down the valley and a few good turns. We caught up with the other two somewhere near the lake, where they offered us a ride back up to the start (thanks again, guys!) after the slush-and-windfall battle through the trees to the trailhead. Brief terror was felt skiing over the slush and water on top of the lake...

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