Wapta the Wild Way

A tougher and more adventurous version of Canada's über-classic Wapta Icefield ski traverse.

Ski Touring Difficult

Also in Alberta, Canada

On the climb to the col between Mounts Niles and Daly
On the climb to the col between Mounts Niles and Daly Photo: Charlie Boscoe

Description

The Wapta Icefield is an utterly spectacular feature, surrounded by some of the most famous mountains in Canada. Crossing the Wapta in winter is one of the most celebrated ski mountaineering trips in North America, and is a rite of passage for ambitious ski tourers.

The easiest way through the Wapta is to start at Bow Lake and then cross to the Balfour Glacier before departing via Sherbrooke Lake, but the route we're describing here takes the tougher entry via Peyto Lake. It then detours to the remote Guy Hut, before climbing to a remote col on the west face of Mount Gordon and rejoins the "normal" route at the Balfour Hut. If you like a challenge and get lucky with the conditions, this is the Wapta at its finest!

We've described a 4 day traverse here, starting at Peyto Lake and staying at the Peyto, Guy and Balfour Huts before dropping out via Sherbrooke Lake (and an optional night at the Scott Duncan Hut). It's a classic ski tour, and our route makes it even better! All of the huts on the route must be booked in advance through the Alpine Club of Canada. If you don't get a booking for your dates then you'll have to camp! Please respect the Alpine Club rules and only use huts which you've pre-booked except in an emergency.

Elsewhere in FATMAP you'll find our selection of day tours from the Guy Hut (/discover/guidebook/86640), which is in a remote spot and therefore worth staying at for a few days. It's not really on the way to anywhere (unless you're doing the Bow Yoho Traverse and plan to cross Isolation Col) so we'd recommend spending at least 2 nights there and sampling a day tour or 2. One thing to note is that the hut is only open in winter, and is closed throughout the summer months - it lies in important grizzly bear territory and (seeing as it's so hard to access in summer) the Alpine Club of Canada decided to leave the area around it to the bears and keep it off limits to humans.

Happy Wapta-ing!

Routes included

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