4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
Longer and tougher than the Bow Lake entry to the Wapta Icefield, the Peyto Lake approach is the wild way to start the Wapta traverse.
Taking this line also makes the trip more aesthetic because it makes the traverse much more north-south than the Bow Lake route, which enters the Icefield side on. The first part of the day - accessing Peyto Lake from the Icefields Parkway - is the technical crux because it involves some steep, tight and awkward tree skiing.
There's no easy way to get down to Peyto Lake so just accept that it's all going to get a bit rowdy, get it done, and then get on with the day. Cross the lake and soak in the wild ambience and huge views up towards the peaks of the Wapta Icefield.
At the far end of the lake there are some rivers to cross, several of which might require you to take skis off and walk, depending on snow levels.
Getting your boots wet at this early stage of a trip would be pretty disastrous, so take care on the river crossings! As the valley south of the lake begins to tighten you need to access a blunt ridge up to the right.
We've shown a way onto it which doesn't involve skinning up any super steep terrain, but conditions might dictate that you take a slightly different line to one we've shown.
Once on the ridge, skin up on the ridge crest and in a series of small bowls just to the right to reach a headwall which is too steep to skin.
Put your skis on your back and bootpack up and around the left hand side of the ridge to reach a gentle slope which leads across to a glaciology hut.
The hut is firmly locked up and can't be accessed so don't count on it to provide any shelter beyond cutting out the worst of the wind. Ski down from the glaciology hut to the toe of the Peyto Glacier and then climb it to the Peyto Hut.
After a long and winding ascent, the hut is a welcome sight and it's a traditional hut with a wonderful view.
18 people can fit in the hut (although it's a tight squeeze if there are more than 12) and there are mattresses and stoves but no blankets.
The hut must be booked in advance via the Alpine Club of Canada.