The classic wapta traverse runs roughly north-south across the expanse of the Wapta and Waputik Icefields passing by four ACC huts along the way. This is the traditional route, starting at Peyto Lake and continuing over the glaciated spine of the Rocky Mountain Divide and finishing at Great Divide Lodge below Sherbrooke Lake.
For decades, the Wapta Traverse has had a legendary reputation as a paradise for ski mountaineering. Really, it has it all: an excellent hut system, perfect terrain for traverses, and easy access to excellent ski mountaineering objectives. The best time of the year is late March to late April when the snowpack is settled and you can still count on dry powder runs; this trip is right in that perfect window.
Our trip begins in Field where we’ll meet early Sunday morning and drive out to Peyto Lake. Shuttle drivers will accompany us and return our vehicles to Field where they will be waiting for us at trail’s end.
This itinerary is the Classic Wapta, beginning with a 2-night stopover at Peyto Hut which gives us more time to explore the incredible ski mountaineering available on the Waputik Icefield. We will then continue on to Bow & Balfour huts, up over the High Balfour Col to Scott Duncan hut, and exit via Sherbrooke Creek.
DATES: March 19-24, 2023 (WT23). Exact dates TBD; subject to change.
PRICE: $1995 CAD (About $1,555 USD / €1,475 / £1,237) + 5% GST.
DEPOSIT: 50% payment secures your booking. Balance of payment is due Dec 20, 2022. See Payment and Booking Conditions tab for details
INCLUDED: Guiding, Food, Hut fees, Parks Canada backcountry permits, shuttle service (to bring guest vehicles back to Field for the end of the trip), porter service (food will be waiting at the first hut), group equipment
NOT INCLUDED transportation to Field, vehicles for shuttle (bring your own or carpool), personal equipment
Getting to Field
Our trip starts and finishes in Field, BC. If you are flying, the nearest international airport is Calgary (YYC). The best way to get from Calgary to Field is to rent a car, especially if you are in a group of 2 or more persons. You will have to rent the car for the week, which seems like a waste but it ends up costing not much more than, or the same as, a return bus or shuttle fare from Calgary to Lake Louise. Then you need to figure out how to get to Field, and there still remains the problem of transport between Field and the trailheads at the start and finish of the trip.
We will meet after breakfast at Truffle Pigs Lodge at 8:00 am on Day 1. After a quick look through your equipment to make sure everything is in order we will distribute group equipment and hit the road.
Please be on time: However, if for some unforeseen reason you cannot make it, please give me a call or text ASAP, Tom Wolfe at 403-707-9996.
I look forward to spending the week together with you and exploring the amazing ski terrain that the Wapta Traverse has to offer!
Hut to hut traverse, carrying heavy packs (up to 20 kg / 45 lb)
Hut elevations are approximately 2200 m with 700 m vertical and covering 10-15 km/day on average (5 to 7 hrs travel).
Powder skiing and ski mountaineering
You need to bring all of the following personal equipment. Please don’t bring extra equipment. If you have any questions at all about gear please do not hesitate to contact us.
Ski crampons are a must for spring ski touring, and they can make a big difference even on a powder skiing week at times. If you have any difficulty obtaining these please let me know. We have some spares and can likely set you up with a pair. If you have telemark bindings, G3 crampons have an attachment system that works well for most tele bindings.
For specifics about the clothing and equipment, this illustrated equipment page might be helpful.
Ski mountaineering gear
- Skis, preferably with tech-style Alpine Touring (AT) bindings, 150-185 cm in length, wide (100 mm+ at waist) for powder skiing. Telemark, frame-style AT bindings, or splitboards are acceptable as well, please contact us if you plan to bring one or these alternate touring systems.
- Ski crampons (mandatory; order these well in advance of the trip start date as they can be hard to come by, especially late season)
- Climbing skins — check that the glue is fresh and sticky, especially along the edges
- Ski Poles with powder baskets
- Ski Boots
- Climbing harness (lightweight if possible)
- 2 x Locking carabiners, 2 x non-locking biners (optional)
- 1 x Prusik cord 5 metres long x 6 mm diameter
- 1 x 120 cm sewn sling (optional)
- Avalanche Transceiver – a modern digital unit
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe (240+ cm, not lightweight!)
- Avalanche Shovel (snow shovel designed for companion rescue with an extendible handle)
- Backpack – at least 65 L, large enough for sleeping bag, spare clothes, and your share of group food & equipment. If you are a small person then you can get by with 55 L
- Small emergency candle or small piece of glide wax (for skin icing)
- Don’t bring a small daypack. It’s not necessary and just makes your big pack heavier
- Personal-sized hand sanitizer (mandatory)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Water bottle — minimum 1 liter capacity, more if you don’t bring a thermos
- Thermos for Hot Drinks, approx 750 mL (optional)
- Sun block
- Lip cream
- Pocket knife and/or leatherman multi-tool (optional)
- Sleeping Bag — we recommend a three season bag rated between -7 to -9°C. Bring a lightweight compression stuff sac so you have room in your pack for other things.
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister and personal first-aid kit
- Camera (optional)
- Personal toilet items (keep to a bare minimum)
- 1 x Toilet paper roll
- Large stuff sack for carrying food
- Small container for your lunch
- Ear plugs for dorm sleeping (optional but recommended)
- Booties or sandals (Crocs work really well)
- Long wool or synthetic (e.g. polyester or polypropylene) underwear (top & bottom)
- Extra warm shirt (not cotton)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Soft shell or fleece jacket
- Soft shell pants
- Insulated jacket (down preferred)
- Fleece or synthetic insulated pants — lightweight for April, heavier for Jan-early March
- Waterproof jacket with hood — Gore-Tex or equivalent
- Waterproof pants — Gore-Tex or equivalent, with side zippers
- 3 pairs Wool or synthetic/blend socks
- Wool or fleece hat (“toque”)
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts
- Light weight ski gloves
- Neck tube or balaclava
- Sun hat
Your guide will bring all of the necessary group gear.
April is the best month to do the Rockies hut traverses. Early April is likely to be a bit cooler and have powder skiing even on the solar aspects. The Rockies has a thinner snowpack than the Selkirks or Coast mountains, but by April the snowpack tends to be robust and the crevasses well covered. Expect temperatures in the -10C to 0C range, but be prepared for lows as cold as -20C or highs up to +5C!
Day 1: Truffle Pigs Lodge, Field, British Columbia
Meet at 6:30 pm for dinner at the Truffle Pigs Lodge. Your meal and a night’s stay are included in your trip fees.
Day 2: Peyto Hut
8:00 am – Introductions followed by a quick equipment check and distribution of group gear and food. Be sure you have already eaten breakfast; lunch and the meals for the rest of the trip will be provided.
9:00 am – Drive to the trailhead at Peyto Lake. Shuttle drivers will accompany us to bring our vehicles back to the trail’s end.
10:00 – start skiing
17:00 – arrive at Peyto Hut where our food will be waiting for us, courtesy of our energetic portering staff.
The ski from Peyto Lake to Peyto Hut takes anywhere from 5 to 8 hours depending on conditions and group speed.
Day 3: Bow Hut
This is a large and popular hut, and a relatively short ski from Peyto Hut. With the rest of the day we’ll have a chance to tag a summt or do a loop tour.
Day 4: Balfour Hut
The ski over to Balfour Hut is spectacular and typically brings us up and over the Olive-St. Nicholas Col. A relaxing hot lunch stop at Balfour Hut is followed by an afternoon ski objective like laps on the Diablaret Glacier.
Day 5: Scott Duncan Hut
The trip over the Balfour High Col is usually the highlight and crux of the trip. We’ll ascend over heavily crevassed terrain adjacent the stunning serac-fringed east face of Mt. Balfour. After attaining the col, if conditions permit, an ascent of one of the nearby peaks like Lilliput or even Balfour’s South Face is possible.
Day 6: Trip Conclusion
All good things must come to an end. After a short run down from the Scott Duncan Hut it takes about 30 minutes of gentle climbing to come to the Shark’s Fin. From there it’s mostly downhill to get to the intersection of Niles and Sherbrooke Creeks where gurgling of spring snowmelt, birdsong, and the smell of spruce trees presents a sharp contrast with the alpine world we settled into during the trip. About five hours of travel in total brings us back to the cars which will be waiting for us courtesty of our shuttle staff! Expect to be back in Canmore for dinner time, by 18:00.
(Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA) has been guiding since moving to Canmore in 1995, the place he calls home with wife, son and daughter. He guides year around, with winters being a mix of ski guiding at lodges, heli-ski operations, and remote backcountry destinations throughout western Canada. He has been involved with the Alpine Club of Canada for over 20 years including running the summer Mountain Mentorship Program for the Toronto Section, and winter ski trips for the Vancouver Section. He has been invited as a speaker at the Vancouver Section’s November 27, 2019 — your chance to meet him in person! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Cell: (403) 707-9996