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post #1 of (permalink) Old 12-06-2012, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Chilliwack, BC, Canada.
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Default Wapta Traverse

Has anyone done the Wapta Traverse unguided? Is route finding an issue?
Is this trip possible during the Christmas Holidays or is it best left to spring?
I'm really interested in doing this trip, I just don't want to spend two grand on a guided trip...thoughts...opinions...?
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 12-06-2012, 06:24 PM
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You should be capable of navigating on a glacier in total white-out conditions. You don't want to goof and ski off Bow Falls (some folks have come pretty close) as the down slope is sometimes mistaken for the descent to the Bow Hut. You can handrail without too much difficulty to the Balfour Hut. Navigating over the Balfour High Col should not be done in poor/zero vis unless you know exactly where you're going. There are numerous crevasses and other hazards on that section. The descent to Scott Duncan can also be a little challenging, so again, knowing how to navigate in zero vis is essential. Past the Scott Duncan, route finding isn't too hard, but you should be on your game with regards to avy hazard. Some of the slopes between the hut and the lake can be dangerous.

It's not a difficult traverse compared to others, being that each day brings you to a hut, the distances are pretty short, and there are usually lots of other folks around. But, the weather can go to crap in minutes, so as I noted, being adept with map/compass and white-out nav techniques is key.

The days are really short over Christmas, so I'd not be sitting in a hut during daylight, using it instead for moving. It can also be ruddy cold, so go prepared for very cold temps. I have no idea of what the snowpack looks like on the Wapta so far (no MCR reports) so unless some good beta comes along, be prepared to spend lots of time roped and watchful for crevasses.

I'm going again in February, which will be my first winter trip over it. I prefer the long days, warmer temps and deep snow of the spring. It's great to be able to ski unroped with decent confidence.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 12-06-2012, 07:17 PM
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In clear weather, you just follow the beaten track. It will be very, very obvious where to go. In poor visibility, everything said above applies.

The hardest day I've ever put in ski touring was going from the Bow Hut to the Scott Duncan in a day, skipping our planned night at the Balfour, to get over the Balfour Col before an incoming weather system settled in. We were a group of four, and had to break trail through shin to knee deep snow all the way from the Balfour hut to Scott Duncan (including downhill after the col, we couldn't even make turns in the deep snow). We were absolutely beat by the time we got to Scott Duncan.

I think you would be very lucky to find any available bunks at the huts over the Christmas holidays. They get booked up pretty far in advance. I'd recommend booking now for a spring trip.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 12-08-2012, 01:18 AM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by CHWKHIKER

Has anyone done the Wapta Traverse unguided? Is route finding an issue?
Is this trip possible during the Christmas Holidays or is it best left to spring?
I'm really interested in doing this trip, I just don't want to spend two grand on a guided trip...thoughts...opinions...?
Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, can't blame you for not wanting to lay out two grand.

Maybe get some experience first, join the ACC or similar club, they often run a Wapta traverse as a club trip. If you aren't that experienced spring would be better - longer days, more stable snow pack, crevasses better bridged, better weather.

It's easy to do day trips up the Wapta and that will give you at least a feel for the terrain. Ski in via Bow, Peyto or up from Sherbrook Lake, climb a few peaks, get some miles under your belt.
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 01:18 PM
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Quote:
quote:Originally posted by CHWKHIKER

Has anyone done the Wapta Traverse unguided? Is route finding an issue?
Is this trip possible during the Christmas Holidays or is it best left to spring?
I'm really interested in doing this trip, I just don't want to spend two grand on a guided trip...thoughts...opinions...?
Agree with everything everyone's said so far. I've been on the Wapta numerous times (usually after January to allow the snow cover to build) and am in the Bow Hut next Friday night so I can report conditions but this will be too late for you. We booked 6 hut spots for the 21st late last week but that may be your biggest challenge, no matter when you're going!

If you're planning to do this trip with people who haven't even day tripped the Wapta in variable conditions from various approaches here are the areas of most navigation problems (assuming no tracks because it's pretty dumb to assume you're going to have them - I've seen the tracks of the guy 30 feet in front of me disappear before I get to them!!);
  • Peyto Glacier - finding a route over the moraine is tricky for first-timers and downright dangerous if you get in the alternate drainage in almost any avy conditions. This is true even if the weather is clear and sunny
  • Finding Peyto Hut without going over (or into!) the crevasse field guarding it's north flank - don't cut climber's left too fast after getting up the headwall!
  • Finding the Bow Hut with whiteout conditions
  • Getting up the St. Nick / Olive col in a whiteout
  • Finding Balfour Hut (hey - it's pretty small in a whiteout!!
  • Getting up to the Balfour High Col - in clear or whiteout conditions it can be tricky deciding whether to brave avy hazard off the east face or crevasse hazard.
  • Getting to the Scott Duncan Hut in a whiteout could be tricky.

Not trying to sound ominous but there's a reason it's a 2k guided trip - those of us who are lucky to live close by have spent well over 2k in gasoline and hut fees over the years to learn the routes!
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 12-11-2012, 09:32 PM
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quote:Originally posted by vern.dewit[list][*]Peyto Glacier - finding a route over the moraine is tricky for first-timers and downright dangerous if you get in the alternate drainage in almost any avy conditions. This is true even if the weather is clear and sunny
That's so true. People are always exiting too early from the moraine crest and getting caught in dodgy terrain and/or getting hit by slides.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 12-14-2012, 09:49 PM Thread Starter
Scaling New Heights
 
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Thanks guys...very helpful advice! I am a member of ACC...just haven't done any of their trips yet...don't think I'll attempt this one independently...need to get some experience. That being said...is anyone doing the Neve Traverse during the Christmas Holidays...thats also been on my hitlist!!!
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 12-15-2012, 11:46 AM
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Route finding is an issue. Do a weekend trip to the Bow Hut and in clear weather, ski to the summit of Mount Gordon. That will give you a good viewpoint of the lay of the land on the Wapta. If you also scale Mount Olive that will give you good views of the route from the Olive-St Nick col to the Balfour Hut. You will also get complete views of the route to the Balfour High Col which will lead you to understand why folks recommend against trying that portion of the route in a whiteout.
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