Wapta Traverse Trip Report from April 9-13th and Updated Glacier Coverage
Wapta Traverse, Rockies, Canada Little Yoho
Michael Shynkaryk , Saturday 15th April, 2023 7:15AM
We just finished a classic Wapta ski traverse from Peyto Lake to Sherbrooke Lake April 9-13, 2023.
We begun the trip at the start of the most recent Southwest (SW) flow storm that delivered up to 50 cm HST; measured at Balfour Glacier at 2900 m on April 12th.
The first three days, we had whiteout to moments of visibility travel conditions, with seasonably mild temperatures, snow falling rate of 1 cm an hour at times, and moderate to extreme SW winds.
After spending a stormy night at Peyto Hut, we skied the classic approach from Peyto Hut to Bow Hut and summited Onion Peak on the way on second day. Third day we skied below Bow Hut, Little Crowfoot Trees and traversed Balfour Hut via Vulture Glacier from the col between St. Nicholas and Mt. Olive North Peaks.
For the final two days, we had sunny to broken skies, calm to light winds, and near or above freezing temperatures (inversion) travel conditions for Balfour Hut to Balfour Col, to Lilliput Mtn, to Scott Duncan Hut and finally Sherbrooke Lake trailhead.
We skied out the Schiesser-Lomas route from Scott Duncan Hut to Sherbrook Lake and early in the day. Snow conditions were poor due to an un-skiable breakable crust caused by temperature inversion on April 12th but found pockets of dry powder on north aspects, in the trees, and below 2000 m.
We saw evidence of a widespread avalanche cycle which occurred after the storm on April 12th and 13th. The aftermath displayed a myriad of slab, dry loose, and wet loose out avalanches out of steep and often rocky alpine terrain in the size 1-2 range. Notable Na Size 2 slab avalanche observed within 24 hours on Mt. Daly and crossed the approach to Scott Duncan Hut. Many of these appeared to have been triggered by recent loading and strong solar.
Additionally, numerous natural strom slab and deep persistent slab avalanches up to size 3.5 were observed on HWY 93 North, on April 14th (+/-12-24 hours), and on the drive back to Peyto Lake Parking Lot.
As mentioned in an MCR report from March 14-19th by Mountain Guide (MG) David Lussier, ”not surprising, the coverage on glaciers was much thinner than normal. We 're'measured the below average values with a probe all along the classic itinerary mainly to get a sense of distribution:”
• Location: April 9-13th Observations. [March 14-19th Observations].
• Toe of Peyto Glacier: 90 cm. [90cm].
• 2400m on Peyto Glacier: 140cm. [140 cm].
• 2700m on top of the Bow glacier: 190cm. [180cm].
• 2900m on mount Gordon: Not Measured. [200cm].
• Vulture glacier: 180 cm. [160cm].
• Toe Balfour Glacier: 180 cm. [160cm].
• Balfour high col and crux: 210 cm. [180cm].
• Waputik and Daily Glacier: >240 cm. [>240cm].
• Sherbrooke Lake elevation: Not measured. [140cm].
Crevasses were open, bridged or thinly covered with recent HST on Balfour Glacier. Started early in the day, careful route finding was required, roped up uphill travel, deep trail breaking, approached high col from the north end, traveled below mid slope crevasses to avoid overhead hazard, and gained elevation near the Nunatak. See route details in Summit & Icefields Map – Wapta Icefields & Bow Summit by Mark Klassen, TJ Neault, and Chic Scott.
Overall, a good ski traverse with some notable slightly deeper snowpack on glaciers since mid-March, poor to good weather conditions, roped up often to manage crevasse hazard, careful route finding to avoid avalanche and crevasse hazard as reasonable as possible.
Source: Mountain Conditions