A Wapta Whiteout
Canadians call it clag. Fortunately for Coloradans, a high treeline and lack of glaciers prevent whiteout conditions from being an issue much of the time. But on a recent trip to the Icefields in the Canadian Rockies, we got a good taste of what claggy weather is all about.
For the first part of our Canadian spring ski trip, Sean and I completed what’s known as the Wapta Traverse. There are a couple of different ways to do this sort of Canadian “Haute Route.” Variations exist for both the start and finish, you can stay at as many as five different huts in the area, and there are a bunch of side trips and peak climbs to keep you busy as you go.
The route we completed began at Bow Lake on the Icefields Parkway and took us to the Bow, Balfour, and Scott Duncan huts. We stayed at the last one for two nights and eventually finished at the West Louise Lodge via Sherbrooke Lake. When it was all over, we traveled 26 miles in five days. If that sounds like a light amount of ground to cover over that much time, it is. But this was, after all, a vacation for us.
So it was five days out on the Wapta, with many of them in full-clag conditions. The visibility was so poor at times that we were forced to navigate by GPS and map, unable to tell if we were above crevasses or even moving at all. Despite the conditions, which also weren’t too conducive to exciting skiing or scenic views, we did manage to have a really good time, and even got a few photos along the way.
I’d recommend this trip highly. The vertical isn’t massive, nor is the mileage, but with a heavy pack and some weather, you’ll definitely feel like you’re putting in some effort. It’s a whole lot easier to get to and considerably cheaper than its European equivalents, i.e. the Haute Route, Ortler, or Berner Oberland. And if you’re dealing with limited time, it would be reasonable to pull off in as quick as a four-day weekend, in fact the new generation of skimo racers do the whole Peyto Lake to finish in about 8 hours total. Give ‘er.