When the guides get wide-eyed, you know you’re in a special place. That’s exactly what happens on our third day on the Freshfield Icefield: after descending from our basecamp that morning, we round a ridge and ascend to an overlook. The view is an all-timer, with the Freshfield extending in a white sheet down the valley and jumbled, snowy peaks filling the skyline. None of our three guides from Yamnuska Mountain Adventures has been here before—unlike the popular Wapta Icefield to the south, the Freshfield is rarely visited—so this is all new to them, too. “I want my ashes scattered here,” one says.
It hadn’t always been smiles and sunshine on the Freshfield. Two days prior, a few hours after we helicoptered over an unending parade of peaks into our camp on the far western border of Banff National Park, a storm blew in. And not just any storm: This was an event, with 70-mph winds and blinding snow that kept us tentbound for a full night and day. The 11 of us huddled in our cook tent, chattering to keep our unease at bay as gust after gust rattled the shelter. What if our tents blow away? we worried. But also: This is awesome testing weather.
We awoke on day three to cloudless skies and an intact camp. (The only casualties were one partially collapsed tent and a few vestibules filled with snow.) The Freshfield was finally ready, and so were we.
We didn’t see another soul on the glacier for the next three days. What we did find was the perfect setting to pick the season’s best new gear. There’s something here for every type of winter adventurer. These 10 products are protective, warm, and light enough to handle anything that places like the Freshfield—beautiful and daunting all at once—can throw at you. And who knows? They just might help you find a place worthy of eternity. —Eli Bernstein