Go Hut to Hut on Glaciers in the Canadian Rockies
Looking for a family vacation no one will ever forget? Follow photographer Kennan Harvey's lead and take the kids on the Wapta Traverse, a tour of the best that a Rocky Mountain winter has to offer. He recounts the trip in his own words.
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Roan Harvey, 13, takes a polar bear plunge in Rampart Creek after heating up in the wood fired sauna at the Rampart Creek Hostel the night before beginning the first day ski into the Bow Hut. Sailor, 14, and Nan wait their turn with freezing feet and steaming skin.
After a week of radically warm temperatures, which ruined the skiing and turned the snowpack into hard ice, conditions were looking up for Nan, Sailor and Roan as they approached the welcome comfort of the Bow Hut after a hard uphill day one. A fast moving cold front deposited 5 inches of fluffy snow during the day which, followed by several days of cold temps, provided what a local guide called, “The best skiing conditions he had ever seen.”
The crew explores an ice cave at the snout of the Wapta Icefield just above the Bow Hut. Roan and Sailor marveled at running their hands over the blue smoothness of “ancient time.” Climate change was obvious as we ascended a 200 foot steep moraine on the final approach to the Peyto Hut later that same day which graphically marked the amount of glacier recession since my last visit 13 years prior.
The group reached the wide plateau between the Bow Hut and the Peyto Hut, roped up for glacier travel and not missing their cell phones at all. A few days later Roan borrowed my phone for some photos and left it at our lunch spot. Hustling back to retrieve it I found only ravens lurking and laughing.
Pictured: The view from Mount Rhondda, overlooking the vastness of the Wapta Icefield and Ayesha Peak. Roan and Sailor paused at along this precipice for quite a spell taking selfies, soaking up the vastness and feeling proud of reaching the highpoint of the trip.
Looking northward along the spine of the Canadian Rockies towards first light on Peyto Peak from the Peyto Hut on a frigid morning.
A massive icefall calves off Mount Rhondda, most likely triggered by a ski guide descending a slope just to the left at the same moment. The debris spread out a quarter mile across the flat slope below and came precariously close to my vantage point after I had skied ahead of the group for a photo perspective. A powerful reminder that the mountains always win
Two miles of perfect low-angle powder between Mount Rhondda and the Peyto Hut was our “rest day” reward for an early morning excursion.
Popcorn, cards and maps provide afternoon comfort in the window nook of the Peyto Hut, considered by many the prettiest hut of them all. Later that afternoon Roan and Sailor played ukulele and sang together on the porch outside and that evening after supper came back out on the deck to pick out constellations twinkling above the cold alpine landscape.
Nan Cresto fills snow buckets in the evening twilight outside the Peyto Hut to melt on the propane stoves inside before meal prep.
The Wapta Traverse is a 4- or 5-day ski traverse utilizing Canadian Alpine Huts that follows the north-south backbone of the Rockies where they separate Alberta from British Columbia. More recently, the construction of a new hut has led to the development of an east-west traverse called the Bow Yoho Traverse. This is a popular area for first time backcountry adventurers and guided groups, and in the summer for glacier hikes and non-technical summits. Huts need to be reserved far in advance to complete the traverse. Parks Canada does require parents to accompany their kids if guides are involved. Reserve Huts through the Alpine Club of Canada.