Mount Balfour 3272 m
Wapta Icefield, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
click to enlarge photos
Mount Balfour, on Wapta Icefield, as seen from south of Mount Olive on the Wapta ski Traverse. Shown is route from Balfour hut to Balfour high col. The Wapta Traverse is a classic 45 km-long high level traverse along the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies. The route links several glaciers and icefields providing a fantastic multi-day (or long day) trip from Bow Lake to Wapta Lake at Trans-Canada Highway. A series of four Alpine Club of Canada huts provide accommodation enroute, and Mount Balfour, highest peak in the area is the prize of the trip. Click here for ACC hut booking info.
After skiing across Bow lake and up to Bow hut, skiers ascend glacier towards Mount Saint Nicholas ("Saint Nick") to cross the Mount Olive-Saint Nick col, which leads down to Balfour hut. Some people take much of the day just to reach Bow Hut. Fast skiers can do it in 3 hours even with a big pack; less with a day pack.
Below the ease side of Mount Balfour, heading for Balfour high col. This is a 2 hour uphill grunt from Balfour hut to the col. Crevasses are not usually a problem but are more visible the last few years than previously.
In March, 1991, when I had more energy than I do today, Andy and I pushed on past Bow and Balfour huts, almost right up to Balfour high col the first day. We tented there, nice and close to our ascent route up Mount Balfour. It took us 9 tiring hours from Bow Lake to here.
Traversing along a slope enroute to Balfour's summit, on a cloudless spring day. An ice-axe and crampons are necessary, as is good visibility.
Looking back on our ascent route, a long, snowy bench leads towards the summit. Mount Daly is in upper left of photo. Goodsir Peaks are at upper right. Had we carried our skis further beyond Balfour High col we could have saved time and effort by skiing along here. Instead, we trudged, postholed...and sweated.
Happily on top of Mount Balfour in the good old Canadian Rockies. Behind is our route up towards Balfour high col, then around on to ridge leading towards summit. Perfect weather like this is every skier's wish when attempting this peak.
Ice gargoyles along the ridge, close to the col. This was taken on return. On ascent, we left our skis above here, kicked steps down and walked to the top. We should have carried skis down here and then skied on further towards the peak. Time round trip from Balfour high col to top and back was about 3 hours, 2 hours of that on ascent.
After our ascent, we broke camp, hoisted packs and skied out to Trans Canada Highway, arriving in early evening. Here, we are skiing towards Mount Daly from the col. Initially you ski towards the peak, then angle right towards Mount Niles. Below Mt Niles, a bush/gully thrash ensues down to Sherbrooke Lake. Then you follow the summer hiking trail to the highway. This second day was also a long, tough day. Since good weather doesn't often last long around these glaciated areas, we were just happy to have hit such fine conditions for our ascent. Mount Daly, shown here, is a summer day trip (scramble) described in the popular guide book "Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies."
Sound interesting? Chic Scott's ski guidebook, Summits and Icefields describes this ski tour. Wondering about doing the 45 km/ 6500 ft elevation gain, Wapta traverse in one day, instead of 2,3 or 4? Click here for info about doing the One-day Wapta traverse.
© all photos copyright by the author 2001.
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