Backcountry skiers could soon have a new hut on Canada’s Wapta Traverse. And that hut, proposed by the Alpine Club of Canada, would expand skiable terrain while providing a unique link to the past.
When iconic Swiss mountain guide Conrad Kain made the first traverse of the Wapta Icefield in 1910, he did it on foot, hoofing it from Bow Lake to the Little Yoho Valley. But the modern Wapta Traverse, which straddles the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks, skips the Little Yoho in favor of the Waputik Icefield. The modern Wapta route, on the other hand, connects four Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) huts, each built in the late 1980s. Kain’s historic route—dubbed the Bow-Yoho Traverse—requires most parties to take a stove and tent to bridge the 16 miles of complicated terrain between huts. But that will change if the AAC gains approval for a new hut along Kain’s historic route.“Because the huts on the Wapta Traverse get smaller as you head south people tend to get bottlenecked,” explains Lawrence White, president of the ACC. “When it’s busy up there some parties can’t get the full experience.”
The new hut, which will sleep 16-18, will sit near the des Poilus Glacier between the biggest shelter on the Wapta Traverse, the 30-person Bow Hut, and Stanley Mitchell Hut, a historic cabin in the Little Yoho. “It’s an extraordinary area,” says White. “There’s a ton of terrain to explore nearby.”
The proposal has thus far avoided opposition. White says credit there is due to Parks Canada, user groups and environmental organizations collaboration on sighting the hut. Plus, visitation will be relegated to winter use to protect sensitive grizzly bear habitat.
“It’s a key piece in that system of huts, and it’s going to continue to provide outstanding wilderness experiences,” says Alex Kolesch, the manager of land use, policy and planning for Yoho National Park. “It’ll give people access to a large and really remarkable area with the glacier-clad mountains.”
The proposal now needs to pass the Environmental Assessment and public consultation phases. The ACC hopes to complete fundraising and start building by the summer of 2014, so it will be ready for use that winter.
For more information, visit accnewheights.ca.