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Topic "St. Nicholas - Wapta (1 of 1)" started by Dave Stephens on Feb-17-2003

Topic: St. Nicholas - Wapta (1 of 1)
Author: Dave Stephens
Date: Monday, February 17, 2003 11:16 AM

St. Nicholas.

On Saturday, 15 Feb 03, I hooked up with Blair Piggot for some exercise. Blair was spending the weekend in Goldon, so the plan was to meet in Lake Louise at 0630, go up to the Wapta, and bag something up there. Mt. Gordon was the primary objective because of the fantastic ski descent.

So, at 0330, I left the ever so sleepy town of Strathmore, and headed to Louise. I arrived at Laggans on the early side, ate a good breakfast, and met Blair. We had some coffee, made idle chit-chat, piled into the truck, and headed to Bow Lake. No surprise here, we were the first one's in the Bow Lake parking lot. We geared up, and by 0745, we were heading out across the lake.

Toward the end of the lake, the skiing got 'interesting'. There was absolutely no snow on top of the ice. I've seen hockey rinks with more snow on them. I honestly think there was less snow now then when I had been up there six weeks ago. Once off the skating rink we call Bow Lake, we headed into the trees, over the hump, into the canyon and on up to Bow Hut. We arrived at the hut at 1015, and had the place to ourselves. We quickly boiled some water and refilled our bottles. This is the nice thing about having the hut right there. You only have to carry one liter of water.

We left the hut at 1045, and the clouds and wind were starting to pick up. We knew the high pressure ridge that had been dominating the weather lately was suppose to breakdown today, but I was hoping it would be in the afternoon. We headed up the Bow Hut slopes and onto the Wapta. The winds were strong and the clouds were thick. Since we weren't able to see any peak other than St. Nick, we decided to cut our losses and ascend St. Nick instead.

We made our way to the Olive/St. Nick col, then ski about a third of the way up St. Nick where the angle got too steep for skis, and we stumbled the rest of the way on foot. At 1315, we arrived at the summit. Surprisingly, the clouds had lifted and you could see everything. There were actually bare patches of ice on the glacier, and you could see a few crevasses. Disturbingly, there was one large crevasse that cut across the middle of Gordon, right where the ascent route goes up. How many times have I skied across there without being roped up. When we arrived at the summit, the heavy winds had settled down and we were able to enjoy our lunch. .... for about 15 minutes.

At 1330, we started our stumble back to the skis. The wind was stong and kept pushing us around on the slopes. Once back at the skis, it was time for the fun part.... going down. We tightened the boots, locked down the heels, and away we went. Despite not having snowed in the past 8 days, the skiing wasn't too bad. For the most part, we were able to make nice turns all the way down to the hut.

At the hut, lots of people had arrived. We went in, made more water, socialised for a while, ate and we were merry. It was like wine, women, and song. Actually, it was more like Gatorade, men, and conversation, but it was still fun. We sat and watched seracs fall of the Vulture Glacier. Those are always fun to watch. Nonetheless, it was time to start heading back out. At 1515, we packed up and headed out. we had a nice hardpack trail all the way to the lake, so travelling was good and fast. Exactly one hour later, we arrived at the truck. This was my fastest trip from the hut to the car. If only I could be that fast on the way in.

We packed up the truck and headed back to Laggans for more coffee. Blair headed back to Goldon, and by 1945, I was home in Strathmore. Overall, it was a great day, but the area sure needs more snow.


Dave Stephens
www.dave-stephens.com