Summit Elevation (m): 2736
Trip Date: May 23 2015
Elevation Gain (m): 1200
Round Trip Time (hr): 9
Total Trip Distance (km): 18
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2 – you fall, you sprain something
Difficulty Notes: No technical difficulties. The crux is the approach up Bath Creek which is overgrown and bushy in spots.
Technical Rating: SC5; YDS (Hiking)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
On Saturday, May 23 2015 Raf and I decided we were in the mood for an easy scramble. We settled on Waputik Peak on the border of Banff and Yoho National Parks after Raf assured me that the slopes looked dry already a week ago. Named by George M. Dawson in 1884, Wapiti is the Stoney Indian word for white goat. I couldn’t believe there was that little snow already near the divide – but he was right. After doing many overnight ski trips and big snow ascents in the past month, it felt wonderful to lift a light day pack! The route up Waputik Peak is quite straight forward. Follow an old trail up Bath Creek (it was already overgrown in 2002) until the slopes get easier and open up on climber’s right and follow them to the summit. Sounds pretty easy anyway…
Accessing Bath Creek proved to be an exercise in creativity. We knew that Fab and Josee had parked about 1km past the Bath Creek bridge so we decided to check that access out. There’s a picnic area just before the “Welcome to BC” sign on the highway and we parked there and walked around to see if there were any signs forbidding us access. No signs – but no easy access either! The fence that runs along hwy 1 is doing a good job keeping folks out – probably a better job keeping us out than wildlife off the highway. I have no idea why there’s no gates to allow hikers access to areas that aren’t closed, but in any case there were no signs (and no closures on the Banff web site) indicating we couldn’t access this area so we decided to go for it. We had to get creative to avoid the train tracks but eventually we found ourselves alongside Bath Creek on an old overgrown trail. UPDATE: I was informed me via email that there is still access to the old Bath Creek trailhead. Apparently if you “look for where the creek passes under the highway” there is a gate. I think this is the only place we didn’t check!
Before I go into details of our trek up Bath Creek, a quick note about the name of the creek. Apparently in 1881 Major A. B. Rogers, the chief surveyor for CP Rail took a spill off his horse while crossing the swift water – thereafter the name Bath Creek was deemed appropriate. I think we underestimated the creek approach. Looking at the summit register, there’s very few ascents of this peak and with the current access difficulties I’m sure there’s even less folks wandering up Bath Creek than before the fences and access restrictions came into play. The trail was distinct in places, but the theme was light bushwhacking, getting lost a few times, ascending and descending to get around washouts and some nice travel where the river allowed us to walk on gravel flats. The travel was never brutal, but it was much bushier than Inglismaldie in case you thought that approach was tough. Running across some old cabins on the trail was kind of cool. I find it hard to believe, but apparently these cabins weren’t known to Banff archeologists before 2011. They were probably used by CP Rail workers in the area in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.
I knew the Bath Valley was a hot spot for bears, especially with very few humans bothering with it and sure enough, we spotted some large and very fresh tracks along the creek. Good thing I left my bear spray at home… Eventually the lower ascent slopes came into view. We stayed climber’s right of the small creek that joins up with Bath Creek and followed it up through thick bush until more open slopes appeared high above us. The sun was incredibly hot by the time we started up steep rubble, inching to climber’s left where the slope wasn’t blocked by cliff bands.
There was very little snow to assist us as we ascended. We weren’t impressed with the 4 or 5 wood ticks that were crawling on us after a quick water break – I hate those critters! I even spotted the rear end of a goat (the namesake of the peak) but we had no other close encounters with any hoofed or clawed animals on this particular day.
We made good use of some snow patches, which were going isothermal quickly. Soon enough the views across the Bath Glacier and down the highway 1 corridor started opening up. The giant Lake Louise peaks also became more and more impressive as we slogged up easy summit slopes to the highest point. It was t-shirt weather on the summit – no wind and VERY warm. A raven joined us as we admired the unique views of familiar peaks in all directions.
After signing the register and having a bite to eat, we reluctantly headed back down. The weather was so beautiful and the views so excellent that we were tempted to linger but the day was later than we expected and neither of us was particularly psyched about the thrash back down the raging Bath Creek. The descent to the creek went quickly – in part thanks to the snow patches we used – and soon we were thrashing our way back out under a scorching sun. It felt like midsummer, not the end of May! We even dunked our heads into the creek a few times to cool off. I think it might be a brutal year for fires if we don’t get some moisture and cooler temperatures soon. Finally we came back to the highway and our parking spot. The sun was still baking hot at 18:00.
I can say to some degree of honesty that Waputik Peak is a worthwhile scramble. It’s not easy to access and rarely ascended compared to other peaks in the area. The Bath Creek drainage is wild and beautiful and the views from the summit are unique and far reaching. Fall might be a good time to do this peak as the bush would be slightly easier to navigate and the creek wouldn’t be so fast and high. Good luck figuring out how to access it through all the barriers along hwy 1 though.