Trapper Peak

elevation: 2,988 m.  height gain: 1,350 m. (includes height loss)
area: Wapta Icefield,AB
map 82 N/10

Ref: Chic Scott's Summits and Icefields
the journey begins

The journey begins, welcome to Canada Kevin!
Ski mountaineering: RT 4.0 (from the bivi); 2.0 up. Just arrived from Colorado, there was no time to waste planning a big ski outing for the weekend. An American friend, Kevin, was coming for a visit with high expectations. From the south-eastern parts of the States he didn't have much skiing experience but he had bought full ski mountaineering gear hoping to go on a glacier. At this time of the year, it proved challenging for me to figure out an adventure on a glacier tame enough for his skill set. The Bow Lake access to the Wapta Glacier had already started to melt and the Athabasca Glacier seemed too complex; that left Peyto Glacier that I was comfortable and familiar with. Visiting Peyto Glacier granted the option to do a beautiful alpine climb up Trapper Peak if conditions permitted. With this chosen objective in mind, I started looking for a third member to join us. The weather appeared to be shaping up for the weekend. After a couple of messages, Doug Lutz committed to the trip. I knew Doug from the internet, he's an active member of the scrambling community; I was thrilled to finally meet him. Doug planned to be travelling on snowshoes instead of skis. The difference on the roped-up ascent would be minimal and since Kevin was learning how to ski, I thought we wouldn't gain that much distance on the way down. We agreed we would descend unroped; with "local knowledge" of this glacier, I felt comfortable with this decision.

We met at Bow Summit's lower parking lot early saturday morning. Starting from there, we would be avoiding travel on thawing Peyto Lake. This route added a steep 300-meter descent (ascent on return) to reach the moraines, we jotted that down as "the price of admission" for this trip. I was shocked to see the lack of snow on the moraines. That's when I realized that gaining the glacier would require much determination and perseverance. Hiking in talus with ski boots and an awkward pack weighing 40 lbs isn't easy, this adventure would definitely leave an impression on all of us. Luckily for Kevin and I, a stretch of snow beyond the flats interrupted the slog; we were both pleased to take the skis off the packs to ascend the moraine. Easy travel was short-lived though, we had to stow the skis for the steeper part of the ascent and the section leading to the Glaciology Research Center. From the center, travel greatly improved. We roped up and pleasantly trekked to our chosen camp location, it took us 10 hours. We enjoyed a windless bluebird afternoon surrounded by the stunning snowcovered peaks of the Wapta Icefield.

The night was calm and mild. We awoke at 2 AM under a starry sky, temperature barely below zero. We quickly set off towards Trapper Peak a short distance away, the terrain was easily negotiated. Predawn light was soon upon us and the neighbouring mountains' silhouettes were discernible. We left skis and snowshoes at the base of Trapper and engaged on the steep north-east face. The snow was mostly firm but probing the snowpack revealed a superficial freeze atop soft snow, clearly it was imperative to be off the slopes once they started baking in the sun. Our early start gave us sufficient time to ascend and catch the phenomenal sunrise on the summit ridge, the timing was perfect! A short scramble led to a narrow ridge that quickly delivered us to the confined corniced summit. We enjoyed the alpenglow on the mountains around, the scenery was exquisite. I could tell that Kevin was deeply impressed. We stayed on the summit long enough to soak in the view and snap numerous pictures. Our descent was speedy, we chased the shade off the slopes ahead of us. A fun glissade back to our gear followed. We were very thrilled with this amazing ascent, Kevin and I were also looking forward to an effortless ski back to camp. What came next was disheartening. One of my skis dislodged from the snow without my brake engaged and started down the slope. I tried to stop it by throwing my alpine axe at it but that failed. Doug followed it as it nearly missed landing in the only crevasse in sight. I charged down on one ski leaving Kevin to figure how to ski, not the best thing to do but he did just fine maneuvering the low angled terrain without losing control.

Back at the tent, we took the time to relish the heat of the sun and rehydrate, it was only 7 AM. Once packed, we casually descended to the toe of the glacier; the ski down was pleasant and effortless despite all the weight on my back. Kevin executed wide controlled turns, his skiing had improved quickly and Doug's fast pace kept him in close range. By the time we climbed back to the Glaciology Research Center, the heat was almost unbearable and I was really feeling the accumulated fatigue. We had another long break before tackling the moraines carrying the skis. Good grief, I couldn't even lift my pack anymore, the guys had to help me. When I reached the long stretch of snow, I decided to ski to the flats even if the snow was rotten; I just wanted a break from the heavy load. This worked out good giving me an additional break while I waited for Doug and Kevin. The following trudge on talus was brutal, I was happy to see Doug retreat in the trees for a break in some shade before walking the flats and climbing the final 300 meters to the lookout. I remember being so thirsty. My pace was quite slow for the remainder of the return, I felt depleted. We climbed the slide path to the trail which was discernible despite the remaining snow. Higher up, to avoid deep postholing, we put on skis and snowshoes. Reaching the lookout was a glorious moment, soon all this hardship would become a vague memory associated with this awesome adventure on the glacier. Trapper Peak had indeed been a fine objective and the weather was all we could have asked for. Thanks to Kevin and Doug for making this trip super special!

peyto lake

Peyto Lake is thawing, glad we didn't go that way....

where's all the snow

Where's all the snow?

we're all smiles now

Sure, we're all smiles now!

descending to the flats

Descending to the flats.

on the flats

On the flats.

placing rocks to cross

Placing rocks to make a path across.

trying to keep our boots dry

Trying to keep the ski boots dry.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

nearing the moraines

Making our way to the moraines.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz. 

enjoying the grunt so far

Kevin's enjoying the grunt so far.

a stretch of snow to ski

A stretch of snow to ski, good God.

that's why we brought the skis

Making good use of the skis!
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

free to ski


interrupted snowcover

The snowcover is unfortunately interrupted higher up, break time.


Bloody isothermal snow....
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

heading to the glaciology center

Back on skis we head towards the Glaciology Research Center.

skiing to the glacier

Kevin and I effortly ski to the toe of the glacier.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

setting up the rope

Setting up the rope.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

finally on the glacier

Finally on the glacier.

gps reading just for laughs

Doug confirms we're on the Wapta Icefield; right on, good to know!

mount baker and trapper peak

Mount Baker (left) and Trapper Peak on the right.

peyto peak

Nearing our camp location with Peyto Peak in the background.

good location

Good location right close to Trapper Peak.

kevin is having a blast

My American friend is having a blast, this is a far cry from the land of oranges.

a bit crowded

A bit crowded but that's how it rolls on the glacier.

time to get up

Time to get up!
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

milky way

Milky way.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

aascending the north-east face

Ascending the steep north-east face.

looking down

Looking down.

pre-dawn orangy sky

Predawn orangy sky.

upper slopes

Approaching the upper slopes.

looking back

Looking back with Mount Thompson and the Wapta Icefield in the background.

the sun is about to rise

The sun is about to rise over distinctive Peyto Peak.

last pitch to the saddle

Doug and Kevin climbing the last pitch to the summit saddle.

the saddle

The saddle ahead.

alpenglow on mount baker

Alpenglow on Mount Baker.



sunrise again

Sunrise again, just because it's so beautiful.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

view north

Western view.

short scramble

From the saddle it's a very short scramble to the summit.

doug on the summit

Doug on the summit.

kevin likes his canadian adventure

View south-east over the Wapta Icefield, I think Kevin is enjoying his Canadian outing.

last steps

Last steps, don't slip Kev.

more sunrise

More sunrise.


Looking north-west towards majestic Mount Forbes (right).


A close up of Mounts Mummery and Karakal to the west.

my mountaineering partners

Summit picture.

heading down

Heading down.

slopes are still shaded

The ascent slopes are still in the shade.

snow is softening

The snow is softening quickly.

chasing the shade away

Chasing the shade away as we descend.


Glissading the lower slopes back to our gear.

skiing back to camp

Kevin and I skiing back to camp.
Picture courtesy of Doug Lutz.

packed and ready to ski down

Packed and ready to ski the glacier.


Whoosh, bye bye Trapper.

staying behind

Staying behind since I have the rope and extrication gear.

back at the glaciology center

Back at the Glaciology Research Center for another good break.

a long return awaits

A long return awaits, skis must be carried as the snow patches don't connect.

kevin taking a break

Kevin ditches his pack to take a break.

doug waits for us

Doug waits for us slower peeps lugging skis...

skiing the very last bit

Skiing the very last bit of snow just 'cause I can't stand my load anymore.

not the best skiing but i'll take it

Not the best skiing but I'll take it!

fun stuff in ski boots

Back in the talus, fun stuff in ski boots.

crossing the creek again

Crossing the creek is always good entertainment.

home free

Home free!!!
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