It’s officially summer but it sure doesn’t feel like it. Most days around Lake Louise have highs of 15C and there is still snow at treeline in many places and deep snow in the alpine. Leading up to our weekend Anna and I saw freezing levels dropping and we decided to see what kind of shape the Wapta Icefield was in for skiing.
Anna got off work early on the 29th and we drove up to Bow Lake arriving for noon. Bow Glacier still looked great for late June and even St Nic looked “skiable” from the parking lot. After answering the mandatory “where are you skiing?!” question from several tourists we suited up and started the hike around the lake.
The hiking trail was in great shape, very few muddy sections and almost no snow until reaching the upper cirque. We decided to walk across the first large snow patch and up the headwall leading to Bow Hut but as we topped out it was time to switch over to skins to reach the glacier. The snow was supportive with easy travel all the way to the top of The Onion where we decided to setup camp for the night. At camp the snowpack was about 275cm deep.
The night was fairly warm with a cool wind and the leftover water in the stove pot was still liquid in the morning. We got up, ate a few bars for breakfast and headed towards Gordon. As we travelled we noticed the clouds starting to head back west and grow darker, the storm was most likely backtracking towards us and within 1km of the summit we decided to pull the plug and head back to camp. Skiing the very low angle icefield didn’t provide too many real turns but it was nice to be cruising instead of walking. We got to camp and sure enough the storm was coming, we packed up and decided to head home instead of staying another night. The glacier toe provided much better turns and the near iso pack leading to the headwall was acceptable for skis. After a short walk down the headwall it was back on skis to gain a bit more quick distance before being forced to add weight to the packs.
On the hike out we decided we indeed made the correct call as you could barely tell the difference between the alpine and the sky. Back at Bow Lake we ran into a Lynx using the hiking trail and we finished the day at the parking lot looking back at a likely whiteout situation on the Icefield.