Bow/Yoho Traverse

March 12, 2005March 15, 2005| (Ski Mountaineering; 4 days) | |
participants: mike warren / brad cooke / robin harnett / kevin chmilar /

Day One

Note: Lots more pictures are available in this photo essay. This trip report is also at

After meeting in Lake Louise and shuttling cars to Field, we headed up to Bow Summit and were on the trail by about 10:30 with mixed cloud and some serious wind.

There were a ton of others out and about and so travel up towards Bow Hut featured speed and a pre-broken trail. We headed into Bow Hut for some lunch and a quick break (and refilled water bottles; thanks snow-melters).

By this point the sun was out and the day was glorious. We followed another pre-broken trail up onto the Bow Glacier proper and then headed off towards the "col" between Gorden and Rhonda South, en-route to camp below Ayesha, our first objective.

Heading down off Bow Glacier and towards Ayesha, the wind steadily picked up. While discussing where to camp, I had half-jokingly suggested the wind scoop below Ayesha, which appeared to provide the best option of shelter from the North wind, but was clearly probably quite windy (being a wind scoop). We ended up camping here.

Brad and I set up my new Megamid for the first time (not counting the midnight attempt in his front yard a few days earlier) and — since we'd not brought the pole — elected to try his ski poles, strapped together with a couple of toe-straps. Kevin helpfully pointed out that he'd broken a pole using just such a setup, although with a foot of fresh snow involved.

We ignored his advice and had an entertaining night: it turns out the tent sounds just like something sniffing when it flutters in the wind. Some of the bigger gusts caused some worrisome (for Brad, anyway) flexing of the poles.

Day Two

The day was pretty cloudy and snowing when we got up. After brewing up in the Megamid, we left it set up, stashed our gear and humped up the ridge with iceaxes. (Going by the description of the S face, we'd need to go to the "obvious" notch in the ridge. The first such notch was right above camp). Nothing had appeared obvious the evening before, so we checked them all out. They featured large vertical cliffs and we couldn't see much else for the snow/cloud.

Reaching our high-point (just before the ridge flattens out before the summit block), we couldn't see very much and there was little enthusiasm (with the exception of Robin) to traverse over unknown territory towards a summit block which didn't look climable (from the previous day) without some gear. We took some fake summit shots and headed back down.

We packed up camp and headed out towards Collie and ultimately the Des Poilus glacier to set up for our next objective: Des Poilus. We stayed roped up much of the day due to decreased visibility. We did get a nice reprieve just in time to drop down the steep pitch onto Des Poilus and got some great views of Des Poilus itself. Camp was set up below the ridge.

Our second attempt at Megamid setup was much better, this time using two skies toe-strapped together with the skins opposing each other. We also dug an actual sleeping platform and a nicer cooking area.

Day Three

A beatufiul morning. This morning's brewing was much less eventful than the previous evening, when Brad gave part of the Megamid and our legs a free heat-treatment while lighting his Dragonfly (ironically right near the "do not expose to open flame" warning on the Megamid). We packed up and stashed some of the gear in the Megamid pit (couldn't leave it up today, as we needed our skis and poles back — a good reason not to use a Megamid for base-camping).

Des Poulis had pretty much perfect conditions; the snow from the previous day and overnight was still nice and fluffy, no wind transport was occuring and the sun was mostly being kept behind some amount of cloud. Any more sun or wind and the steep bit above before hitting the ridge proper (and the summit) could have been too dicey. As it was, we got some great turns from just below the summit (we'd boot-packed up the last little bit). After packing up and grabbing a bite to eat, we shooshed down the rest of the glacier towards Isolated Col.

This ended up featuring bullet-proof hardpack and made me happy I'd brought my ski crampons. I don't think anyone else was happy for me, though ;)

Day Four

After a comfy night in Stanley Mitchell (including a pizza!), we got up early the next day to attempt the President. There was some sort of intense localised squall over the peaks, though, so after sitting in my tarp for about 45 minutes at the col, we descended, packed up and skied out the road to Brad's car and Robin's waiting beers (good thinking!).

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