glacier, serac

The Icefall Traverse

By Conor Hurley ACMG ski guide Arctos Guides Director/Lead Guide

The Icefall Traverse is one of the only hut to hut traverses in Canada. It starts via helicopter out of Donald, BC and finishes at the Rostrum cabin or Icefall Brook with a helicopter pick up. Icefall Lodge is running this as a seven day six night trip and five nights at different huts.

The Mons Hut

The backcountry ski traverse travels through some rowdy glaciated terrain with options to ski off of some big peaks of conditions align. However if they don’t, you’ll be faced with big, glaciated alpine terrain in whiteout conditions.  

The operational pressures exerted by Icefall for groups to move forward at all costs creates a dangerous environment in my opinion.  There is little to no contingency plan for groups who encounter bad weather and there are no easy/safe routes to get from the Lyell Hut to Icefall Lodge or the Alexandra Cabin.  Guides will need thick skin if they choose to stay put due to weather and elevated avalanche hazard.

Nearing the summit of Mons Peak.

I did two rounds of the Icefall Traverse this spring and the weather gods weren’t totally aligned with my traverse plans. On both occasions, elevated freezing levels, precipitation and moderate winds (Aka high avalanche hazard) kept my group from being able to move through the high col on the Lyell Peaks and descend the Wild West Glacier to the Alexandra cabin.

The Mons Ice Cave has grown significantly in the past 11 years.  In 2011, it was just a small opening on the side of the icefield.  Glacial recession is happening quickly in the Canadian Rockies.lyell icefield, icefall traverse
backcountry ski, mons hut
The Lyell hut on the shoulder of the Lyell Peaks. This is looking west towards the Crampon Col, the route we took to Icefall lodge.  crampon col, bootpack

After the storm passed, Crampon Col was our safest option to get to Icefall lodge.  It still meant putting a wallowing bootpack in 70cm of fresh storm snow up a steep slope.  Careful group management was exercised and we travelled safely through the cutting, rad line, norrona

Managing avalanche hazard on belay in Crampon Col.backcountry ski, mt kemmel

A break in the weather made for nice day on the summit of Mt. Kemmel.

glacier, serac

Ski touring through the seracs on the Diamond Glacier.

splitboarding, glacier

Rostrum Peak

There is no shortage of glaciation on this trip.  If you’re interested in a ski traverse or basecamp, Arctos Guides offers an exciting line up of trips every spring.

Rostrum cabin, icefall traverse

The Rostrum cabin on a powder day in May!