Mount Gordon, Wapta Icefield
I just returned from a four-day Alpine Club of Canada Intro Mountaineering course based out o the Bow Hut. During our time up there, we observed the superb glacier travel conditions. On July 26, we woke to a full depth, solid freeze that provided fast, efficient travel to the summit of Mount Gordon (~3200m). I was constantly probing 1 to 1.5 metres of dense snow and sometimes even 1.7m. The the snow surface across the entire icefield is surprisingly smooth—usually by mid-July, travel involves stumbling through awkward sun cups. At present, there is no firn line on the glacier above the hut. Deep, mature snow covers the toe of the glacier all the way to the moraine at its edge. Of course, all of this is changing fast with the sun and heat of the current high pressure system. When we left yesterday afternoon (July 27), a couple bare ice patches were opening up quickly.
Our main hazard observation was a size 2+ slab avalanche off the northeast face of Mount Olive that slide on the underlaying ice (photo attached). The cause is most likely cornice collapse. We suspect it occurred around July 24 or 25. The crown stretched the entire face above the bergshrund and left a large chunk of hangfire in the middle. This is a significant observation signalling that even though we are in mid-summer, we still have much of the winter snowpack that has not yet slid.
Conditions are going to change rapidly up there with the forecasted week of high temperatures, and we may have just hit the prime conditions. One of the best parts of the trip was that we were the only ones up and had the entire Wapta to ourselves.
ACMG Alpine Guide
FB: Sean Isaac Guiding