Wapta Traverse Speed Record

From what we've heard, G3 athlete Melanie Bernier and ski partner Ian Gale have posted the fasted known time for the Wapta Traverse... though she humbly forgets to mention that detail in her trip report below...

Since our first day out skiing this season, I have been thinking about putting our ski training to use for more than just racing. Why not see what we can do on ski traverses as well?

While still aiming to ski some great spring faces and couloirs, I was thinking that it would be great to plan some other trips based on distance instead of destination. Speaking with friends throughout the season, options we floating around, and some started to take shape. In particular... the Wapta Traverse in a day.

I knew a few years back, National Ski Mountaineering Team skiers Ian Gale, Reiner Thoni and James Minifie tried to do the Wapta Traverse in a day, but had to change their plan due to weather. Then later, Ian and Reiner tried again but the weather did not cooperate. The challenge still awaited.

Keeping my eyes on the weather forecast, it was only a matter of texting Ian Gale a few days before the weekend… and it was on. It was as simple as : “Hey the weather looks good Wapta in a day Sunday?” and there it was, the plan was made!

I got my fix of mountain biking just before packing the skis to head to Golden last Saturday night. After a bit of catching up with Ian and his lovely wife Shauna, we started to line up all the required light gear by the door. I just love the nonsense of waking up in the middle of the night to go skiing even if at the time the alarm went off, it really felt silly. Only 3 hours of sleep later did we dress-up for the mission.

After the car-drop off at West Louise, we were wide-awake by the time we gained the Bow summit parking lot. Armed with our light skis and spandex suits, we pressed the start button at 4:45 am sharp. With the biggest full moon of the year lighting up our steps, we almost didn't need a headlamp… well we only did when we followed a special trail down to the Peyto Lake shore which may have cost us a few extra minutes. It’s not an epic ski adventure if there is no bushwhack as far as I’m concerned so we got it over with right at the start!

From there, we quickly traversed the flats and the moraine, climbed above the canyon and onto the glacier. At that point the sun was just lighting the top of Rhonda which made me smile and filled my soul with energy to speed up and hang in there for a while. Up to Peyto Hut, our first 2 hours of travel were quite easy skiing on hard surface. From there on, it became a bit more difficult to maintain the speed with breakable crust. Ian and I worked quite well together back and forth in order to prevent our legs from getting too tired. It was very much an unspoken team effort all the way till the end which made the whole day quite enjoyable.

We gained the St-Nicola and Olive Col in good time and enjoyed a great first long descent to Balfour Hut. From there, we were quite surprised not to see a single track heading to the high col. Ian and I worked together again at setting trail on the broken part of the glacier. Even when roped up we moved consistently. At that point, we were breaking trail mid boot so it was taking a bit more energy to maintain the cadence. I have to say, the beautiful scenery and the dramatic landscape before our eyes was taking our mind away from our tightening muscles.

From the Balfour col, we skied down the Nile, Daly Col from where we gained Sherbrook lake, skated across the lake and skied down the summer trail back to West Louise. We covered the distance in 7:35 hours with a consistent trail breaking pace. We were quite happy with the accomplishment, for which a lot of factors have to come into play. I think we nailed it quite right!

Thank you to Ian Gale for being such a great partner in crime for the mission! It is an amazing and special thing to have friends to get our there with. People you trust for fun, safety and for getting'er done!

From a 7 and a half hours ski mission onto a 6 hours enduro Mountain bike race! I love springtime. Then maybe more skiing? Who knows?

-Melanie

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