Jan 22 – 25, 2015 some friends and I headed out to the Alpine Club of Canada Fryatt Hut in Jasper National Park.
On the Thursday evening after work we drove from Calgary to the HI-Beauty Creek hostel. After a quick group chat we headed to sleep relatively early given the next morning’s early start.
To get to Fryatt you must cross the Athabasca River. There are two possible ways to cross the river in the winter:
1. Drive to Athabasca Falls and cross the river on a wood bridge. This route takes you further down the valley than is desirable and means skinning about 23km in to Fryatt – a really long day with a lot of heavy gear and provisions on your back.
2. Scope out safe(ish) ice bridges across the Athabasca which cut off ~10km from the otherwise 23km skin.
When we went, air temperatures had been above zero degrees in Jasper for a couple of days straight. Our group had poor confidence in the river being frozen enough to cross via method #2 from above. Understandably, part of our large group was not willing to attempt the river crossing whatsoever, so they woke up at 5am Friday morning to drive to the Athabasca Falls lot where they were able to take a wood bridge. The rest of us are lazy, and thought it would be worthwhile to scope a possible river crossing to save ourselves the ~10km. We woke up at 6am to get ready and eat, then at first light around 7:30 we were at the river and able to see a clear way across – green light! Awesome, we ended up being able to cut about 10km off the trip.
That river crossing turned out to be our saving grace. Of the six people who chose the long way, only one ended up making it all the way to Fryatt Hut (HUGE props to Tom! What a machine). The other 5 turned back to the cars for various reasons, at different points during their skin in. Everyone who crossed the ice where we did made it to Fryatt.
The rest of the skin after the river crossing was great – flat or slightly uphill for almost the whole way up until the headwall at the end. The biggest issue we dealt with involved heavy, wet snow sticking to our skins. If only we’d thought to bring skin wax…
Thea headwall itself was somewhere between “annoying” and “pure hell”. The headwall gains 200m of elevation in 700m of distance. Because the snow was sticking to our skins so badly at that point, each step carried an extra 10+ pounds of snow weight. So to get up the headwall we decided to switch to bootpacking. This turned out to be just as awful due to the fact that we were heavy with the weight of our packs, which caused us to sink in thigh-deep with every step. Needless to say the headwall sucked, no matter how we tried to get up it.
The good news is that once we reached the top of the headwall, the hut was literally right there. What a welcome sight after 7 hours of travel on foot with heavy packs! We promptly lit a fire in the wood stove, took off our wet clothes, got to boiling water and cracked open the bourbon. And the rum. And the beer…
On Saturday the cavers set off to achieve some underground goals. But with stable avalanche conditions, four of us had our eyes set on the alpine.
And I will just let the photos speak for themselves (click to enlarge):
There are some lines in this area that are so unbelievably awesome. I need to go back to Fryatt for a whole week next time. Here are some more images from the top of the pass between Kleodora & Karpathos:
For your viewing enjoyment, here is a video of our mountain-top dance party, shot by Jeremy.
And here is a crappy video I shot of Jeremy skiing down.
The wind was a bit wild up there so the slopes were all totally schralped, unfortunately. Made for some quick and bumpy skiing on the way down. But as you can see, the view and effort were well worth it.
After an icy ski back down to the hut, we still had a little time left to check out the headwall cave:
Sunday we skied out the same way we skied in. The way out was much faster, of course. Sunday was warm and melting again so were a little worried about crossing back over the ice on the river. It was certainly in “sketchier” condition, but ended up being totally fine.
Thanks, ACC. We’ll be back.
Additional props go out to Jared who actually did the whole ski in and out using skinny vintage cross-country skis. Like, what?