ApproachIt is 8kms from Bow Lake to Bow Hut with 1250’+/- elevation gain. Start at the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge parking lot and cross Bow Lake (make sure it is appropriately frozen-skiers have died on this lake) in a southwesterly direction to gravel flats that contour around the northern end of Crowfoot Mountain. Follow a creek bed towards Bow Falls and be on the lookout for a trail heading into the forest on your left. This avoids a steep canyon section in the drainage. Follow this trail upwards until you come to a juncture where you can descend back into the creek bed. Skin up this creek (left) as it winds its way into a canyon trough (aka snow trap). Separate well through this canyon to avoid more than one party being buried in the same avalanche. Move through at a steady pace until you come to a steep ice-water fall type section (approximately 1km). Ascend the left hand slope, possibly having to remove your skis for a short period and continue due south through the tree line towards a massive headwall between Crowfoot Mountain and St. Nicholas Peak. Turn right in the cirque (ice cliff avalanche terrain) and ascend a ramp of snow back north that leads directly to the Bow Hut. Stay right to find the least strenuous and hazardous terrain.
Route DescriptionFrom the Bow Hut to the Balfour Hut is another 7kms up to the St. Nicholas and Mount Olive col (1900’+/- elevation gain) and down the Vulture Glacier (1400’+/- elevation loss). You ascend west from the Bow Hut bending around south as you circumvent St. Nicholas Peak on your left on wide open ice/snow fields. Most parties rope up from the Bow Hut through this section. As you approach the St. Nicholas and Mount Olive col, there is one small steep section that could be wind blown. Once at the col, the wind normally picks up. Contour around Mount Olive on your right in a southeasterly direction. There are major crevasses below Mount Olive to your right. For this reason, it is important to stay to the center of the Vulture Glacier (3rd photo above) as you ski to the Balfour Hut. In poor visibility, it is best to stay skiers left using an escarpment on your left as a handrail, moving back right as you near the Balfour Pass.
The hut will not be visible from the top of Vulture Glacier. It will not be visible until you are approximately half of the way down. It lies at the bottom of the Balfour Pass at the southern end of the Vulture Glacier. During clear conditions, Mount Balfour (1st photo above) will dominate the southern horizon. Mount Hector to the east will be prominent as well.
From the Balfour Hut, head west through the Balfour Pass staying high to the right to avoid unnecessarily lost elevation. Circumvent the southern reaches of Mount Olive for a highpoint (unnamed peak) northwest from the hut. This is an obvious broad ski slope that can be viewed easily from the Balfour Hut on a clear day. It is directly across from the Diableret Glacier and on the south side of Mount Gordon. As you make your traverse on the lower slopes of the southern extension of Mount Olive you will eventually ascend to the top of a moraine. Descend into a bowl, cross it and continue northwest along a ridge line that stays to climbers left as it ascends. You will come to a small icy bowl that is best circumvented to the right in an attempt to catch a ramp that takes you to the base of the steeper section of this unnamed peak. We felt a sizable wind slab settle beneath us at the steep section, so caution is advised. This last steep section more than likely is wind blown to the point you might want to take your skies off for the final 100 meters or so. The wind slab I mention is climbers left while the steeper sections are to the right. It is best to ascend somewhere in the middle.
On descent, ski directly down the bowl and to the right of the moraine you crossed previously, then return the same.