OverviewWapta Mountain is located between Emerald Lake and the Yoho Valley in Yoho National Park, one of four connecting national parks making up the central Canadian Rockies. Wapta Mountain and Mount Field make up a spur on the south end of the President Range. Wapta means “running water” in Cree and Wapta Mountain overlooks the second tallest waterfall in western Canada, Takakkaw Falls (1247’) which means “magnificent” . On the approach trail, you will get views of the falls all the way up the switch backs to Yoho Pass and then you won’t see them again until you reach the summit, which is quite a unique perspective. Wapta Mountain was first ascended by Outram and Scattergood guided by Bohren in 1901.
Wapta is immediately north of the ridge which contains the famous Burgess Shale fossil beds I discussed regarding Mount Burgess. Burgess Shale fossils appear as lithographic pictures on fine-grained shale. Even the soft parts (gills, legs, and guts) of some animals are preserved, which is very rare, since usually only hard parts of animals (their shells, bones, or teeth) are preserved as fossils. In 1984, UNESCO declared Yoho, Banff, Kootenay and Jasper National Parks, along with Mt. Robson, Hamber and Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Parks, as the Rocky Mountain World Heritage Parks. Thus, the Burgess Shale is a protected area of international importance, within a World Heritage Site. Over 65,000 fossil specimens have been delivered to the Smithsonian Institute from this bed.
Serving as the steep eastern backdrop to Emerald Lake, Wapta Mountain’s western slopes are bare of trees because of massive snow slides that deposit tons of snow next to the Emerald Lake road well into August. Obviously this makes for great wildlife habitat.
The only published route up Wapta Mountain is the difficult scramble. I have read several accounts on line where parties were more comfortable taking rope for different sections. I did it solo and found it no more difficult than the average difficult scramble for the area. I also did a traverse of Yoho Pass versus a return which was nice, but you would need to hitch or have someone drop you off. It would not be plausible to ski ascend Wapta’s slopes. This is a real avalanche prone area with several vertically exposed sections.
The views are spectacular from the summit including The President, V. Pres. and the Emerald Glacier (photo), Mount Daly (photo), Mount Stephen, Mount Carnarvon and Mount Burgess. Wapta is a centrally located mountain in Yoho National Park.
Getting ThereThe Trans-Canada Highway runs from Calgary through Banff and Yoho National Parks on its way to Vancouver. Pass through Lake Louise heading westbound and continue on the Trans-Canada entering British Columbia. Take a right on the Yoho Valley Road right before Field. Drive to the Whiskey Jack Hostel and either park there or if you are not allowed, park another half of a kilometer down at the Takakkaw Falls trail head. Either way, you are starting at the Whiskey Jack trail head. The visitor center for Yoho National Park is located in Field another kilometer or two west on the TransCanada.
Red TapeYou will be required to purchase a national park pass as you enter Banff National Park coming from the east on the Trans-Canada. This pass is good for all four national parks. If you plan many visits to Canadian National Parks within one year, you should purchase an annual pass. There are no permit requirements to climb in Yoho National Park, but all camping is regulated. There is also a backcountry permit required if you plan on spending a night in the backcountry versus the town campsites. This can be obtained via the parks website which is included in the camping section below. Yoho National Park headquarters are located in Field, BC and you will drive through the manned national park kiosks as you enter Banff National Park on the Trans-Canada.
This is active grizzly country, therefore, you should always have bear spray on your person. I advise checking with Parks Canada for any area and/or trail closures.
When To ClimbAs with most scrambles in the Canadian Rockies, the driest time is from June through September. I climbed Wapta in August. You will want to carry an alpine ax with you no matter what time of the year you go.
CampingThe closest conventional camp sites would be the Kicking Horse and/or Monarch campground(s) back at the turnoff for Yoho Valley Road. The closest backcountry site is Yoho Pass #3. This is a great camp site for this scramble. It is on the shores of the small Yoho Lake at a pretty sweet spot. You can go on line at Yoho National Park to pick a camp site and obtain your camping permit. You will also be required to obtain your backcountry permit which is separate, but can be obtained simultaneously if you plan on camping at a backcountry site like Yoho Pass. You cannot camp outside of the marked specific camping areas.
Field has one inn and several B&B’s. Of course you could stay where you parked at the Whiskey Jack Hostel as well.