I have to admit, this line started out much bigger in my imagination. Probably because in his interview on Biglines after skiing the north face of Mt. Bryce, Chris Brazeau mentioned it in a list of big lines he’d recently skied, along with Mt. Stephen, The Silverhorn, and the north face of North Vic. (That article is sadly now gone, but you can still find it using the Wayback Machine or by asking me for the PDF I just saved.) At the time, ten or so years ago, I was in my steep skiing infancy and all three of those lines were obviously above my level, so I lumped the north face of Peyto right in. It doesn’t help that it looks kind of big from the road.
Anyway, all this is to say that I only just got around to skiing it this spring. Which is too bad because, yeah, it’s a steep, glaciated north face, but it’s also an awesome ski tour and the face itself is small enough to be quite manageable. By the time James, Becca, and I went to ski it, we all knew it was a bit shorter of an objective. That was exactly what we were looking for, most of the way through April, as couloir season was slowly giving way to face skiing season in the Rockies.
Approaching as we would for the start of the Wapta Traverse, we got a good skate across Peyto Lake and right to the moraines. We checked out the new ice cave that’s formed at the toe of the glacier, lamented the speed at which the toe is receding, and headed up towards the icefield itself. I wonder how long it will be until the toe of the glacier pulls right back to expose the big, rocky headwall underneath, and what that will do to access on the Wapta.
This line is pretty simple to access – when the Peyto hut came visible on the left, we hung a right and started working our way up the SW side of Peyto Peak. A bit thin and a bit scrappy in places but I managed to keep my skis on the whole way. Becca and James value their skins maybe a little bit more than I do, so they booted for a bit. Either way, we got to the notch at the entrance to the north face in pretty short order.
Next up, dealing with the entrance. There’s a pretty significant roll up there and James – who had skied the line before – had entered on belay previously. A fine backup plan, but it’s nicer to cruise right in if you’re comfortable with the conditions. I found a block to climb and look down into the face, where I spotted a rib that I could ski cut to. Everyone got changed over, and I made the cut, knocking a little slough down and testing the short face enough for my liking. Since I made the cut, I got to ski first, rounding out the biggest turns I could manage without my boot tongues; which I’d forgotten in the car.
The whole face is only a few hundred meters long, which means you can ski it pretty hard and still have plenty of control to hop over the bergschrund. Becca and James followed me down, and we all regrouped on the flats. There’s a good exit couloir on the other side, accessed by a small side step. The top of that was very thin indeed, but below there was enough hot pow for all. Soon we were reversing our track up the moraines and shortly after that, the flat slog back across Peyto Lake. Which was now a bit of a chore, as it was definitely too soft to skate.