If you're anything like me, you're already planning your summer adventures. Lately mine have included Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) backcountry huts. The first one I stayed at (last summer) was Bow Hut and now I'm hooked. Sleeping steps from a glacier and not having to hike a tent in? Yes, please!
Most ACC huts are in the Alberta and BC mountains. Many can be reached on foot, but some are only accessible to climbers. The huts operate in a communal style with shared sleeping and eating spaces. There are sleeping pads and the kitchens have cookware—you just have to hike your sleeping bag and food in. You can read all about how to book huts here.
Our group of five set off for Bow Hut on a sunny July morning. The 8-km trail starts behind Num-Ti-Jah Lodge on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park and winds around beautiful Bow Lake's north shore. I could already feel my 75-litre pack at this point, but that was the easy part.
We walked up a large set of stairs then reached a massive boulder bridging a canyon with water rushing below. One by one we took our packs off and climbed onto the boulder while the person below hoisted a pack up to the person on the boulder. The crossing was quick and fun.
We hiked across rubble and up a steep hill (everyone could feel their packs even more now—we later joked that we probably didn't need two dozen eggs for one breakfast) for about two hours until we saw Bow Glacier come into view. The glacier is the source of Alberta's Bow River. We knew the hut was near it, and tried to spot the structure above the headwall in front of us.
Everyone got a second wind once we saw Bow Hut. We crossed another field of rock and various streams then began our ascent to the hut. We all looked up when we heard what sounded like a muffled blast to see a relatively small (but still sizeable) chunk of Bow Glacier falling to the ground and smashing into pieces. I really felt like we were in the wild at that point.
We hiked up the slope to the hut and crossed some pretty vigorous streams (more like little rivers) where we had to jump from boulder to boulder to get across. There was a general sense of elation when we arrived, and we quickly claimed our sleeping spots and stored our food in the kitchen. We were already thinking of dinner, which was a delicious chocolate chili courtesy of Rita.
The prospect of hiking further seemed appealing once we were sans backpacks, so we went for an hour long hike before dinner to a small lake above the hut. I'd never seen a landscape like this before—it felt like we were in another world.
Once we got back to the hut we got to cooking and dug into our massive pot of chili, which we ended up sharing with the other guests. We drank some tea and some wine, and played Cards Against Humanity (typical hut activities).
Then to the other guests' surprise, we brought out a decadent strawberry dessert (an Eton mess, courtesy of Katie who's from the UK) that we had to guard with our lives because it was clearly delicious. Tip: bring good food on a hut trip unless you want to be jealous of someone else's meal! We slept well that night, even in a room of nearly 30 people.
Our packs were lighter on the hike out, and we were excitedly planning our next hut trip as we descended to Bow Lake and the parking lot. Hut camping is one of my favourite ways to experience the mountains and offers something for everyone (there are huts with much easier approaches than Bow Hut). Get out there and try it!