The ACC operates the largest network of backcountry huts in North America. The Rob Ritchie Hut, also known as the Balfour Hut, is found on low, rocky hills at the toe of the Vulture Glacier, approximately 28 km northwest of the town of Lake Louise, AB. It is east of Balfour Pass and the Continental divide, just inside the Banff National Park boundary. See all of our huts here.
Trail distance: 16 km from Bow Lake
Elevation Gain: 950 m
Trailhead: Bow Lake, Banff National Park
Family Friendly: No
Activities: Backcountry skiing, Ski-mountaineering, Mountaineering
Technical Considerations: Glacier Travel, Avalanche Terrain; ATES Class 2
The Balfour Hut sits at the bottom of Vulture Glacier on the Wapta Icefield on the Alberta side of the Continental Divide. It is most often visited as a stop on a Wapta Traverse to allow for an early start on the Balfour High-Col. Travel to and from the Balfour Hut requires strong mountaineering, glacier travel, and navigation skills.
Hut Location: 51.5919, -116.4603
Staying in a backcountry hut is a shared, rustic experience. Sleeping, kitchen and living areas are communal. Guests area expected to bring their own sleeping bags, food and personal items.
All of our huts are user-maintained, meaning that the custodial work of keeping the hut clean, chopping firewood and shovelling snow is done by the guests. The ACC provides major service and renovations to all of our huts each year to ensure they are in good repair.
There are no transition days between bookings. Guests are responsible to sanitize before and after use of the huts.
Download our hut cleaning and sanitation guidelines here.
The Rob Ritchie Hut, also known as the Balfour Hut, is found on low, rocky hills at the toe of the Vulture Glacier, approximately 28 km northwest of the town of Lake Louise, AB. It is east of Balfour Pass and the Continental divide, just inside the Banff National Park boundary.
This is the half-way mark for the Wapta Traverse and is usually used in conjunction with the other huts in this chain while attempting this classic cross-glacier ski trip. Usual approach is from Bow Hut through the Olive/St. Nicholas Col then down the gentle and pleasant Vulture Glacier to Balfour Pass, where the hut sits on a section of moraine beneath the impressive bulk of Mt. Balfour.
Though most people will spend one night at the R.J. Ritchie (Balfour) Hut before continuing on to Scott Duncan, there is potential for good skiing here, especially on the Diableret Glacier which sits northwest of Mt. Balfour and makes for a fantastic run on a clear day! There is also an optional route to the summit of Mt. Gordon from this hut, which would be an excellent loop trip if combined with the normal route back towards Bow Hut. Use your imagination and some neat trip ideas will present themselves!
The Wapta Icefield is home to four ACC huts. See Whyte (Peyto), Bow and Scott Duncan huts.
Summer (May 1 to October 30)
There are no pre-set booking schedule for these dorm-style huts. Guests may book and stay for any period.
Overnight rates are inclusive of all fees and charges, including Parks Canada fees.
Beginning summer 2022, Parks Canada Wilderness Pass fees will not be added to your booking.
Sleeping Capacity: 18 in summer, 16 in winter
Bedding: Mattress pads provided, bring your own sleeping bag
Cooking: Propane stovetops (propane supplied). Pots and pans, dishware and cutlery are provided.
Lighting: Propane lighting – propane is supplied
Water Source: Snow melt
Both the south and the north approach routes travel over the same terrain in the winter and the summer.
Approach from the North
The approach from the North is the most popular access route to the hut in both winter and summer. Under good conditions Balfour can be reached easily in a day from either the Bow Hut or from the Peyto Hut further north. In the summer, six to eight hours are required for the whole trip from the Peyto Hut and about three to five if you are starting from the Bow Hut. In the winter, five to six hours traveling from the Peyto Hut should be sufficient in good conditions.
Approach from the South
The Scott Duncan Hut is located some 10 km south of the Balfour Hut. It is less common to access Balfour from the south, but the trip can be done in either direction. This section of the Wapta/Waputik is one of the most demanding from both a terrain and navigation standpoint. It is recommended that this trip (or the reverse trip) only be undertaken in favorable conditions with stable snow and good visibility. This route can be traveled in five to six hours in the winter, but expect it to take a few hours longer in the summer
Quick Description: From the north via either the Peyto or Bow Huts, or from the south via the Scott Duncan Hut..
Elevation Gain to Hut: –
Approach Time: 2-3 hours from Bow Hut. 6-8+ hours via Bow Lake.
Approach Description: Printable PDF
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