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Author Topic: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse  (Read 2702 times)

Posts: 124

March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« on: 04/12/16, 11:52 AM »

Spearhead Traverse

Day 1

We decided to make this a leisurely trip and do it over 4 days so we left Redmond early Thursday morning. I thought I had dialed in the route around Vancouver but hadn’t so we turned around to get on 17 and take that back to 1. Cost about 45 minutes of extra travel. Once on 1, we crossed the toll bridge, which reminds me, I still have to pay the toll. We got to Whistler Village around 11 and went to lot 4 which is known to be an overnight lot. Well, it still had signs posted stating there was no overnight parking there. We checked with the visitor center and they said the parking lots are about to transition so it might be ok to park overnight. Safer bet would be to park underneath the Convention Center, so that’s what we did. As we were about to lock the car and walk to guest services, a guy walked by, looked at our packs, and said enthusiastically, “cooooool”. We got our 1 way lift ticket and started the ride up to Blackcomb Glacier.

As we were riding the Showcase T-Bar, I saw some people booting up to what I presumed to be the entrance to Blackcomb Glacier and the start of the Spearhead. The disappeared on the other side. At the top of the t-bar, the lifties saw our gear and immediately started yelling at us, “The Blackcomb Glacier gate is closed!” I just stared at them confused. I just saw people boot up and not come back. “Patrol just closed the gate, you’ll have to go in via Flute!” Huh…?

We shrugged them off since more investigation was required and started booting up to the gate. Patrol yelled down, “Don’t bother coming up! I already closed the gate!” I say back, “Let’s have a conversation!” I was getting a little tired of people barking at me. I get to the top and the patroller says again he’s already closed the gate because of cornice hazard in the rising temperatures. I’m ask if I at least look at the terrain ahead. He says sure.

50 feet on the other side of the gate are 2 children with no avy gear. One is playing in and eating the snow. The other is struggling to make wedge turns on the moguls. I point this out to the patrol but he just reiterates, “I’ve already closed the gate!” Apparently the children who went through the gate minutes before us were safe. But once that gate closes, man, serious business begins, and anyone entering after, not safe. It’s frustrating we live in a society where common sense and sound judgement are frequently overridden by process, policy, and authority.
He says we can still get to the backcountry via Horsteman T-Bar and 7th Heaven and explains how via Body Bag Bowl and Disease Ridge (actually he told us to ski all the way to the bottom of 7th Heaven, ugh, no thanks). We end up going this way and we ski down to Horsteman T-Bar. While riding it, we note the cornices above are huge and that we are in direct line of fire! We wondered how patrol could be so irresponsible by putting so many of us at risk and not close the T-Bar!

From the top of 7th, we traversed through Lakeside Bowl (over large avy debris fields – don’t forget this south facing slope is safer than north facing Blackcomb Glacier with cornices) and Body Bag Bowl to Disease Ridge.

so much safer here...

The skin from there to Decker is less than an hour and very close to where the East Col above Blackcomb Glacier would dump you out. We dropped down to the Decker Glacier and wanted to get back on our intended route. You can actually skip the Decker Glacier completely from the Disease Ridge approach and go straight to the Decker-Trorey Col which is what a guide we ran in to suggested we do, but we said we wanted to see the terrain on our planned route.

We climbed the Decker Glacier to the East Shoulder and decided this would be a good place to set up camp. We dropped our packs, then tagged the summit of Decker, a short 30 minute side trip, as are many of the peaks along the traverse. Then we skied back to our packs, dug out a platform for our tent, and settled in for the night. Even though this spot is pretty exposed and wind-scoured, we had a perfectly calm night with nearly 0 wind.

summit of Decker

shadow play on the summit

evening light at camp

Milky Way above Trorey and rising Moon

Day 2

From camp, we skied as far as we could to the Decker-Trorey Col and transitioned to skins and had to boot up one particular wind sculpted roll. From there we easily moved on to the Trorey Glacier and N slope of Trorey. Once we wrapped around to the east side of Trorey we saw a group of 8 climbing to the col south of Pattison. We dropped our packs to summit Trorey and followed an existing skin track to the top, arriving on the summit 20 minutes later. The ski down back to our packs was on perfect corn and well worth the side trip to summit. From there we went to the col south of Pattison.

Summit of Trorey

skiing down Trorey

Wedge Mtn in the background

Once at the col, we dropped our packs and skinned then booted to the summit of Pattison. Another short 20 minute side trip. Then we dropped down to the Tremor Glacier and observed some heli skiing operations on the Tremor.

climbing up Pattison

The climb up the Tremor Glacier is one of the longer ones on the traverse and unfortunately still had cold soft snow on it that consistently glopped up on our wet skins. Then Tremor-Shudder Col was pretty windy. We dropped packs and skinned to the top of Tremor, in several places over rocks. We booted about halfway back before transitioning to skins since the ridge is quite narrow from a huge cornice on the north and rocky terrain south.

on the summit of Tremor

Then we traversed around the Platform Glacier partway to the wind cirque, dropped packs, and climbed up Shudder. The ski down Shudder was on perfect corn and we contemplated skinning back up for another run. Instead we spent time reading our beta to figure out where we would camp for the night. It sounded like the col south of Quiver on the Ripsaw Glacier had a good spot so we decided to check it out. It was great – views and running water!

camping spot

Unfortunately, while setting up our tent, one of our tent poles broke, previously damaged in high winds while camping on Hurricane Ridge over New Year’s. We were able to duct tape it together and while lame, it would work well enough for the night. We had bouts of wind that evening and I kept expecting the tent to suddenly collapse on us but fortunately it did not.

Evening light at camp

camping under Quiver's summit

Day 3

Clouds were rolling in and right after we finished breaking camp, white-out hit the Ripsaw Glacier. At least the part we were on. The traverse across Ripsaw is gentle enough that it was quick and easy to pick up the existing ski tracks and get back on route. Halfway to the Ripsaw-Naden Col we were out of the whiteout any way. We decided not to go the route most people were doing from the col down to the Naden Glacier. In the end, we wish we had, as it would have been a little less effort and we could have been able to traverse further across the Naden before putting skins on. Macbeth was in a full on whiteout at this point so we decided to skip this peak. The very top of it would remain in whiteout most of the day. From the Naden-Macbeth Col we could see the group 8 again, now on the Iago Glacier.

Views from Naden Glacier

We chattered down the frozen Macbeth Glacier, crossed the narrow slope over to the Iago Glacier, and climbed up it. Then we dropped down on to the Diavolo Glacier. At the bottom, while taking a break and transitioning, the first pair of day-trippers appeared. Their packs sure were small. We briefly chatted with them about the forecast for tomorrow and they were gone. We climbed to the Fitzsimmons-Benvolio Col then went up for the summit of Benvolio. The whiteouts were still rolling in and out. From there we dropped to the Benvolio-Overlord Col, dropped packs, and went up Overlord, another easy and short side trip.

Chitter chatter down Macbeth Glacier

Ridge between Macbeth and Iago

Dropping down onto Diavolo Glacier

Skiing Diavolo Glacier

Then we reclaimed our packs and started the traverse around Overlord. Pretty awesome! The day trippers were rolling through at this point. At the Fissile-Whirlwind Col a party of 4 day trippers caught up to us. We chatted with them for a bit as they transitioned to ski out. We asked about the Russet Lake Hut, since we had a broken tent pole and were interested in staying it. Hut standards run high in Canada, since the response was, “Not many people stay in that hut. It’s kind of rotten and like an ice box.” We bid them farewell and tagged the summit of Whirlwind. We wanted to summit Fissile too but the day was getting late and it looked a fair bit more involved than a short side trip.

Fissile-Whirlwind Col

Skinning up Whirlwind

Skiing down Whirlwind

We got one last whiteout as we skied down to the hut. When we arrived at the hut, 3 people were inside, but only to drink coffee, not to stay the night. Turns out they were with Pro Guiding and part of the group of 8 we’d been trailing behind. We chatted with them before they rejoined the rest of their group, who were tenting a few hundred feet away from the hut. Well, cool, now we had the hut to ourselves, and would continue to through the night. Caution, if you’re planning to melt snow around the hut, either boil it or bring a filter – there’s a lot of mud pies in the area. Despite the low opinions of the hut, staying in it was very nice – you can stand up straight, sit down properly, and eat comfortably – which is much better than a tent with a broken pole.

Milky Way above Fissile

The hut

Looking towards Blackcomb

Day 4

A few minutes after we left the hut, while climbing up to Cowboy Ridge, we got a short snow flurry. The ski down to Singing Pass was quite pleasant on softening snow. Then we climbed up to Oboe, skied down, and took the lower track around Flute. Once we reached the ridge, we decided to skin to the top of Flute since it wasn’t obvious how we’d get from the lower track to the bottom of the resort without one last skin. Plus this area was new to us. From the top of Flute we were able to ski continuously. As we approached Olympic Station we saw signs that said downloading was recommended, so we took the Gondola down back to the village. There’s not many traverses that can start and end on a lift, so why not, eh?

Halo above Fissile and Whirlwind

There’s so much terrain on and along the Spearhead! We brought boot crampons, ice axes, rope, and crevasse rescue gear but never used any of it. Although we felt it was kind of a “Candyland Traverse” because it is so heavily trafficked and we never had to break any trail, we’re glad we did it, leisurely tagged some peaks, and got some great skiing in along the way.

More detailed photo report here:

TR by Chris
Photos by Radka
« Last Edit: 04/12/16, 11:57 AM by radka » Logged

Posts: 309

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 04/12/16, 02:18 PM »

WOW! Thanks for the inspiration and stunning pics!

Posts: 152

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 04/13/16, 08:45 AM »

Amazing photos. I was part of that Pro Guiding Service group. Still can't get the expanse of the mountains there, out of my head. Glad your trip was as fun as ours.

Posts: 843

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #3 on: 04/13/16, 10:35 AM »

Nice report. Stuff like that keeps pushing me to finally do that route that I've seen from so many angles most of my life.

Brian Izdepski, Facebook TAY
Pete A

Posts: 845

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #4 on: 04/13/16, 12:35 PM »

great pics and write-up as always!     

cool to see the spearhead broken up over four days- I've been wanting to ski that under a similar schedule with enough time to bag a bunch of the side peaks.   Spearhead is a day is great fun but for non-racer types you don't have much time to dilly-dally with side trips or laps. Two days just kinda're slowed down by the overnight gear but still don't have a ton of spare time for yo-yos... i gotta try the 4-day schedule one of these days Smiley

Posts: 15

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #5 on: 04/13/16, 02:20 PM »

Awesome pics and great TR!  Looks like a fantastic trip.

Posts: 112

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #6 on: 04/13/16, 03:49 PM »

Very nice! I did this trip in 2007 with my wife and we both remember it fondly.
Good to hear that it is still not that crowded. That might change with the new hut plans that were recently approved,
First on the plan is replacing Russet Lk hut and having is open by winter 2018.
Then, as funds become available, a hut near McBeth and one near Pattison...creating a European experience, with the ability to get the overnight gear off your back!
I pretty sure I may have met you two on the summit of Baker sunday. You mentioned this trip and it looks like you in the pictures. Thanks for taking my picture up there!

Posts: 692

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #7 on: 04/14/16, 07:48 AM »

Wonderful report, as usual, with pictures to match, sounded like the perfect pace to see it all and do it all thanks.

Posts: 124

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #8 on: 04/14/16, 06:53 PM »

Thank you all for your kind feedback, glad you enjoyed the report and pictures. By no means do we set any speed records on our trips - there is so much to explore and ski and photograph to just fly by it in one day. Really a stunning area. Kinda bummed about the huts - it will be less of a wilderness experience and more crowded in the future.

Hi Pinch! Nice to meet you on Baker and thanks for taking our pics, too!

Posts: 498

Re: March 31-April 3, Spearhead Traverse
« Reply #9 on: 04/15/16, 10:45 AM »

Nice work all around.  Such a good place!
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