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AlpineK

Spearhead Traverse

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On Wednesday the 20th I was looking at the weather forecast, and I noticed that starting on the weekend the weather prediction was for stable weather for a number of days. After doing some more checking I phoned my buddy C and suggested that we head up to Canada and ski the Spearhead Traverse. He had to work on the weekend, so we didn’t leave until Sunday night. C came by my place during the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, so instead of watching Bon Jovi, we loaded up and headed up I-5. We got to Squamish about 11PM and camped out on the side of a logging road.

2/25/02

We stopped at Tim Horton’s for coffee and doughnuts and then drove up to Blackcomb ski area. At the main lodge we registered and got a backcountry lift ticket and walked over to the lifts. Standing in a lift line with a large backpack made us feel like freaks. All I wanted to do was get out of Blackcomb as fast as possible. After 3 lift rides and a T-bar ride we skied to the area boundary and started hiking. There were still lots of skiers hiking up the first hill out of the ski area, but after we skied down the first slope out of Blackcomb we were alone. The weather on the first day was good, just some high clouds and a ring around the sun. The skiing out of Blackcomb was great, lots of nice south facing slopes. We skied over Decker Mountain and Mt Pattison and set up camp on the Tremor glacier. The temperature dropped as the sun did, and we crawled into our bags and slept. During the night the wind picked up and snow started to fall on the tent.

2/26/02

We woke to crystal clear skies and an inch of new snow. After breakfast we put on our still to heavy packs and skied up Mt Tremor. From near the top we had an excellent view back to the ski area, and looking forward we could start to see our route make a big bend to the west. We skied across the Platform Glacier and up to Quiver Peak. From there we skied around Mt Macbeth. From high on Mt Macbeth we got an excellent view of the ski descent to the McBride Range, but since we weren’t headed that way this time we skied down the west shoulder of Mt Macbeth to a narrow corniced ridge separating the mountain from Mt Iago. The ridge looked a lot harder than it ended up being, and soon we were skinning up Mt Iago. From near the summit, we skied a west-facing slope, with a thick crust on the surface, down to the Diavolo Glacier. We set up our tent facing the McBride range and while we ate our dinner we watched the full moon rise over the mountains. Unlike the previous day there had been no high clouds, and so I was surprised when I woke to the sound of wind and drifting snow, which soon turned into the sound of wind and falling snow.

2/27/02

We woke up to a near whiteout. The cloud ceiling was a couple hundred feet above us, but well below the level of the pass we needed to ski through. We talked it over and decided to try and go for it since we didn’t know what the future held in store. Skiing up into the whiteout we soon started to loose our bearings. Our checks of the map and compass became more frequent. Eventually we ended up at a notch and looked over the other side to see huge cliffs. After further checking we decided we had skied past the col we wanted to ski through and we were looking down into the Cheakamus drainage. We backtracked to the NE and eventually found a col that took us onto a glacier draining to the north. We still couldn’t see, but we figured we were on top of the Fitzsimmons Glacier and we needed to bear west around the shoulder of Overlord Mountain. I headed towards a rocky outcrop and we skied just below it. In the clouds we thought we were finally on the Overlord Glacier, so we started to ski down. The snow was fantastic, but due to the whiteout we could only see enough to make 3 turns at a time. I kept seeing crevasses and cliffs below and quite often I would have to watch snowballs roll down the slope to make out what was in front of us. After a little bit of skiing we ended up at the top of some cliffs, so once again we got out the compass and checked our bearing. We came to the conclusion that we were still on the Fitzsimmons Glacier. I saw a ridge in the direction we wanted to head that looked like we could hike over, so we skinned up it. Reaching the ridge top the clouds broke and we could finally see that we had made it to the Overlord Glacier and the correct descent route. Looking back we could see we had just skied a narrow ramp at the top of the Fitzsimmons glacier with seracs and cliffs below our route. With a lot of relief we skied down the Overlord glacier to the base of Fissile Peak. A short hike brought us to the Himmelsbach hut and we ate lunch in relative luxury. We had left for our trip without one key essential, and so we started rummaging through the hut. C found a little container with three roaches in it, and we tried to no avail to make use of them. Fortunately some, “well equipped,” snowboarders showed up and we spent the evening talking, smoking and drinking (Thanks guys!!!!).

2/28/02

The weather was crystal clear in the morning. We got up early and hiked up with daypacks to Fissile Peak. We wanted to ski a steep chute on the north face, but the conditions were quite icy on the west shoulder, and since we didn’t have ice axes we ended up skiing down the west shoulder back to the hut. We packed up our gear, said goodbye to the snowboarders and hiked out to Singing Pass. The ski down to the pass was nice, and after two more climbs we made it to the top of the Flute and thus back to Whistler Resort. After three days skiing in the backcountry, skiing down groomed runs, on manmade snow, in a huge pack of skiers was pretty odd. We eventually made it to the base of Whistler and hiked back to our car at Blackcomb. We registered out and then went straight to the bar and downed a couple beers then headed south to the States and home.

So this trip ruled. Two big thumbs up. In spring you could do the traverse with less gear, but we both had a great time doing a high mountain traverse in winter. I can’t wait until my next long trip!

[ 03-01-2002: Message edited by: AlpineK ]

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fuckin'a bro nice one....

index on sunday with some well equipped rock monkeys??

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Sounds like a good trip, Mr. K.

How did they treat you at the ski area? I have found the staff at Blackcomb to be very helpful about offering information as to conditions and helping load packs on the chairlift, etc. Do they still offer the one-ride lift ticket for a fair price?

That chute on Fissile is rather steep, isn't it?

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quote:

Originally posted by mattp:
How did they treat you at the ski area? I have found the staff at Blackcomb to be very helpful about offering information as to conditions and helping load packs on the chairlift, etc. Do they still offer the one-ride lift ticket for a fair price?

http://www.bivouac.com/BlnPg.asp?rq=Pg&BlnId=125

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Matt

Like drew's link says they want to see your beeper, shovel, and probe. All we did was drag our huge packs over and that impressed the woman behind the counter enough that she didn't ask to actually see all our gear which was good because neither of us had avy probes.

Yes Fissile is steep!

[ 03-01-2002: Message edited by: AlpineK ]

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Nice Piks!

If you want to go back, I would be interested in skiing out to climb the two peaks I missed on my traverse two years ago - Quiver and Ripsaw.

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