In a spectacular window of fine weather and incredible snow last week, I had the pleasure of completing the Spearhead Traverse near Whistler, British Columbia. I did the traverse with Pro Guiding colleague Dave Jordan and four very enthusiastic guests. Neither Dave nor I had ever done the Spearhead, and the challenge of on-sight guiding added to the experience for the two of us. For our guests, highlights included mind-blowing mountain views, long powder descents, and true adventure; I heard the phrase "best turns of my life" more than once on the trip.
The Spearhead encircles the headwaters of Fitzimmons Creek, connecting the high country from Blackcomb to Whistler (or vice-versa, if you want to be contrary). It crosses as many as 14 glaciers over 34 km (21 miles). Truly remarkable is the modest 1900m (6200 ft) of elevation gain required for the classic traverse. Spread over several days--we took four--the tour provides ample opportunity for ski descents and enjoying the alpine ambience.
Despite a harrowing run-in with bad Canadian IPAs the night before, our team made it up to the backcountry gate at a reasonable hour. Our first day involved some whiteout navigation and a fun, steep chute down onto the Decker glacier and our first camp.
Our second day dawned cold and clear, and we found our way over the Shudder glacier and Mount Pattison. A clever traverse across the Platform glacier and its enigmatic "blowhole" took us to the Ripsaw glacier, a second camp, and some incredible powder. We enjoyed the afternoon light on the McBride range as we skinned back up to camp after our run.
Day three we finagled our way onto the Naden glacier and then to the head of the MacBeth: here we had to make a big decision. As if haunted by an uninvited Scottish theme, we debated the high road and the low road. Either we would continue high on the glaciers of Mt Fitzimmons and Overlord, or we would drop in one fell swoop to the valley before us, and climb out the other side. The approaching clouds finally decided us, and we dropped onto the MacBeth glacier.
Stunning turns resulted, followed by many high-fives and bursts of song. I think Nick at one point regaled us with a Fat Boy Slim ballad.
We followed this epic descent with a short climb to the Overlord glacier and another great run down it's crevassed lower extent. One more climb brought us to the Himmelsbach hut, where we bade farewell to three skiers who had spent the day skiing Fissile and were now conveniently yielding the hut to our party. Many snacks and hot drinks followed, in preparation for some glory runs on the flank of Fissile. Hoots and hollers and pole clacking rang out over the snows.
Our final day involved a hot breakfast and a hasty bustle out the door. Weather had arrived, and we waded through the murk over the Musical Bumps: Singing Pass and the Oboe went by, interspersed with some fine glade skiing. Jack sang to us a solemn tune entitled "Business Time." Finally, in a vertigo-inducing whiteout, we arrived at the ski area boundary. We then braved perhaps the most hazardous leg of the trip: invisible precipices along the cat track, savage swedish skiers in neon pants, waffle smells wafting, roads diverging in a wood. We endured to the very end of our Spearhead Traverse and to yon bonny banks of the Whistler Brew Pub, where Canada finally made right on its promise of decent IPA.