Accidental Spearhead Day 3- Tremor to Whistler – a partial Spearhead Traverse

With a bit more urgency today we were up before dawn and ready to leave at first light. It turns out that none of us (despite about 50 years of collective skitouring experience between us) had done a Spearhead. So we were all pretty excited. It turned out perfect. Visibility was great, skiing was fast and our packs were light. The Baldwin map made it basically a cakewalk although I would add that its nice that all of us know our way around a glacier – which helps a lot in this area. I’ve put a lot of panoramic shots (some particularly stunning ones from Rob) and surrounding mountains in this TR because I”m collecting information for future projects and trips. Hopefully, it will also help other people who are doing traverses in this area. We did this leg in an incredibly relaxed fashion – taking 8 hours and lots of time-out-to-take-in-the-views, breaks.

I would add that on a popular weekend there may be other tracks in the area. We ran into two other parties, which is considered crowded by British Columbia standards. It may be tempting to follow tracks but it is a very heavily glaciated traverse with lots of objective hazards. As with all things in ski-touring, make your own decisions and pick your own routes.

Stunning display of immaturity at Tremor Col by an unknown Mr Tee

Sunrise over our campsite

Approaching Quiver Peak from the Platform Glacier

Rounding Quiver Peak and looking south to the Ripsaw Glacier

Ripsaw Glacier looking south and heading to Ripsaw – Naden col

Sastrugi on Ripsaw Glacier

Looking back to Quiver Peak from the Ripsaw Glacier

The Naden Glacier looking to Naden-MacBeth col ~photo Rob McLachlan

Just needs a wee bit more coverage on the Ripsaw – Naden col choke leading to the Naden Glacier ~ photo Zdenek Manhal

Panorama shows the flat safe slopes of the Naden Glacier looking back to Ripsaw – Naden col to the north ~photo Rob McLachlan

View approaching camp of another party at Naden – MacBeth col.

Some advance group cut fantastic steps in the bootpack on this small ridge just SW of the Naden – MacBeth col. A word about this route – by taking it you avoid having to drop down to the Iago or MacBeth glaciers. So you don’t have to take the bootpack but if you’re doing this as a tour or if the skiing is rotten (which was our situation) then its a quick, easy, safe route.

View from MacBeth – Naden col looking towards the Fitzsimmons Range and showing the “safe route” bootpack

Top of the bootpack ~photo Ron Enns

Iago Glacier looking SE to the Sir Richard Group and the McBride Range

Close up of the Sir Richard Group

Looking back from the lower slopes of Mt Iago towards the east Spearhead Range

View south from Mt Iago’s lower slopes showing the Fitzsimmons Glacier, the N Face of Fitzsimmons and Benvolio – Overlord

Spectacular panoramic of the Diavolo Glacier and the mountains to the SE and south ~photo Rob McLachlan

Unfortunately south – facing slopes never quite corned up. I suppose the mid-winter sun just doesn’t have enough punch to make it happen. The closest we got were the S aspects of the Diavolo Glacier leading down to Fitzsimmons.

Lee skiing the still boilerplate but gradually corning up south facing slopes of the Diavolo Glacier towards Fitzsimmons ~photo Rob McLachlan

Rob coming off the Diavolo Glacier

Zdenek following the 300m climb from the Diavolo Glacier to the Benvolio Glacier – Fitzsimmons and the Diavolo Glacier as the backdrop ~photo Rob McLachlan

Ron and Rob on the Benvolio Glacier – in the background is Tremor and the Platform Glacier. Our tracks are visible.

At the Benvolio Glacier you have two options. The high traverse leads up to the Benvolio Glacier and Mt Benvolio and avoids the mother-of-all cornices hanging off the Benvolio Glacier. The low route might cut off maybe 15 minutes and cuts underneath the cornice.

I personally don’t like the route because skinning under big cornices makes me nervous. Skinning under house-sized cornices and above crevasses makes me even more nervous. Also 15 minutes of mild uphill doesn’t seem like a big deal. Anyway, enough lectures, you make your own choices.

Recent slide to ice on the Benvolio Glacier right down to the low traverse – we took the high traverse.

As you round Overlord Peak’s north face you have another two options. The high col leading down to the Overlord Glacier can sometimes be rocky and in low snow years may require a rappel. this was not a problem this year. If you take the high col going clockwise on the Spearhead you can ski and therefor move quite quickly through the Overlord Glacier past the obvious huge cornices on the Refuse Pinnacle ridge above you. Even if you’re doing a counterclockwise Spearhead you can take the high traverse by wrapping around the flat part of the Overlord Glacier and then approaching the high col direct.

Of course, you can also take the low col route approach to the Overlord Mountain ridge and avoid all this. That might eat about another half-hour or so of time.

Ron dropping down to the Overlord Glacier under the looming cornices of Refuse Pinnacle. We skied off the high Overlord col and moved quickly past recent cornice fall debris

Recent cornice fall debris off Refuse Pinnacle. We later learned it had occurred that weekend. No-one was caught

Rob skiing down refrozen breakable crust on the Fissile pocket glacier

The rest of the trip is pretty routine. Slopes around Fissile had seen a ton of traffic and snow conditions got worse as we got lower. We finished up by skinning over Oboe, Flute and down to Harmony and out to Splitz Grill.

The group looking a bit haggard approaching the last leg of the day on Cowboy Ridge ~photo Rob McLachlan.

From Tom Wolfe – Mountains Conditions Report – ACMG website Back to winter in the Rockies now from a mild week and a half of touring on the coast with Ian Kirschner. In short, great stability but bad skiing. The last four days (Fri-Mon) were spent doing an extended Spearhead Traverse.

SNOWPACK: Well consolidated snowpack. Surface conditions above 1700 m are a wide variety of crusts: wind, sun, temperature, making for terrible skiing for the most part. Below 1900 m, especially in wind-sheltered areas, surface hoar is developing; on the “Musical Bumps” surface hoar to 15 mm was observed. Between about 1900 m and 2500 m on sheltered N facing slopes we found the occasional decent turns. On Saturday morning the N face of Tremor was skiied by one person in a group of four–he reported OK conditions (PS, if this group has any good photos of the trip I’d love to get a couple, In general the facetting is not breaking down the various crusts as quickly as we’d hoped. On Sunday (Jan 28) steep south facing slopes made for OK corn skiing for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Below 1900 m the temperature and sun crusts are pervasive and strong.WEATHER: Since last Monday/Tuesday’s storm the coast has had mainly clear, mild, calm weather with daily highs in the low single digits (1-3 C) and overnight lows not dropping below -6 C in the alpine. On Sunday night things cooled down a bit and Monday was cool and overcast until later in the day when the skies cleared and the wind began to howl up high from the NE, moving the only loose snow available — some surface facets — into heavy pillows on lee slopes and cross gullies.

AVALANCHES: No new avalanches were observed since the last widespread cycle as reported by Craig McGee last week. No new cornice failures. The cornice chunks reported by Craig at the top of Overlord Glacier are truly impressive.

COVERAGE: The snowpack here is an impressive 4m+ on the glaciers. We did a bunch of loop trips during our tour. All of these tours take you into pretty big glacier country, and take you onto and close to some serious clopes. Good stability, visibility, and preferably good light is a mus for all of them. Here are our observations. Saturday am: Down Shudder Gl, up Shatter: good coverage, we were able to avoid all sags easily by trending to the right. We started up the Shudder and crossed over to the Shatter where the glaciers join down low. Sunday am: Down Ripsaw Gl, up Naden Gl: Going down Ripsaw you can avoid all sags on the far left, but this was raked by debris from solar slouging from the end of the last storm. So we skiied through a bit of the bottom icefall and found that the coverage was good enough to weave through the crevasses easily. Surprisingly decent turns in the middle of the run.

Sunday pm: Down Iago, up Naden: excellent coverage on both Iago and Naden Monday am: Down Curtain, up Macbeth: Curtain felt pretty committing.

There is a large crevasse and small cliff in the middle, which can be avoided by traversing out right on very steep slopes (40+ deg).Getting up from Fitzsimmons onto the Macbeth brings you onto very steep W facing slopes. The traverse itself is, as Craig reported, in great shape right now–until the next snowfall that is…Regards, Tom Wolfe AAG






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