My plans to go ski off Fissile were aborted on Sunday night when Alex called and asked me if I wanted to try something big and stupid the next day. He initially suggested N Face of Wedge but my description of a 6 year old expedition involving an 18 hour day ending with a bushwhack down Rethel Creek by headlamp turned him off. Then we talked about the Curtain Glacier, or W face of Iago or the N face of Fitzsimmons. But these were all things we had done before …. Then Alex mentioned the N face of Cheakamus.
Described by Jia Condon as a 55 degree, 1500 ft descent, this was something I’d skied by numerous times. I’d never actually thought of it as a day trip – especially in mid-winter with the short days. The more we talked about it, the more it seemed like something worthwhile to try. So off to bed I went, dreaming of steep N faces.
Alex and Jay on Oboe @ 10:40
Russet Ridge overlooking Fissile @ about 11:30
A friend of Alex formed the third member of team hopefully-fast-and-light. Jay wasn’t overly delayed by the American tourist who was annoyed by his having an ice-axe in the gondola lift-line. Part of the problem with these trips where you start from the Whistler alpine via lift-served is the late start. Sure you start high real fast off the lifts but you also don’t get going off the boundaries till 10am. We managed to make decent time despite the rising alpine temps and were at Cowboy Ridge by 11:15 and Fissile – Whirlwind col at 12:30.
On route ~photo Alex Wigley
Jay skinning up to Fissile-Whirlwind Col – Davidson and Cheakamus Glacier in the background
Skinning up below Refuse Pinnacle @ about 1pm
Alex heading to Fitzsimmons-Benvolio Col – Iago and Fitzsimmons in the backdrop
Fitzsimmons – Benvolio Col was windy and briskly cold @ about 2pm. Bottom picture ~Alex Wigley
Even so, we didn’t get to Fitzsimmons- Benvolio Col (about halfway around the Spearhead Traverse if you’re doing it counterclockwise) till 2pm. One look at the N face of Cheakamus told us that we were just a tad underequipped. Getting to the summit plateau and the N face itself wouldn’t have been too bad. But looking through the binoculars the first pitch was more like 60 degrees. If we were to ski it, I’d feel a lot better making a ski cut on rope and all we had between us was some Spectra and utility cord.
Realistically, Cheakamus’s N Face would either be a long one day spring mission or even better, a good one day march from Russet Lake or a ski-camp on the MacBeth or Diavolo Glacier. We could have given it a try but even if the face had gone without a hitch we would have been skiing out the Overlord Glacier by headlamp.
Turnin back – Alex heading up to Mt Benvolio and the Benvolio Glacier. Diavolo Glacier and Cheakamus Mt in the backdrop
Jay with Fitzsimmons as background
Heading down the Benvolio Glacier
Jay and Alex drop down to the Overlord Glacier
To cut a long story short, we decided to make a loop out of it and skin up to the Benvolio Glacier and Mt Benvolio, down the Overlord Glacier, off Russet and Cowboy Ridge and then out Singing Pass. This too went without a hitch.
It was a busy day in the neighbourhood. We passed two guys who skied off Fissile then passed another large group that had all skied the Curtain Glacier (well done!) as part of a one-day Spearhead and were out just before dark. The triple-decker Wendy’s Baconator tasted very good
Jay and Lee with Fissile as the background heading down the Overlord Glacier. Bottom picture ~Alex Wigley
Alex shredding glacial snow
Decent snow off Cowboy Ridge at end of the day. Top picture ~Alex Wigley
31.2kms of travel and 1750m of climbing in total.