Overlord Glacier – Fitzsimmons Range backcountry
April 28, 2019
Every spring I like to do one trip where I fry my face, get some nice views, (hopefully) ski good snow and come home safe. This year I went for a pleasant ramble with Pat L into the Fitzsimmons Range to the backcountry behind Whistler mountain. Our plan was to head out to the Russett Lake hut to hang out overnight then tour out to the Diavolo Glacier area to look at terrain, wander around glaciers and perhaps get a clean look at the N face of Mt Cheakamus.
Overnight gear, a simple glacier rack, and 2 nights of food (I brought extra just in case) into an Alpine Threadworks Selkirk pack
Out to the Russett hut as the lifts closed; enjoying nice fast travel conditions and quite the light show. It didn’t take much to talk Pat into getting some a sunset ski on the NW facing Fissile bowl approach to Whirlwind Peak. Clearing showers lent even more colour to the sunset.
View to the Overlord Glacier from an inbounds ski, then from Flute, and a view of the soon-to-be complete Kees and Claire hut
Fissile daytime. A group of 4 already at the hut
Sunset on the low-tide snow year of the NW and WNW face of Fissile
The “rustic” Russet hut
While daytime temps were 9 – 12 degrees (and slated to be that warm the next day) night-time temps were in the minus 10 range. With the well-ventilated drafty Russet Lake hut notorious for being an ice-box I was happy to have packed a warm bag. Northerly outflows hammered the walls all night. On waking up and making breakfast Pat and I both remarked that we would go out to see how things looked but both of us agreed that big steep N faces (Cheakamus is in the high 50s so fairly steep) would likely ski poorly.
On touring up NW slopes from Fissile to Whirlwind we confirmed our suspicion and after reaching Fissile-Whirlwind col discussed the possibility of altering plans. Both of us were quite happy with the windless, warm conditions affording magnificent views. Pat had never skied the Overlord Glacier proper with my experience of it being 7-8? years old so was content to go exploring.
This turned out to be a good call as the N face of Cheakamus had avalanched naturally sometime in the past few days (per a MCR). Moreover Overlord Glacier skied so well and conditions were so fast that we did another lap of the glacer thus completing 2 circumnavigations of Fissile. On our 2nd lap Tim R joined us and we skied a slightly more aggressive line that both Pat and I scouted from lap 1.
We had a quick ski back to Whistler and were eating and drinking in a remarkably deserted village by a civilized 5.30pm
Cheakamus Glacier view
Down the 2km wide Overlord Glacier
First serac complex of Overlord with Fissile’s NE face behind
Pretty well-bridged glacier (for now)
On lap 1 we took the opportunity of scouting the line furthest skiers left and confirming that it did go
Lap 2 – red arrows mark the sags on the Overlord Glacier below Refuse Pinnacle
My squiggly tracks down the Overlord Glacier
Overlord Glacier April 28 2019 from Lee Lau on Vimeo.
The lines of Fissile aren’t filled in and probably not going to get better this season
I took a lot of pictures because (i) the weather was so good and (ii) glaciers and mountains are beautiful. When I got back I put together some comparisons of the terrain from a decade ago as compared to present-day.
Cheakamus Glacier then
Cheakamus Glacier now
Fissile-Whirlwind col now and then
Fissile East Face then
Fissile East Face now
Fissile NE face & first Overlord Glacier seracs then and now
Overlord Glacier middle seracs then and now. Glacier has receded enough to uncover a rock band
Overlord Glacier right fork seracs then and now. Glacier has receded enough to uncover a rock band
Banana and Psycho Chute then and now