Words and photos by Lee Lau unless otherwise noted
Other related links:
- Fissile NE Face
- One day Spearhead Traverse
- Fissile like a Missile Couloir
- Whirlwind and Overlord Glacier
- Map of Spearhead and Fitzsimmons Range; 1:50,000
- 1: 20,000 TRIM data BC government maps of the Fitzsimmon and Spearhead Ranges
Artic high pressures live up to their name as the temperatures dip to minus 15 in the hut at night and minus 25 or so outside. It’s frigid when we get up but we’re eager to get up and out the door. Morning sun in January anywhere in Canada is never very strong. This is very true at the hut’s elevation of 1890m.
Climbing to Fissile Whirlwind col in the morning
The climb to Fissile Whirlwind Col is a familiar old friend to me. The views from the top are always worth it.
View from Fissile Whirlwind Col looking NW to Fissile Peak and to the Overlord Glacier to the north We head over to Refuse Pinnacle – Whirlwind Col to see if there’s a way to sneak around Refuse Pinnacle to the Benvolio Glacier. Sadly the snow is wind-hammered and I’m not sanguine about my chances of retreating safely if the traverse gets any more icy then it is. I settle for taking some breathtaking panoramas of a little-visited area.
Looking SSE down Refuse Creek towards the McBride Range and in the distance, Pinecone Burke – close to Vancouver.
We head down the Overlord Glacier to take a look at Overlord Mountain and it’s north face, which I would like to ski. There are two ways to get to Overlord Mtn. The route marked in red is a bit more aggressive and can be used in the morning or whenever you’re not exposed to danger of falling cornices from Refuse Pinnacle. It is also used when doing a clockwise Spearhead Traverse since you’re then on skis and can move quite quickly through the danger zone. The route marked in black is more conservative and is used for late day travel.
At the hut last night we were joined by three young guys from Switzerland who I had promptly christianed Le Machine Suisse as they moved very fast. Alain, Ludovic and Raphael had never been to Canada before but had the good sense to use the first sustained high-pressure of this winter to seek out alpine big peaks. I had given the Swiss machine beta for a ski descent of Fissile like a Missile couloir on the east face of Fissile. I’d skied this couloir in spring last year but, with this season’s amazing snowfall, it had already filled in enough to be skied. It was really wild to have this perspective of the couloir from almost a kilometre away. It sure doesn’t seem like this when you’re actually in it!
Fissile like a Missile couloir skied very nicely by the Swiss machine – Raphael is the skier
Impressive as it is to watch the Swiss slice and dice the couloir we are here to ski too. Off we go to Overlord Mountain.
Heading to Overlord Mountain from the glacier
Unfortunately the winds have hammered the north face of Overlord pretty badly. There are big jagged rocks right in the middle of the north face. Today is not the day.
North face of Overlord Mountain
So, today turns out to be a tour and a scouting missions for the next day’s mission. I get a good look at the route to some fine faces to ski. Mt Fitzsimmons’ north face looks fantastic if a bit exposed. Skiing it would require playing crevasse slalom in the middle of the face and the glacier’s toe.
Mt Fitzsimmon’s 380m north face – unfortunately looks windhammered.
You can get around this face on the north side of the Benvolio Glacier by traversing up and over the bergschrund or you can head to the sun, traverse the Benvolio Glacier, get a view and check out the back side of Overlord Peak.
Mt Fitzsimmons’N face picture left, Benvolio’s north face on picture centre , the cornices and bergschrund of Benvolio Glacier in the centre.
The rather anti-climatic south ridge approach to Overlord Mountain from the Benvolio Glacier
Enshrined forever in digital posterity, I brainfart and get alarmingly airy on a large cornice of the Benvolio Glacier while looking towards Fitzsimmons and Benvolio.
Playing with large cornices on the Benvolio Glacier
It was time to head back to the hut and get some decent low angle turns on the Overlord Glacier
Lee on Overlord Glacier
Sharon on Overlord Glacier – Fissile Peak in the background
Lower icefall on the Overlord Glacier
Stopped to take some pictures of possible future objectives. The Swiss had gone back up Fissile to drop Banana Chute and another party also came down the NW/Main face at the same time.
NE face of Fissile Peak – NE couloir variation
Psycho Chute looking rather the worse for wear
Moonrise over Russet Lake hut
Our route on Jan 12, 2007
Elevation profile for the day