The high pressure that had now set in on the Coast Mountains gave Sharon and I the opportunity to venture high and to revisit one of our favorite places in Blackcomb’s backcountry. From yesterday’s tour on Rainbow we had already figured out that high alpine N faces would likely be in poor condition. Touring to the Phalanx area would let us get to lower-angled (and possibly less wind-affected) slopes and maybe hit some tree skiing on the way.
We hooked up with Dave and Mark on the way and convinced them to do some glacier-skipping.
Class 3 avalanche off Decker’s N face takes out the upper portion of the popular 9th Hole run.
Mark drops off Don’t Swill down to the Spearhead Glacier
The route is as described in the map below. The Stairmaster is a direct ascent to the plateau around Phalanx and the Phalanx Glacier and is more often used as a 200m bootpack then as a descent. We went direct up to Spearhead Col from the Blackcomb backcountry gates; across Dean’s Adieu and then down Don’t Swill and then over the Spearhead to the base of the SE face of Phalanx and the Stairmaster.
Sharon and Dave cruise down the Spearhead Glacier towards the Stairmaster Couloir
Dave and Mark on the Stairmaster
Phalanx Glacier is a pretty mellow descent and is popular with heli-skiers for that reason. The first part of the glacier is a meadow-skipping 15-20 degrees and then the second part rolls off to about 30 degrees. Unfortunately the steeper part was also wind-hammered. Fortunately the treed pillow lines below the glacier held the best snow. We made good use of the pillow lines turning a couple of laps and giving Dave and Mark a taste of the beautiful aesthetic drops, pillows and challenging routes in this short little playland.
Mark, Dave and Sharon on the Phalanx Glacier
Dave descending to Pillowland
Mark lying down on the job
Dave sluffing out the snow
Exit from this area is pretty easy. It’s probably best to keep your skins on and try to traverse over to Poop Chutes. If you try to drop down too soon to the Blackcomb access road without traversing south back to the Poop Chutes you will hit a band of cliffs and be forced to do some fancy billygoating through rocks and tight trees. You’ll also have a tough time crossing the creek back to the access road. We traversed some horribly sun-affected skin tracks back to the ski area and then, much to our surprise, skied creamy buff powder down the middle Poop Chutes back to the gate.
Google Earth Profile
Map of the route