Mount Sproatt

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Avalanche serious.gif Avalanche Hazard
The route and terrain described here is capable of producing avalanches. Safe travel requires the skills and equipment to assess and mitigate avalanche hazards. A professionally taught training course is highly recommended.

Using This Ski Guide

VOC Ski Guide
Using This Ski Guide Preface Winter Safety Avalanche safety
Waxing Navigation Snow Shelters Gear Lists
Difficulty Rating Intermediate
Location Key Q
NTS Mapsheet 92 J/3
Road 2.5km/1hr
Route 5.5km/?hrs
Starting Elevation 670m
High Point 1834m
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Introduction

Sproatt is a good destination for yoyoing or a tour up to the summit. There are a couple routes into the area; the most popular with backcountry skiers is up 21 Mile Creek from Alta Lake Road in Whistler to the hanging valley NW of Sproatt. This is the same approach as for Rainbow Mountain. Others routes are from the SW from the Callaghan Valley road system, or from 21 mile creek via Gin and Tonic Lakes.

From 21 Mile Creek

Access

The trailhead is located at the Whistler Cemetary on Alta Lake road in Whistler. If driving from Vancouver, the turnoff for Alta lake road is north of Function Junction and South of Whistler Creek on the left (west) side of the highway. Follow Alta Lake road for 6 km to a turnoff on the left for the Whistler cemetary. In winter, it's generally easiest to park at the cemetary and ski up the gated road rather than up the lowest part of the hiking trail. The hiking trail parking is about 200m further north on Alta Lake road. The road and trail join back together near the municipal water supply buildings, about 1km up.

Approach to all routes

Start skiing up the road from the cemetary to a couple of buildings by a map kiosk. Keep left here, following the directions for the Rainbow Madely Trail. There are two roads heading up 21 mile creek from this point; you want to be on the higher road. The road climbs steadily to about 1000m and then levels off. Past an outhouse the trail leaves the road on the left - this junction is easy to miss, especially in winter. The trail climbs gently back and forth through a logged area with lots of slide alder, soon reaching old growth forest. Once in the big trees, the trail is much easier to follow in winter.

NE direct route

The NE side of Sproatt can be climbing directly from the 21 mile creek trail. Leave the trail at the first bridge, about 500m after getting into the old growth forest. Climb the steep forest above to reach the bottom of a big ramp / bench system around 1300m. Follow meadows up the bench system up to the top (around 1660m) - the climbers left side is safer. From the top of the bench climb a short steep pitch through trees to reach the NE ridge, or traverse along the E side of the mountain and gain the summit ridge a little further south.

Hanging Valley Route

A good place to leave the trail is at the outhouse just past the second sign that says 4.5km to Rainbow Lake. Don't go past the big log bridge though - this is the western of the two creek that comes down from the hanging valley. The climb up to the hanging valley has a short steep section in the trees. There are two options, either climb a steep section of forest between two gullies and then cross an exposed slope, or climb east of both gullies up a forested slope between two small cliffs. The cliff on the right on the way up is easy to identify as it has a yellow stained icicle on it in winter. The second route is generally better than the first one, as it has more room to switchback up the steep section and no terrain traps.

Once up in the hanging valley, subalpine meadows prevail with excellent north facing ski runs all around. The summit is easiest to reach by skiing up to the end of the valley and then turning left up the ridge. A more direct route climbs up NW facing slopes just after getting up into the hanging valley to gain the NNE ridge of Sproatt. This variation has excellent, long ski runs.

Hazards

  1. Avalanche

From the Callaghan Road

Main article: Gin Peak

Another approach to this area is from Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley.

Trip report 8 Dec. 2006

Parked at the Whistler cemetary along Alta Lake Rd, and followed the logging road up (later followed signs for Rainbow Lake). We took the NNE ridge up (and turned off from the main 21 mile creek trail at the 4.5km to Rainbow Lake signs (before small log brige over stream, red flagging tape)). Note that the route through the hanging valley probably turns off ~1km further along the 21 mile creek trail. The NNE ridge has one steep forested section, which is not the easiest skiing terrain, rest is easy-going. Bram & Andrew

Sproatt Issues

  • Canadian Snowmobile Adventures has been operating in the Callaghan Valley for a number of years under short term tenures. They are being displaced by the new Whistler Nordic Center / Whister Olympic Park. They want to take over the south side of Mount Sproatt, which was recommended as a non-motorized zone by the forum. Their operation will include helicopter accessed snowmobiling in the spring.
  • Sproatt has high values for day use backcountry skiing and it's one of the few day use areas south of the Duffey Lake road. The new nordic center road will make access even easier and increase use. The north side of Sproatt is non-motorized (and will remain non motorized) because it is a drinking water supply area for Whistler. Presently, snowmobilers violate this boundary on a regular basis.
  • The new access road to the Whister Olympic park will be the third highest plowed road in the Squamish Forest District (after Duffey Lake and Diamond Head). This makes it a very attractive destination for backcountry skiing because of access to a high elevation trailhead. The nearest backcountry skiing areas to the Whistler Olympic Park are Hanging Lake and the south side of Mount Sproatt. Both of these areas are included in Canadian Snowmobile Adventures' tenure application.
  • Canadian Snowmobile Adventures wants to build a new snowmobile base in close proximity to the Olympic Nordic Center. Noise impacts may be unacceptable
  • The government seems to be lumping cross country and back country skiers together, saying that we are gaining the new facilities in exchange. However, the XC trails are not attractive to BC skiers, and the good BC ski terrain in the upper Callaghan is too far away to access for a day trip. This is an important point to emphasize. Also, there will be a fee to use the cross country trails.
  • Canadian Snowmobile Adventures currently holds a 2 year temporary commercial tenure permit. Prior to this tenure (2005?), they operated illegally in the valley without a tenure. Their past illegal operational history should not be considered as part of the management decision. This company basically set up shop in the valley illegally and now they are being grandfathered into the area. Granting CSA a continuing long term tenure in the Callaghan will only encourage other recreation businesses to operate illegally without a tenure.
  • Canadian Snowmobile Adventures should seek a replacement tenure in an area that is not a popular BC skiing destination. This process needs to be guided by the forum. Some areas near whistler that could be considered are the Jane Lakes/Cheakamus River Westside Main/Whistler Interpretive Forest or the Soo-Rutherford Divide or Marble Creek (East of Daisy Lake) or the SW flank of Whistler Mountain outside the ski area. Other areas that could be considered for a replacement commercial tenure are the Mamquam River Valley and Brohm Ridge. All these areas are zoned for motorized recreation and a snowmobile commercial tenure would not conflict with the forum and LRMP recommendations.
  • It was understood in the forum and LRMP that the Callaghan valley would have a special planning process because of the Olympics. However, the proposed expansion of the CSA tenure the south side of Mt. Sproatt is outside of the Callaghan Valley planning area. On the ILMB website, it states “Until the final LRMP is completed, the current draft will be used as interim management direction for provincial government decision making with the plan area.”

December 2007 letter regarding Mt. Sproatt

Scott Nelson
11-939 7th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1C4

December 22, 2007

Kevin Kriese
Project Director, Strategic Initiatives Divison (Smithers)
3726 Alfred St
Smithers BC V0J2N0

Dear Kevin Kriese,

My name is Scott Nelson and I’m a recreational backcountry skier from Vancouver BC. I frequently visit the Sea to Sky corridor for backcountry skiing, logging about 40 days last year. I’m writing this letter about the recent controversy that has arising over a commercial snowmobile tenure being considered for Mt Sproatt, near Whistler. I oppose issuing this tenure because Mt. Sproatt is a popular backcountry skiing destination, which is about to become much more popular with the new Whistler Nordic Center access road.

Before the completion of the new Whistler Nordic Center, Mt. Sproatt and Rainbow Lake were already popular backcountry ski destinations. This area also has a long history of conflicts between skiers, snowmobilers, and the watershed designation. This area probably had the most skier snowmobiler conflicts of any location in the sea to sky region, but unlike other areas, Sproatt remained popular with skiers despite the snowmobile pressure.

The new Whistler Nordic center completely changes the situation at Sproatt for backcountry skiers. The new access road is the 3rd highest plowed road in the Sea to Sky region; only the Diamond Head road and Duffey Lake portion of highway 99 are higher. The Diamond Head road is steep and narrow and the Duffey too far from Vancouver for day trips. The elevation, proximity to Vancouver and the quality of the road make Mt. Sproatt a very attractive location for backcountry skiing day trips, much more so than before the Nordic center opened. The newly accessible terrain in the upper Callaghan valley is too far away from the parking area for day use backcountry skiing (the most popular and fastest growing part of the sport). On the other hand, Mt. Sproatt is the best and easiest to access day trip area from the Nordic center parking lot, and will see the most traffic. The alpine access is not quite as easy as Diamond Head, but the terrain is better so I would expect similar usage. Diamond head can currently see 100 visitors per day, despite the often poor road conditions.

One problem that frequently comes us in the analysis conducted by ILMB is that backcountry and cross-country skiers are grouped together for the purposes of recreation impact analysis. However, this is not realistic. Cross-country skiers prefer flat terrain and groomed trails, such as those found in the upper Callaghan valley. Backcountry skiers prefer vertically oriented terrain and high elevations with steeper slopes. We usually either go skiing for turns, or try to ski to the top of a particular summit. If the two groups are lumped together, the exchange of Sproatt for the upper Callaghan looks like a fair trade. However, cross-country and backcountry skiers are really 2 different user groups. Under the proposed tenure adjustment changes, cross-country skiers gain and backcountry skiers lose.

As far as the majority of public snowmobilers are concerned, the south and west sides of Mt. Sproatt make a marginal snowmobile area. The areas designated for snowmobiling on the south and west sides of the mountain are too small for today’s high-powered machines. Snowmobile riders will no doubt look to better terrain in 21 Mile Creek and on the west side of Rainbow Mountain. These areas are part of the drinking water supply area for Whistler and snowmobiling is not allowed in order to preserve the quality of the drinking water. Because this attractive terrain is just over the ridge from the proposed snowmobile area, many snowmobile riders will go there, as they have done in the past. This will make 21 Mile Creek and Rainbow Mountain a de facto snowmobile area, since enforcing the long ridge top boundary will be next to impossible. The only real way to protect the drinking water supply area, and backcountry skiing opportunities in 21 Mile Creek, is to have all of Mt Sproatt be a non-motorized recreation area and move the Canadian Snowmobile Adventures (CSA) commercial tenure to another location.

CSA proposes upgrading access to the alpine on Mount Sproatt and grooming the trails. Experience at Brandywine and Brohm ridge shows that snowmobile trail grooming will greatly increase the number of public snowmobile users. This will exacerbate the existing conflicts and also result in more and more snowmobile incursions into the watershed. The Sea to Sky Backcountry Winter Recreation Sharing Forum negotiated a solution to resolve conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users across the region. The process was long and tedious, but in the end a delicate balance was found. Any changes imposed unilaterally by the government threaten the fairness and delicate balance that was achieved by the forum. I support the plan developed by the forum, and I also support having all proposed changes negotiated at a re-convened forum to ensure the fair regional balance is maintained. This should be done not only for Sproatt, but also to consider the impacts of proposed changes from negotiations with First Nations. I’m confident that the forum would be able to find a place to relocate CSA’s tenure to that is acceptable to all stakeholders involved, not just CSA and VANOC.

There are many areas available for commercial snowmobile tenures that do not conflict with the forum recommendations, such as Janes Lakes, the west side of the upper Cheakamus River, the southwest flank of Whistler Mountain, or the Soo-Rutherford divide. Farther from Whistler, the Mamquam Valley and Brohm Ridge would also be suitable locations for commercial snowmobiling tenure. CSA should be encouraged to apply for one of these areas instead of Sproatt so the forum recommendations can be maintained.

Sincerely,


Scott Nelson

CC by email: Honourable Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture and Lands

CC by email: Honourable Gregor Robertson, MLA Vancouver-Fairview