Date: April 9-10, 2016
Route: Blackcomb-Currie Traverse (~ 35km, 2,200m elevation gain)
Group: Line Veenstra, Caitlin Schneider, Petra Klupkova, Katie McMahen, Alex Annejohn, Rachel Baldwin, Veronika Schmitt, Klara Steklova, Sarka Vavrova
Line took the initiative to organize what has become a VOC tradition and get a group of girls out into the backcountry for a weekend. No stinky boys smelling up the tent or the car on the drive home (oh wait… turns out that’s not just a guy thing). The planned adventure was the Blackcomb-Currie traverse, although we opted for a less ambitious option of taking the ski lifts up Blackcomb. Line’s husband, Christian, had done the traverse the previous weekend (trip report – includes map and elevation profile, although our route had some minor differences), which was a great help for us. He reported stable conditions and we were able to see his tracks for a large portion of the route, as well as use his GPS track as a reference.
Our trip began bright and early Saturday to do a car drop and arrive at Whistler-Blackcomb guest services when they opened in the morning to purchase our excessively expensive backcountry passes. After Line took the biggest wipeout of the trip in the Whistler village, in which she ripped her pants and jacket and scratched her glasses, we heeded her advice of “the city is dangerous… let’s get out of here!”. Good thing she was wearing a helmet, it would have been a trip-ender otherwise!
From the top of the T-bar, we joined the throng of people making their way up to the Blackcomb-Spearhead Col. Various small delays and challenges for some on the icy slope delayed our schedule, and we left the col at 11:00, glad to be headed in a different direction than the rest of the mob (who were presumably doing the Spearhead). We made our way down the Decker Glacier and along the drainage towards Wedge Pass, and the day started to warm up under cloudless sunny skies. After our last water fill of the day, we made our way up towards Wedge and Lesser Wedge, a roughly 1,000m climb, with everyone feeling the heat and glad to be partially in the trees for the lower 500m. We took a number of breaks through the day owing the variable skiing speeds, and found ourselves on the Weart Glacier at 6:00pm. After a group decision to push on into the dark if need be (and go beyond our Wedgemount Lake bailout option), we made good time descending ~400m down the icy Weart glacier. Then at last, we made the final ~400m climb to our camp location beneath Mount Moe with the group arriving between 8:15 and 9:00pm.
At camp everyone sprang into action, setting up tents, melting water, etc. as night set in. Veronika dug her first outhouse hole, which was a bit on the wide side, but nobody fell in – the right technique helps, who needs yoga anyway? Continuing with her snow creations, Veronika also made a topnotch group seating area around the kitchen (although to her disappointment, the Czech contingent didn’t join us to make use of it). Dinners were good all around, although you could tell it was an all-female trip, because everyone had leftovers! Then off to bed, as it was 10:30 by the time we were done eating.
Saturday morning the group was up at 5:30 and was able to beat Line’s prediction of it taking us 2 hours to break camp. We made our way up to the top of the ridge and took advantage of the morning light to take a group photo with Mount Moe and The Owls in the background (see photo above). Traversing down and across to the next ridge, we opted to diverge from Christian’s route for something that had less side-hilling (for the sake of our resident split boarder) and a less steep decent on the other side (as morning conditions were icy and we had some intermediate skiiers in the group). In the end, our detour didn’t save much side hilling, but we got some “real adventure in” bootpacking across a rocky ridge to find a slope entry without a cornice, and had a delightful second breakfast in the sun. The group tried two different descent options – one being steeper and requiring more survival skiing than anticipated to get down the first very icy pitch. Lower down, the sun had started to soften the snow up and the skiing was quite enjoyable. In the end, even with the added elevation gain up from the bottom of Mystery Glacier, we were happy with our detour choice to avoid the steep, narrow, north aspect (i.e. icy!) decent. In the heat of the day, again a beautiful bluebird day, we made our way up our major climb of the day up along Hibatchi Ridge. Despite some nervousness everyone survived a short ~10m down climb, which was the most technical section of the trip, thanks to some great steps courtesy of Line.
Skiing down off Hibatchi Ridge, we contoured around to Currie. Both picturesque and quick ground to cover, it was a very enjoyable part of the day. We wanted to connect with the summer Mount Currie hiking trail to get back to the highway, with the goal of avoiding the bad experiences others have had on this part of the traverse (cliffs and heinous trees). There was some uncertainty on the best route for doing this, and we did a couple skins on/skins off/skins on/skins off to end up on top of a bench on the northeast side of Mount Currie. “I think this should be the last time we’re putting on skins”…
The first part of the descent was nice open, lightly slushy skiing. The trees then tightened up as Line successfully found the hiking trail GPS track. The most challenging part was a very steep tightly treed section that has everyone with their skis off followed by a slight detour from the trail which resulted in some traversing in very slushy snow. From then on the skiing on the trail was actually better than expected and the snowline transition relatively short. By 7:30pm we were in hiking mode and headed down the rocky trail, with ~1000m of elevation to hike down. Some major knee troubles drastically slowed a group member down, however, and progress was slow. The first group arrived at the cars a bit before 11:00pm and retrieved the other vehicle from Whistler, then drove a bit farther up the logging road to save the stragglers some walking. Finally, the last of the group made it out by 1:45am, and we were on our way home. The good news is that during the wait, Katie and Veronika were able to brainstorm most of this trip report! We were glad to have done the car drop – 9 people hitchhiking in the middle of the night may not have been successful, and it saved another 2km or so of walking on the logging road.
We arrived back home in Vancouver by 4:30am, making it a 23 hour day. A late night, but all in all a successful trip that was enjoyed by all! Apparently less talk of nudity than the previous girls trip and no major crises. Kudos to Line for her stellar organization, decision making and navigation skills (despite the map that mysteriously went missing along the way).