|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.|
The Spearhead Traverse is a spectacular horseshoe ski traverse linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. It is a committing route that is almost exclusively alpine terrain with few options for escape in the event of poor weather. Because of its high alpine character, the traverse is usually done in the spring when the days are longer and the weather is better and more reliable. The traverse was first completed by VOCers Karl Ricker, Bert Port, Chris Gardner and Alistair MacDonald in 1964 (VOCJ7) after some of the route was worked out by a VOC party in 1954.
Drive highway 99 to Whistler Village. Turn right off Highway 99 at Village Gate Boulevard, then left at the 3 way stop at Blackcomb way. The entrance to the parking is the next right. If you are just here for the day, park anywhere. However if you are parking overnight head to lot 4, which is quite a ways from the lifts. Walk back to the Village where you can take ski lifts up either Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain or head up the Singing Pass Trail under your own power.
The route is most commonly done in a clockwise loop, starting at Blackcomb Mountain, traversing the Spearhead range then the Fitzsimmons Range and ending at Whistler Mountain. This is preferred direction for a number of reasons:
- The Whistler side (Fitzsimmons Range) is lower altitude than the Blackcomb side (Spearhead Range), which puts most of the high altitude skiing out of the way in the first couple days
- The Fitzsimmons Range portion has the only escape routes (down to Fitzsimmons creek, then climbing back up to russet lake and out singing pass trail). There are no good escape routes from the Spearhead Range.
- The steepest slope of the traverse (south side of Mt. Iago, about 35 degrees) can be skied instead of climbed
In short the route is:
- Buy a backcountry lift ticket from guest services in Whistler Village. It's cheaper than a regular ticket (around $50) and you don't have to carry all your stuff 1600m up to the top of Blackcomb.
- From top of Showcase T-bar on Blackcomb, cross Blackcomb Glacier to the Blackcomb-Spearhead col
- Climb over Decker mountain. You can go right over the top to the Trorey-Decker col, or drop down a steep slope from the east ridge of Decker to a lower part of the Trorey Glacier.
- Traverse around the North side of Mt. Trorey on the Trorey Glacier.
- Ski around the south side of Mt. Pattison.
- Climb to the col between Tremor and Shudder.
- Traverse the Platform, Ripsaw and Naden Glaciers to the Macbeth Glacier.
- Follow a ridge off the Macbeth Glacier to the Iago Glacier (steep) and climb the Iago Glacier.
- Descend off Mt. Iago to the Diavolo Glacier (steep).
- Climb over Mt. Benvolio and then do a spiralling descent around the N side of Overlord (crevasses).
- Either descend Overlord Glacier and climb back to Russet Lake, or cross the Fissile-Whirlwind col and descend to Russet Lake.
- Head West and descend to Singing Pass.
- Ski out the singing pass trail to Whistler Village or ski up over the summits of Oboe and Flute to reach the Whistler downhill ski area and descend the ski runs to Whistler Village.
- Bask in your glorious achievments over a pint at the pub of your choice.
The traverse was first done in the 1960s, before either mountain had any ski lifts. The original traverse went from Blackcomb to Whistler and took 8 days. The team arrived by train at Alta Lake Station on May 2nd, and got a friendly ride by a logging truck driver up Fitzsimmons Creek as far as the snow line.
In order to avoid the steep climb on the shoulder of Mt. Iago, the party descended Detour Ridge and then climbed back up the Iago Glacier to reach the MacBeth Glacier.