Archive for March, 2011

Spearhead Traverse in a Day – March 23, 2011

I got a call from Dad Tuesday night to see if I was up for a ski. Since getting my wisdom teeth out eight days before I had hardly left the couch. We decided on the Spearhead Traverse since the forecast was bright. It had been on my list for years. GPS Track here

We left the church in West Van at 6:45am and were on the Blackcomb Glacier by 10:15am. It was a beautiful day indeed.





There were loads of skiers for a Wednesday morning. Perhaps everyone had been keeping tabs on the weather forecast. We were at the top of the Blackcomb Glacier by 10:40am with a great view of the terrain to come.


10:46am – A view of the Spearhead. Man that’s a lot of terrain to cover

We passed some slack-country skiers who intended to ski “The Hourglass”, a pretty crazy looking run on Tremor Mountain. Time to check the GPS again to get our bearings.





By 2:17pm things were socking in. I was starting to worry about what might happen if we got stuck out. I had made the mistake of forgetting my shell. A fleece and lightweight down jacket would have made for a pretty cold night if we got stuck in a storm.




2:21pm – Looking towards the musical bumps, far off in the distance

When choosing out my food for the day, my primary concern was to bring food that was soft enough to not disrupt the holes where my wisdom teeth used to be. I failed to realize that a food bag of 2 avocados, 2 pieces of bread with almond butter, a piece of cheese, and a piece of sausage lacked electrolytes, sugar, and carbs. I was feeling pretty burnt out by mid-day.





At this point we were both anxious about it getting dark. We knew that the route from the Fissile/Whirlwind col to Singing Pass would be much slower in the dark. But low and behold, Fissile came into sight at 7:12pm.



We quickly got to the col and saw an incredible firey-red sunset over Black Tusk.







Without delay, we set out for Singing pass. We had a superb run down to near Russet Lake. The snow conditions were excellent. Not wanting to put our skins back on, we boot-packed the last uphill between Russet Lake and Singing Pass. We then survival skied down a horrific crust to Singing Pass with the last few minutes of twilight. By the time we were at the Singing Pass trail, it was time for headlights. I was happy to have changed batteries the day before. The trail was icy and fast. We arrived back at the parking lot by 8:46pm. An excellent day indeed!

Lessons learned:

1.       I can’t stand the Black Diamond tail clips. I almost lost them a number of times. I should either find some better clips that are compatible with my skins or get some spares.

2.       Don’t forget a shell

3.       Bring salty foods

Cloudburst Attempt – March 5, 2011

I met Chris doing the AST 1 course (Avalanche Skills Training) back in January and we finally found time where both of us were free to do a trip on Saturday. We decided on Cloudburst, neither of us having been up before. With a UBC pick up at 6:30am, we were parked and ready to ski by 8:30am.


We parked less than 10 feet from the highway, right by the “Powder Mountain Catskiing” van. Luckily it wasn’t crazy busy (yet) with snowmobilers, so we had a place to park and were left in peace for the first km up to the official parking lot. There were a handful of snowmobilers getting ready to set out. (I intentionally refrain from “sledder”, the term snowmobilers refer to themselves as. A loud, polluting, mechanized snow machine bears little resemblance to “a light wooden frame used, esp by children, for sliding over snow; toboggan”)

Breaking trail the whole way up the logging road was hard work, especially with the dense, high-moisture-content snow. By 11:20am we still had a ways to go along the road. We decided to have a snack break to supplement the apple pie and coffee we had from McDonalds at 6:30am.

cloudburstattempt-03 cloudburstattempt-05

By 12:45pm we were getting close to the end of the road. With the Baldwin route description and map in hand, we were unable to see what feature Chance Creek referred to. So we decided to leave the road and head in the bearing of the summit. Big mistake! After getting stuck by a partially-snow-covered creek, we skirted around and attempted to cross. I got one leg on either side of the creek, but then realized the opposing sidewall was too steep to climb. I took off my skis, attempting to climb the other side, but I post holed the whole length of my leg through the snow. After much wasted time, and some help by Chris, we were on our way again.

Heading up through the forest, the terrain was steeper than we anticipated. At one point, mid step-turn, Chris lost balance and plunged off the slope and slid head-first towards a tree. I figured it was my turn to trail break. By 3pm we had passed the most difficult section and finally glimpsed Cloudburst, far in the distance. Knowing that darkness would come by 6:15pm, we gave up on the summit and decided instead to head to a ridgy-feature and loop east to intersect the road we took up.

cloudburstattempt-09 cloudburstattempt-11

The snow was incredibely slabby. Every ski cut resulted in a slide, so we chose our descent carefully. So much for “low” avalanche danger below treeline! (moderate at treeline). With the road being on the other side of the valley, we figured we could cross through the valley-bottom and hit the road. Once at valley-bottom a creek blocked our way – the creek that all the smaller creeks drain in to (this was Chance Creek). We crossed it, boot-packed up a rather steep and forested section, I almost lost the metal tail piece from my skins (why Black Diamond designed the tail attachment this way is beyond me), and made it back to the road. We were back at the car by 5:30pm – plenty of time before dark. We finished the day by fulfilling our craving for chipotle-mayo and yam fries from the Shady Tree in Squamish.