Posts Tagged 'Whistler'

The new approach to the Spearhead Traverse

Backcountry skiers in British Columbia all know of the Spearhead Traverse. This is Canada’s “Haute Route” — a 35km trek crossing over 13 glaciers with about 2000m of elevation gain (and loss) that most people spread over 3 days (it can be done in a single thigh-burning day). Most of the route is between 6,000 and 8,000 feet. Access is easy: buy a one-way lift ticket for Blackcomb Mountain. At the end of the trip: ski down the runs on Whistler Mountain. That’s all that is easy about the Traverse. In between there are no escape routes. The steep glaciers make for breathtaking ski runs and long skin tracks up. If the weather is clement, the views everywhere are staggeringly beautiful. The coastal mountains are very rugged and dramatic.

Google Earth, Spearhead Traverse, Whistler, BC, Canada, showing significant gps waypoints
Significant GPS waypoints for the Spearhead Traverse
click for full-size

Until now, if you wanted to make the multi-day journey, you were required to carry all of your camping equipment. The fitness required, and the level of commitment has made the trip too daunting for many of us. Mountains make their own weather, and while it might be benign in Vancouver, in the remote high wilderness behind Mount Macbeth, the skier might be blinded by a whiteout and driving snow. An error in wayfinding would be tragic.

Now, the Alpine Club of Canada has envisioned 3 backcountry huts strategically and dramatically located along the Spearhead Traverse. More about this plan: 

The first of the huts is almost complete. On June 14, 15, and 16, I was part of the team helicoptered into the Kees And Claire Hut to assemble Barbara’s kitchen. More about the kitchen here.

Over the years, I’ve explored the fringes of this region. Some years ago a group of us camped at 2200m on the flank of Mount Trorey after crossing several glaciers from the lifts at the top of Blackcomb. In the summer we’ve hiked from Whistler up to Russet Lake, the location of the Kees And Claire Hut. This weekend I found there was something special about being able to linger in one place for a few days, and experience the vistas at different times of the day and  in different weather. 

Vistas! Yes, the views in all directions are amazing.

A panorama including the Kees And Clair Hut
Kees And Claire Hut
Please open full-size. It is the only way the mountain-images will achieve their grandeur

This hut is scheduled to open in the fall for the ski season. The easiest approach will be from the lifts on Whistler Mountain, then ski down the Musical Bumps to Singing Pass, and finally over Cowboy Ridge to Russet Lake. Edit: See the first comment to this post to find out how to make a booking for the Kees And Claire Hut.

Roe Creek Road is now driveable

Approaching the end of Roe Creek Roa

As we approached the end of the Roe Creek Rd. and had our first glimpse of the slopes we'd climb, we saw we'd be on snow most of the time

The guide book, Scrambles, by Matt Gunn described the logging road up Roe Creek as a horror. Water bars begin at 6.8 km, and at 9 km a washout makes it impassable. The last 2-1/2 km must be walked. And then the hiking begins with a bushwhack down to the creek, followed by a reported hair raising boulder-hop across the torrent. Last Sunday (Aug 7) we decided to reconnoiter. The good news is: the whole road is easily navigated with a 4×4. The washout has been graded and the water bars are gone.   The whole road is probably passable with a 2-wheel drive. The images are thumbnails — please click to see full size.

We parked just past the last cut block. We chose that because the trip down to the creek seemed shorter than the end of the road.

Easy rock-hopping at the head of Roe Creek

It was easy to find our way up Roe Creek to the snow

After some thrashing around, we found a very helpful path at 50º 02′ 09.6″ N 123º 13′ 24.6″. It leaves the road just past a little bridge and heads down through the old growth forest to Roe Cr.

The flow on that side of the main Creek was fairly benign, and all we had to do was rock-hop until we found enough snow to support us. Most of the rest of the hike was on sometimes-steep snow. Lovely, and no bugs.

Lunch Rock below Cypress Peak

Lunch Rock below Cypress Peak, view of Black Tusk

Reclining Balance Rock

Reclining Balance Rock enjoying the view

When we turned back we were only about 1000 feet below Cypress Peak. The top would have been a fairly easy destination if we’d started earlier.

Even without climbing to a summit, it was an enjoyable day in a beautiful location.

Walking towards the east aspect of Cypress Peak

Walking towards the North-East facing cliffs of Cypress Peak

A couple of last comments. I see that I now have posted 301 blog articles at this site. And, since this blog was meant to be a short-term experiment, I never imagined that I’d leave a trail that is this long.

I’ve been to Cypress Peak before. My story of a ski trip to that mountain, with an approach from the other side, is here: Tabblo essay.

If you live around Vancouver, you might think that Cypress Mountain is a hill on the North Shore. Actually, there is no such mountain by that name. There is a resort that calls itself Cypress Mountain because it is within Cypress Provincial Park. This is the real nearby Cypress Peak.

Robert's professional sites:
Ballantyne and Associates

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