Spearhead Traverse - Whistler’s backcountry rite of passage -
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Spearhead Traverse – Whistler’s backcountry rite of passage

Wednesday, 17th February 2016  /  By Vince Shuley
Spearhead Traverse Whistler

In the world’s most popular ski destinations there’s a classic, multi-day backcountry trip considered a rite of passage by the local ski touring community. In the Alps it’s the Haute Route from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. In the Canadian Rockies it’s the hut-to-hut journey through the Wapta Icefields. In Whistler, it’s the Spearhead Traverse.

While it may be one of the most well-travelled backcountry areas in North America, only a small percentage of touring travellers actually head out with the goal of completing the entire Spearhead Traverse. Starting from the glacier boundary gate on Blackcomb Mountain, the route encompasses 13 glaciers (all over 2,000m in elevation) and travels through some of the most impressive ski terrain on the continent. Curving around in a horseshoe, the traditional route winds back towards Whistler Mountain, where you can re-enter the resort or shortcut down the Singing Pass hiking trail. Either way you choose, the pubs in Whistler Village will be a welcome sight after the roughly 35-kilometre trek.

Spearhead Traverse Whistler

Views for days on the Spearhead Traverse

While some fitness fiends can complete the Spearhead Traverse in a matter of hours (the current record is 3 hours, 10 minutes set by Eric Carter and Nick Elson), most choose to spread the adventure over a few days. This allows ample time for skiing on the surrounding peaks and glaciers. Camping along the route is an adventure in itself under starry skies (if the weather is clear), not to mention the character-building experience of sleeping and eating in the winter backcountry.

Spearhead Traverse Whistler

Camping atop Diavolo on Day 2

Am I ready for the Spearhead Traverse?

If you have little experience of with multi-day ski tours, it’s best to sign up for a guided trip. Even with clear weather and trained map-reading skills, it can be easy to get disoriented in the myriad of glaciers, cols and passes along the Spearhead Traverse, not to mention the crevasses hazards.
At Mountain Skills Academy & Adventures, our Spearhead Traverse adventure lasts three days to allow ample time for skiing and exploration along the way. A reasonable fitness level is essential as each day requires touring with a large pack filled with food, water, clothing and camping gear. A strong intermediate ski level is required at the very minimum to be able to negotiate the terrain found along the route. Having completed an Avalanche Skills Training Level 1 course and a Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel course are also assets.

Spearhead Traverse Whistler

Skiing the NW face of Mt. Pattison, Spearhead Range

Most important when tackling a trip as large as the Spearhead Traverse is a positive attitude! Sleeping on snow at night and hauling a heavy pack during the day can seem quite arduous at the time, but the reward comes from the wilderness experience. Mountains stretch as far as the eye can see in every direction, on a clear day you can even spot Mt. Baker (3,286m, 10,781ft) in Washington State.

Spearhead Traverse Whistler

Sunset tour overlooking the Tantalus Range to the east

A bucket list item

But perhaps the most gratifying part of completing the Spearhead Traverse is just that – completing it. The next time you catch the 11-minute express ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, you can gaze out at the peak of Macbeth and the gargantuan Overlord Glacier and say to yourself “I skied that.” While every skier and snowboarder in Whistler has fireside stories of their best day ever with the deepest pow, the question that always arises between local backcountry enthusiasts is “Have you done the Spearhead Traverse?”
It’s about time you did, don’t you think?

Our Spearhead Traverse adventure is currently booking for March 26-27. Have a group a friends and want to book your own date? Contact us at info@mountainskillsacademy.com or call 1-604-938-9242.

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