Classic Ski Tours: The Spearhead Traverse

In 2009 Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort opened the Peak 2 Peak Gondola – a $60 million marvel of engineering that connected the two world-famous mountains in only 11 minutes.  The gondola sets several world records including longest and highest unsupported span.

But there is also another way between the two mountains, one that is a much different pace, and equally as impressive, although on a much different scale.  A 25-km traverse allows you to travel between the two mountains (and a few others) entirely above the treeline.

The Spearhead Traverse or simply, “The Spearhead” is a must-do for anyone visiting Whistler who is inclined to tour the backcountry.  It provides visitors to the area a much different experience than a busy resort that sees thousands of people every day.  Yet the resort is a much-appreciated assistant to this route, as the lift network of the two mountains results in saving you around 6 hours of skinning time, instead accessing the alpine in about 30 minutes.  You are able to buy special backcountry-access passes that allow you for a single upload to access Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Although the trip can commence from either mountain, the preferred direction begins on Blackcomb.  To access the park you traverse the Blackcomb Glacier from the top of Showcase T-Bar, reaching the boundary gate.  From here it is essential to carry avalanche gear (Transceiver, Shovel, and Probe), as well as the knowledge and practice on proper use.

For those who have not seen Garibaldi Provincial Park, you may be surprised on why this area does not receive more attention, as the vastness and beauty can only partially be displayed through photos.  Nothing compares to breathing in the clean mountain air, looking across seemingly endless peaks, away from any signs of human impact.

The Spearhead range hosts the majority of the trip before the route horseshoes back toward Whistler mountain.  This jagged ridge is homes to The Spearhead, Decker Mountain, Mt. Trorey, Mt. Pattison, Tremor Mountain, Shudder Mountain, and Mt. Iago.  All the peaks are within quick access of the traverse.  You can whisk past these mountains in mere hours, but several days are recommended to experience the virtually unlimited options for ski and snowboard descents.

The Spearhead range intersects the Fitzsimmons range of Mts. Fitzimmons, Benvolio, and Overlord.  Mt. Fitzsimmons sits at the geographic center point of the trip, and the head of Fitzsimmons Creek.

Fissile Mountain begins the home stretch toward Whistler, facing northwesterly and providing some epic descents on it’s chutes.  There is also an old hut nearby that is worth staying in if you have the time, allowing for even further exploration during those cold months.

After Fissile it’s a hop, skip, and a jump over Oboe, Flute, and Piccolo peaks, also known as the Musical Bumps, toward Whistler Mountain.  Flute peak is actually within the boundary of the ski resort, and from it’s drainage you can access the Symphony chairlift, as well as the cat road to traverse toward Whistler Village

The ideal time for this trip is late March and April, where the snowpack is still deep but the long daylight hours allow for plenty of time to both explore as well as relax at camp.

There are several guiding outfits that provide tours of this traverse and many other in the Whistler area. The top 3 guiding companies are Whistler Alpine Guides, Coast Mountain Guides, and Altus Mountain Guides.  All three provide excellent service at similar rates, so get in touch with all of them to see what works best for you.

By Steve Andrews