May 12 2012 – Spearhead Traverse
Distance: 33 km
Vertical Ascent: 1755m
Vertical Descent: 3267m (Including Singing Pass)
Time: 4 Hrs 35 Min
Over the last week a good freeze-thaw cycle has built up good conditions in the alpine with good stability. Things were looking perfect for a fast attempt on the Spearhead on Saturday right up until Friday when the freezing levels went even higher and the overnight lows were above zero. I headed out despite the high temps. I had a leisurely start from Squamish, even sleeping in a bit and caught the first chair up to the top of the 7th Heaven lift. I traversed out of the ski area and stopped at the backcountry access gate on Blackcomb Glacier.
I repacked my bag and started my watch. On the third climb – up to the Pattison Col – I had a little setback, dropping my ski. Luckily it only went partway down the glacier and got hung up. By the climb up the Iago glacier, I was getting pretty tired. My drink was too concentrated so I was eating snow to dilute it (and help stay cool).
The ski out singing pass was pretty horrible. Sticky slush forced me to double-pole the majority of the downhill and all the creeks are melted out. I had to take my skis off at each one. Finally, the snow line ended before whistler so I spent the last 15 or 20 min running down the trail.
I packed slightly on the heavy side given the good conditions but going solo always gets me to bring more. I would probably go with a lighter weight shell jacket, one pair of skins and one less pair of gloves. There was no need for the GPS for navagation but I wanted to record a track of the traverse. If it were any cooler/crustier I would want ski crampons.
I ate 4 GU Gels and 2 GU Chomps for a total of 760 kcal. In my .5L waterbottle, I had an electrolyte tablet which I drank all of. In my 2L hydration pack, I mixed in energy drink but overconcentrated it. I couldn’t drink it as quickly as I would have liked and when I did, I got stomach cramps.
I skied the “short Spearhead” timed from the backcountry access gate on Blackcomb Mountain, around the traverse, and down the Singing Pass Trail to Whistler Village. I followed the route marked in the John Baldwin Map and took the lefthand variations around Decker and Pattison Mtns.
A few time checkpoints: Tremor-Shudder Col – 1hr 25min. Top of Iago Glacier – 2hr 18min. Fissile-Whirlwind Col – 3:15. (Next time I would like to see this closer to 1:15, 2:00, and 2:50.)
I started strong but faded. I definitely need to work on my pacing and keep from getting too excited early in the race. I went out way to hard and paid for it by the end.
Climb – Time (min) – Meters Elevation – Average HR – Climb Speed (m/min)
All in all it was a good effort. I know in cooler, faster, conditions with race skis and being able to ski the entire Singing Pass, I can cut a significant amount of time.