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.
Solo traverse gear.
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.)
Google Earth image of my route (in purple) starting at the top of the chairlifts on Blackcomb Mountain (on the left) and finishing down the Singing Pass trail into Whistler Village. Distance and elevation profile of the traverse.
Heart rate graph and elevation profile from Sunnto t6 HRM.
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.
My GPS track is below. Open it in Google Earth to fly around the Spearhead Range.