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A Low Tide Spearhead Traverse Conditions Report

A Low Tide Spearhead Traverse Conditions Report

2024 has provided the Coast Mountains of British Columbia with an unusual snowpack or in better words, lack of snowpack. The end of January was filled with high levels of precipitation but not in the form of snow. The rivers in the Sea To Sky remained bank full for several days with snow melt from our already under average snowpack. At the end of the high rain, mixing air masses granted us twenty centimetres of snow above 1900 metres and strong winds. Word of the week: Variable. Boot top powder lined sheltered N/NE Facing slopes while a bulletproof ice crust coated the col’s and S Faces. Good skiing if you knew where to look. A week later Ski Uphill employees JT Pelham, Jessie McAuley, along with Eric Carter, Pat Valade, and our favourite Catalonian mountain guide Genís Zapater decided to check out the ever classic Spearhead Traverse. Here is what the crew observed.

Blackcomb - Tremor Col

Blackcomb Glacier, East Col, Decker Northeast Shoulder, Trorey Glacier - Pattison High Col, Tremor Glacier, Tremor-Shudder Col.

East Col to Decker Lake is currently straightforward though be mindful, there are many rocks/avalanche debris chunks that are hiding just beneath the snow. The short couloir descent from the Northeast shoulder of Decker to the Trorey Glacier was firm but manageable. Trorey Glacier to the Pattison High Col was straightforward. The Tremor Glacier looks a little different than most seasons. The convexities sport many large crevasses. Some of these crevasses are bridged well and others are not. Completing this climb in a white out might have been funky.

Photo: Pat Valade
Genís Zapater, bootpacking to the Pattison High Col
Photo: Pat Valade
Ascending Tremor Glacier

Tremor Col - Macbeth-Couloir Ridge Col

Platform Glacier, Ripsaw-Quiver Col, Ripsaw Glacier/Naden Glacier East Shoulder, Macbeth-Couloir Ridge Col.

The Platform Glacier has decent coverage. The upper right hand side of the Ripsaw-Quiver Col made entry to the Ripsaw Glacier easier. The pass between the Ripsaw and Naden Glacier involved a short boot pack ascent. To descend the pass crampons and Ice Axe were helpful. Both the Ripsaw and Naden Glacier have some large sag’s and hidden crevasses.

Photo: Jessie McAuley
Ascending Platform Glacier
Photo: Pat Valade
State of Fitzsimmons Glacier
Photo: Pat Valade
Short bootpack descent from Ripsaw-Naden Pass

Couloir Ridge Col-Overlord Notch

Couloir Ridge, Iago Glacier, Benvolio Glacier, Benvolio-Fitzsimmons Col, Overlord Notch.

The Descent from couloir ridge was enjoyable with silky ankle deep powder, the North ridge of Iago looked tedious so our group descended East to the base of the Iago Glacier. This added 100 metres of gain. The Iago Glacier has several crevasses on the steep section near the bottom. Iago South skied well. Many crevasses are hidden near the Diavolo Glacier. Eric Probed 240cm on the Diavolo Glacier at 2200 metres. The Diavolo Glacier ascent needed some care to avoid a couple of large dips and crevasses. Traverse from Benvolio-Fitz Col to the overlord notch was firm with a few holes to avoid. We made a 30m rappel down the Overlord Notch. The bottom of the rappel is situated above a large Bergschrund that is bridged well but taking an extra moment to plan our route was important.

Photo: Jessie McAuley
Eric Carter descending to base of Iago Glacier
Photo: Jessie McAuley
Large crown on the North Face of Cheakamus Peak
Photo: Pat Valade
Large crevasses on Diavolo Glacier
Photo: Pat Valade
Jessie McAuley on rappel at the Overlord notch

Overlord Notch-Oyama Ramen

Overlord Glacier, Whirlwind Col, Musical Bumps, Groomers, Lot 2, Ramen!


Overlord Glacier was straight forward along the flats. The steeper bits are heavily crevassed. Whirlwind to Kees and Claire Hut was tracked out but enjoyable, The Musical Bumps have reasonable coverage, The descent on piste to the Whistler Village is fast, be mindful of Groomers if descending by headlamp. Ramen.. Tasty, Hydrating, and affordable! A no brainer.

Photo: Pat Valade
Large Crevasses on the Overlord Glacier *Without the rappel you would ascend through the crevasses in this image.
Photo: Jessie McAuley
Genís Zapater ascending Whirlwind peak in evening light
Photo: Jessie McAuley
JT Pelham enjoying himself.

Despite the low snowpack we still had an excellent day moving through the mountains. Choosing a weather window with great visibility allowed us to plan our routes from afar. Our group took a lot of extra care with crevasses being the biggest hazard of the day. We did not use ski crampons but were happy to have ice axes, crampons, and a full glacier travel kit. Glacier recession combined with an El Nino snowpack has made for some funky glacier travel conditions in the Coast Mountains. Our route covered roughly 40km with 2900 metres of elevation gain in a little over 8.5 hours.

Good ski days are better with a big bowl of Ramen! 

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