Winter Traversing of Spearhead

21.7 miles 6560 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Matt Hosford

Alpine Touring. Amazing Views. Great Camping Spots. Long Runs.

  • Distance: 21.7 miles / 35 km
  • Duration: 1 - 3 Days
  • Elevation Gain: ~ 6560 ft. / 2000 m.

Take the Sea to Sky Highway (HWY 99) up to Whistler.50°06’48.9”N122°57’13.8”W

Turn right off the highway at the Village Gate Boulevard, then left at the 3 way stop at Blackcomb Way. The entrance to the parking area is the next right. Day parking is allowed anywhere in these lots. Overnight parking can be found at the Whistler Conference Centre and the Whistler Public Library for $5.

Buy your backcountry lift pass in the village (53$ + tax, gives you a onetime lift to the top). You will need to prove you are backcountry skiing, so bring in your avalanche gear. Take the gondola up Blackcomb Mountain and find your way to the top of the Showcase T-bar, where you access the backcountry.

This traverse is the classic ski touring trip in the Whistler area. The route essentially follows the mountain ridge in a U-shaped pattern that begins on Blackcomb Mountain Resort, winds around Fitzsimmons Valley and ends at the other side of the valley on Whistler Mountain Resort. The route is usually done over 2 to 3 days, sometimes longer depending if you plan to ski more lines rather than just traverse. Alternatively, for the exceptionally fit it is possible to finish this traverse in a single day. The majority begin this route on Blackcomb, but it is possible to start on Whistler. However, the trek from Whistler involves more elevation gain.

Once at the top of the Showcase T-bar, cross the Blackcomb Glacier and head up to the Blackcomb-Spearhead col. Continue southeast, cross over Decker Mountain. Traverse Trorey Glacier, climb to the south of Mt. Pattison and up to the Tremor-Shudder col. There are no shortage of jaw dropping views along the way so take a seat and soak it in as needed.

From the Tremor-Shudder col the route turns south, reaching the end of Whistler Valley. Head down to the Platform and traverse across the Ripsaw and Naden Glaciers to the Macbeth Glacier. From here you are greeted with great views down Whistler Valley and the surrounding mountains, including Fitzsimmons, Iago and Overload. This is considered the half way point and there are a number of safe camping spots in the area. Set up camp in a wind protected spot, fuel up and bring out the flask as the sun sets.

From Macbeth Glacier the route climbs up Iago Glacier. The route now begins to traverse northwest towards Whistler Resort. Descend Diavolo Glacier, climb over the Mt. Benvolio-Mt. Fitzsimons col, traverse the Fitzsimmons Glacier, cross the Fissile-Whirlwind col and head down to Russet Lake. To exit, ski out along the Singing Pass Trail down to Whistler Village.

Longhorns is the yellow bannered bar right as you exit the Sing Pass Trail and its patio is a great place to celebrate your epic trip.

Safety Note:

The Spearhead is a dangerous route with an ATES Complex ranking. Precautions and skilling are absolutely essential to ensure a safe traverse:

  • Crevasse rescue equipment and training is essential for all members of the group.
  • White-out navigation skills are essential.
  • Avalanche Safety Training 2 is required for at least one member of the group, ideally two. Even in deep snow years this route passes near enough to crevasses and over glaciers, warranting both training and a leader with multiple years of ski mountaineering experience.
  • This is exceedingly complex avalanche terrain. It is common to turn around halfway due to poor conditions.

The route is popular enough that there is usually a beaten skin trail throughout the route. However, the trail often branches off to other routes so following the beaten path as your only means of navigation is highly dangerous. Bad weather is not uncommon in this area so your ability to use a GPS and read a topographic map is absolutely essential to ensure your safety and success on this traverse.

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Overall rating: 

🥇Top Contributor

almost 2 years ago

This Adventure Is Exceedingly Dangerous and Requires Many Skills

This is a superb traverse. The one star is a for the adventure which is negligent, irresponsible, and dangerous. This answer represents everything that is wrong with sourcing your information from the internet. Crevasse rescue equipment and training is essential for all members of the group White out navigation skills are essential. AST 2 is required for at least one member of the group, ideally two. ATES: Complex Even in deep snow years this route passes near enough to crevasses, and over glaciers warranting both training, and at minimum a leader with multiple years of ski mountaineering experience. Secondly this is exceedingly complex avalanche terrain and it is common to get half way and have to turn around because of conditions. It is not a walk in the park. People have died on this route.

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