02 October, 2009

First McBride Traverse In A Day

            Last year the goal we had in mind was to complete the Mcbride Traverse in a single day.  If you haven’t heard of the Mcbride it is one of the true Coast Range classics.  The 70km traverse begins on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler, and ending at Rubble Creek at the base of Garibaldi Lake, boasts approximately 5000m of elevation gain.  Most parties complete the traverse in about 6-8 days, although some really fast parties may complete in 3-4 days.  It’s previous speed record was approximately 48 hours.
Map Courtesy of Google Maps
            We left at 1:00am on April 28th, from the Horstman Hut (a Blackcomb patrol hut), to get the first part of the traverse we knew quite well done by sunrise.  We had had a fantastic weather window that froze the upper snowpack, so travel was fast, but required ski crampons.  We kept the pace fast, trying to stay warm for the first section, and partly from excitement.  We arrived at the Naden Glacier, the descent into the first crux of the route, just as the sun began to warm the horizon.  Filling up the water bottles in the creek at the bottom, we downed as much water as possible, and continued on our way up to Mt Sir Richard, a long and big ascent.
Crux #1 Naden Pass to Sir Richard
View of the McBride Range from Mt Iago
            With the sun beating down on us now we were feeling pretty good at the top.  Topping out as high as our route would allow us on Mt Sir Richard, we bumped into some friends just waking up after spending the first night of 3 on the Mcbride.  They laughed at the size of our tiny day bags being so far out already. 
            Moving on towards the next crux (Drop Pass), we traversed and climbed through large gaping crevasse ridden glaciers, barely even having a chance to take in the beautiful views as we hammered by.  The day wore on, but by Drop Pass, we had run out of water and were ready for the first break of the day to brew up.  After 11 hours on the move, doing race transitions to keep the pace, stopping to air our feet out was great.  But no rest for the wicked as we had to keep moving as soon as our speedy Jetboil was finished its job and our water bottles were full again.
            Continuing on up our second crux of the trip, Drop Pass, we climbed our next monster climb, to regain our elevation we lost after a long ski down.  We skinned a ridgeline towards Hour Peak and its unbelievably gorgeous North Face.  I love this face, and skinning right by it was hard.  Being on the move for a long time now, we had pretty much found that solid food wasn’t going down as easily, and liquid food was the fuel of choice.

Hour Peak North Face & Route after Drop Pass
            Quickly finding ourselves at another crux of the route, Grey Pass, we descended through a series of massive benched convexities.  Picking our way through these benches, and crevasses, we were at our last uphill of the day.  Skinning up felt like we were done, but not yet!  Reaching the top, the massive expanse of Garibaldi Lake was in front of us.  We had lucked out with our timing, as the Lakes surface had frozen, and we were able to skate ski across to the head of the Rubble Creek Trail.
            Finding ourselves in darkness again, we put our skis on our back, and continued walking down the trail to the parking lot.  Just as we came into the parking lot, we were greeted by Lori, and Marcia with stew, water, cookies and fruit, we were pumped to be home. Video here.
Photo:  Craig McGee
First Mcbride Traverse In A Single Day
Time:  18: 21: 23
Left 2 Right:  Keith Reid, Alex Wigley, Craig McGee
Thank You To:  Dynafit, Blackcomb Patrol and Bernie, Lori, Marcia, Heidi, & The Escape Route


  1. Good work! What's next?
    Thanks for the story sharing.

  2. We have been working on a few ideas for a while, just need the right conditions. Think big! Thanks for the comments!