11 October, 2009

The North Face of Fitzsimmons - A Spearhead Classic

The Spearhead Range has a large amount of beautiful steeps descents.  What draws most people to the Spearhead is its easy accessibility, taking the lifts up to the alpine to start touring, and everything can be done as a day trip (if your fit enough).  It's crowning jewel is the North Face of Fitzsimmons.  A beautiful 380m wide open face of 45º-50º steep skiing.  It saw its first descent in 1992 by Eric Pehota and Trevor Petersen.

The conditions to ski this aesthetic line come in only a few times a year, and the face sees some massive avalanches which often fail down to the glacial ice below it, so one must be patient to ski it.  It's angle, various trigger points, exposure, and commitment levels are something to consider when deciding to ski this face.  The other problem that ski mountaineers can come across is the monstrous bergschrund that must be negotiated at the top before dropping into it.  After skiing to the bottom the descent is not yet over, as you will be dodging crevasses even out in the flats.
Note:  this 2009/2010 season, we lost a lot of snow in the summer, and our snow bridges must be fully rebuilt, which will take more time than usual.  

The best way to access this line is by skinning over the Musical Bumps (Fitzsimmons Range off the backside of Whistler) to the Fissile/Whirlwind Col.  From their move quickly onto the shoulder of Overlord and to the Fitzsimmons/Benvolio Col.  You can drop down only 100 feet or so down Bonk Hill before hooking left to the obvious Fitzsimmons bootpack, a wide and short chute.  This short bootpack will bring you to the top of it's glacier, providing beautiful views, and where your difficulty may begin with negotiating the Bergschrunds.  Stay fairly high, traversing to your right to hook into the top of the face (where the red line begins in the photo above), where you can now drop in.

Finding your way back is fairly easy.  You can just follow the creek down to Adit Creek and begin skinning up the moraine up to the base of the Overlord Glacier and following the natural ridge lines back to Russet Lake and out Singing Pass.  Or, you can climb back out of the Alp like basin by skinning and bootpacking up the Overlord and back across the Refuse Pinnacle the way you came in.

The trip is about a 36 km round trip including the long descent on Singing Pass,  and is around 1600-1700m of elevation gain.  You can find a great trip report on my friend Lee's Site here.  I fully recommend this trip to any person well versed in steep exposed skiing, crevasse rescue, and a handful of gels.

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