Meet the Mountain Shop’s First Athlete Ambassador, Trevor Ellsworth.
“The wilderness has so much to teach us and I have been lucky to learn so much from them. I am inspired by wild places and will spend the rest of my life exploring the outdoors in every capacity.”
The Spearhead Traverse
A couple of weeks ago I received a call from my good friend Mike, he had some exciting plans and asked if I wanted to join in. I had heard about the Spearhead Traverse; I was told about the big mountains, huge glaciers, long days and spontaneous weather changes. Since then, the Traverse has been on my tick list. I am very passionate about challenging myself and taking on new objectives, so I jumped at this trip as soon as Mike asked.
After our initial stoke, I Immediately started looking at recent trip reports and different itineraries. Mike had this trip in the works for quite some time and scouted a good section the previous year with our friend Kenzie. We gathered a great crew of friends, who are all accomplished skiers/split-boarders and mountaineers. Through emails, scattered text messages and phone calls the five of us sorted our gear, made meal plans and prepared for our meeting across the border.
Meeting up was a process, as we were all coming from different parts of the west coast. Erin met me in Portland and Jeff, Kenzie and Mike met in Bend. In our separate carpools we ventured northward on the 12th of April. With some (unplanned!) expert timing the two carpools met at the Peace Arch boarder crossing and continued our drive to Whistler. We arrived to pouring rain, lots of dirt and a great parking lot Bivy in Lot 4. Despite the rain and a partially suspicious weather forecast, our spirits were high and ready to push forward.
On the morning of the 13th , we awoke to dry, overcast skies, did our final gear pack, and bought a one way ticket up Blackcomb resort. At around 1500 meters the rain turned into snow and we were exposed to a winter wonderland. It was rather exciting (and pretty hilarious) taking 4 lifts with 45 pound packs on, but we survived and after a short hike ended up above the Blackcomb glacier.
Finally in the backcountry, we crossed the Blackcomb glacier, ascended the East Col, and had a good descent on fresh snow towards Decker Lake. We dug a small pit to assess the stability of the snowpack. Our main concern was the possibility of wind slab avalanches due to fresh snow the previous evening. The pit revealed that the pack was relatively stable. The day ended with a final 300-meter ascent of the Decker glacier, and a small descent to our camp, which we staged on the South East side of Mt. Decker (~2300 meters).
The Mountains shared with us the best weather of our trip. We rose to clear mountain skies and a light wind (unfortunately, I rose to an upset stomach and a windy wag bag experience ☹).
With the luck of clear weather, Mike and Jeff decided to ski a line on the Northern flanks of Mt. Torrey while Erin, Kenzie and I ran safety from below. With the classic two way radio static, Mike called out “This is Big Bear, calling for Baby Bird. Its getting cold up here, are we clear to go?” With lots of laughter on our end, Kenzie responded: “This is Baby Bird, you are clear to drop”. Mike and Jeff had beautiful descents and caught back up with us while we continued traversing the Torrey glacier.
The Torrey, Tremor and Platform glaciers lay in front of us, spanning roughly 5 kilometers. We gained 800 meters of total elevation the day, with two 200 meter mandatory ski descents. We ended our day on top of the platform glacier at ~2600 meters, our highest camp of the trip.
Happy Birthday Erin!!!! The nights clear skies and gorgeous sunset left us hopeful for a bluebird day to finish out our last full day on the Traverse. Instead, for Erin’s B-DAY, we woke up to a complete white out and a very cold morning combined with high wind gusts.
Being at the far point of the traverse pushed us to keep moving despite poor weather. Mike pulled out the map and we plotted the UTM coordinates to the next col, which was on the other side of the Ripsaw glacier, then plugged them into the handy GPS.
Being in white out conditions on a large glacier is not ideal for moving confidently, so we decided to rope up and crossed our fingers for the clouds to lift.
Our largest day turned into our most technical day, with both whiteout conditions and a 40-foot rock step to get around. Once safely to our next col, the clouds began to lift and we caught site of the next passage. But first, we needed to safely get everyone down the rock step. We fixed a line and descended on prussiks to the Naden glacier, exposing only one person to the dangerous (but do-able) un-roped down climb.
Once we crossed the Naden and descended the three-inch breakable crust on Macbeth glacier, we were faced with a choice—ascend and do the high traverse or descend onto the Fitzsimmons glacier and do the low traverse. After some talk, it was clear from the weather that we should descend.
On the lower Fitzsimmons glacier we found some great skiing and running water. We topped off our bottles and headed back up, through dense forest, toward Fissile peak and the Himmelsbach hut. In total, we descended 1,200 meters throughout the day. We found camp just below Fissile peak, tired, hungry and ready to celebrate Erin’s birthday. With Batman party masks, beans, rice, and a little whiskey we told stories and laughed until the wee hours of 9:00 pm.
Our last day and the final push to the top of Whistler resort. We were all tired and sore but very happy to be with each other. We pushed a 5-kilometer day with some nice descents to the top of the resort and skied the 1,800 meters to the base. Back at the cars, we drank a beer and reminisced about the journey. With a well-deserved dinner at Howe Sound Brewery in Squamish, Erin and I departed ways from our friends, setting our sights on Smith Rock and some well deserved warm weather. Being in the mountains in any capacity is always a special thing. I find it rewarding and humbling. I appreciate being able to share my experiences with amazing people and want to give a huge shout out to my super badass friends! It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back next year!!