Completing the classic Spearhead Traverse from Valley to Valley in trail running style!

Statistics

3,245

m

3,241

m

21

max┬░

Difficulty

FATMAP difficulty grade

Difficult

Description

The Spearhead Traverse is a winter ski mountaineering classic.

It receives a tiny fraction of the attention in the summer though, probably because it's covered in glaciers and difficult rock.

It does occasionally get hiked in the summer in multi-day trips but as far as I could tell, it hasn't really been done in a trail running style.

I've had my eye on it for a few years but it's so close to home that it always gets pushed aside for sexier objectives further afield.

With Covid however, it was top of my list! I parked my car in the village and started up the Singing Pass Trail.

I decided to do the reverse of the normal direction to make it easier climbing up south facing cols and descending north facing.

The SP Trail went by slowly, while questioning my real desire, but after 17km, I popped out in the alpine at the new Russet Lake Hut and the alpine views renewed my enthusiasm.

The first third of the alpine portion went smoothly, over Refuse Pinnacle (chossy) and Overlord to drop to the glacial Overlord-Fitz notch and then a massive boot ski down the Benvolio Glacier.

The first crux of the day was climbing back up Iago (normally an easy ski down) but I managed to link snow patches and gravely ledges to hit the col and gain the Iago Glacier.

Some crevasses on the Iago gave me trouble so I opted for crampons and to jump on some exposed ice I could clearly see was continuous.

The next portion up to Couloir Ridge is easy in winter but was horribly loose rock and took a bit more concentration.

Things continued smoothly again until the Naden Glacier Col where some fun slab climbing was required to get off the snow and then a complicated jump and side-slip was needed to avoid the bergshrund on the far side.

More slogging ensued up the Naden and the Ripsaw but with awesome views of the north side glaciers on MacBeth and Overlord.

The Tremor-Shudder Col was the final major crux involving some low-5th climbing down into the moat/shrund and then a big jump out. After a full day without seeing a soul, I was quite surprised to meet four people on Pattison Shoulder - a group on a climbing course equally surprised to see me after being alone the previous four days! With Blackcomb in sight, I motored down the Pattison Glacier to Decker Shoulder and it was quick cruising down the hiking trails and runs back to my starting point in the Village! I was super happy with a time of 8.5hrs over 46km and 3100m+ (the ski time is around 6hrs).

I wasn't ever in too much of a rush and carried a bit more gear than necessary but also had minimal faffing and managed a fairly direct route! It was a pleasure to get some time in a different season in a place I've spent so much.

Familiarity with the glaciers and cols was critical to moving smoothly - it would be a very difficult onsight! It was also great to be solo.

I love doing adventures with friends but it also requires a bit more mental focus to be on your own - something that feels good!