A single day speed record attempt on the McBride Range Traverse in SW British Columbia

Statistics

1

day +

5,651

m

5,766

m

21

max┬░

Difficulty

FATMAP difficulty grade

Difficult

Description

The McBride Range is deep in the heart of Garibaldi Park and one of the wilder places south of Pemberton on the South Coast.

The area sees little traffic, almost completely limited to a few parties a year traversing the area on skis every spring.

The McBride Traverse is a major step up from it's smaller cousins on the Coast.

Most ski mountaineers start with trips like the Spearhead or the Garibaldi Neve but these are commonly done throughout the winter and often in a single day.

The McBride is a much bigger undertaking with the average party out for 6-7 days, requiring an excellent spring weather window.

In April of 2009, Alex Wigley, Keith Reid, and Craig McGee did the first single push traverse from the top of the Blackcomb lifts to the Rubble Creek Trailhead in ~28 hours.

This was a big step forward for speed traverses on the Coast and set a high bar.

Nick and I had the McBride on our brains for several years and several went by where we never had the right combination of snowpack, high pressure, and time off.

Finally in April 2016, it did all come together and we decided to tee-off! We opted to take things a step forward in commitment and start from Whistler Village in the valley bottom.

We also went as light as possible.

We had enough clothing to survive a very uncomfortable night out but not much else.

With a massive snowpack (and lots of time that season already spent in the Spearhead), we left behind the rope and crevasse gear.

We decided to forgo a stove, hoping to fish water from creeks (a strategy that paid off but could have backfired).

We used carbon racing boots and skis.

But we also had two huge seasons of European skimo racing under our belts and counted on the fitness to get us through. Skiing up Blackcomb and around the Spearhead at night was a bit of a dream.

We both plugged into music and followed the headlamps until first light descending the Naden Glacier to the Chekamus River.

We refilled water and then started the big climb to Mt.

Sir Richard.

Passing the summit, we were committed to going forward, not back.

It was new terrain but we made relatively few navigation errors (thanks in part to a deep dive into aerial photos with Matt Gunn).

The first few glaciers and passes went by smoothly but by late morning, the sun started to soften the snowpack and warm us up.

Luckily, Nick is unstoppable so he took a big share of the trail breaking and kept us going.

A short whiteout got us a little nervous under Sinister Peak but we found our way out and back into glorious sunshine below Hour Peak.

Crosscut Ridge is the highlight of the trip though the slush was starting to take it's toll.

Rather than a fun ski down to the final pass, we had a skins-on descent breaking trail to the low point and then the final climb to the top of the Sphinx Glacier. The last descent took us down the Sphinx and across Garibaldi Lake where we saw the first people of the day, including our friend Will who gave us each a coke.

We continued skiing down the summer trail to find our running shoes and then finished the slog down to the car park.

Nine hours of slushy ski boots had taken their toll and our feet were pretty destroyed but we did it.

Just over 15.5 hours from start to finish, we were very happy with what we had accomplished - one of the biggest days I'd ever had in the mountains! It wouldn't have been possible without Nick - one of the best partners imaginable, or without the invaluable beta from others who had previously done the traverse. *NOTE: This track is drawn approximately over the line we skied and should only be used for rough navigation.

The route changes every year with wind-lips, cornices, avalanches, and crevasses so don't rely exactly on a GPX file!