Spearhead Traverse Express

The Pacific Northwest's Spearhead Traverse is in a spectacular setting in the back country of the continent's best ski area.  This 3-day trip has easy access, heavily glaciated terrain, and even a hut make it a must for anybody who is serious about ski touring. It seems incredible to me that a ski traverse of such quality and easy access (we take the lift to the top of the Blackcomb ski area) can still offer so much solitude and such a wilderness experience. The Spearhead Traverse Express follows the same route as the standard Spearhead Express, we just do it a bit faster. 

Difficulty rating and Skill requirements

Difficulty Rating System Explained

Overall Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult

Skills Required: Advanced skiing ability and prior ski touring experience 

Fitness Level: Strenuous due to skiing with an overnight pack

  • Category: Ski
  • Type: Guided
  • Ratio: 4:1,8:2

* Required Fields

Europe has the Haute Route. The Northwest has the Spearhead Traverse. This high alpine ski tour features everything it takes to become a classic. Easy access, a spectacular setting in the back country of the continent's best ski area, heavily glaciated terrain and even a hut make it a must for anybody who is serious about ski touring. It seems incredible to me that a ski traverse of such quality and easy access (we take the lift to the top of the Blackcomb ski area) can still offer so much solitude and such a wilderness experience. What else do you need?

Suggested itinerary:
Day one:  We will meet at Whistler (exact meeting times will be coordinated by the guides) and catch the lift ride up to the top of the Black Comb ski area. A quick ski tour over Spearhead Pass and down to the Decker Glacier will put us in perfect position for the next day.
Day two:  This day is long and very scenic. We will be crossing the Decker, Trorey, Tremor and Platform glaciers. Our second camp will be established on the Platform - Ripsaw col. This campsite is beautiful, wild, and offers ample opportunity for long ski descents down the Ripsaw or Shatter Glacier in the late afternoon.
Day Three:  This is the day when we cross over from the Spearhead Range to the Fitzsimmons Range. The switch from the MacBeth to the Iago Glacier is considered the crux of the traverse. We will then ski underneath the North face of Overlord Peak, across the Overlord Glacier to the Fissile saddle and then down to the Russett Lake hut.
Normally this would get us to the hut at around noon. From there we just have to tour over the musial bumps back to the Whistler ski area. We should be back in the village in the late afternoon without too much trouble.

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Pro Ski and Mountain Service is our retail specialty store. It has been located in North Bend, WA since 1999.

The past trips and courses have had a large influence on what we sell. Many of our Pro Guiding customers come on trips and courses with gear they purchased from our store. Not only do we want our clients to have the right gear for the job; we also receive direct feedback from them while they are using it in the field. Trust us - if the gear does not work - we won't sell it.


o 1 Bottom - midweight or lightweight
o 1 or 2 Tops - midweight or lightweight
o Sock Liners - 2 or 3 pair
o Ski Socks - 2 pair
o Windshirt, Soft Shell, Fleece - only one of these is necessary
o Schoeller™ type pants - soft shell
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Jacket
o Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Pants
o Softshell Ski Touring Pants
o Warm Hat - should cover ears
o Sun Hat - baseball type or visor
o Lightweight Gloves
o Ski Gloves
o Down or Synthetic Jacket
o Internal Frame Pack - 50 Liter (3100 cu in.) minimum
o Sleeping Bag - down or synthetic, 15º F to 20º F minimum
o Compression Sack - for sleeping bag           
o Sleeping Pad - closed cell foam or self inflating
o Headlamp - lightweight LED recommended
o Water Bottles - 1 or 2 liters, wide mouth
o Bowl or Cup
o Utensils
o Small Knife
o Sunglasses - adequate for snow travel
o Goggles
o Sunscreen - SPF >25, waterproof
o Lip Balm - SPF 15+
o Lighter
o Personal Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, waterless hand cleaner, etc.
o Small Personal 1st aid kit - blister repair (Compeed™), aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.
o Skis - Alpine Touring or Telemark
o Ski Boots - Alpine Touring or Telemark – no downhill boots
o Ski Poles - telescopic poles work well, but not required
o Climbing Skins
o Ski Crampons - THESE ARE REQUIRED!
o  Ski Brakes
o Transceiver - single frequency,  457 kHz only
o Shovel - compact, lightweight, metal blade preferred
o Probe - dedicated probe only, ski poles do not suffice
o Ice Axe - 55-70 cm length, lightweight
o Boot Crampons – Aluminum is recommended for this trip
o Climbing Harness - lightweight, BD Alpine Bod style (no padding)
• 2 Locking Carabiners- (1) large HMS style and (1) regular locker
• 2 Non-locking Carabiners - any style, we recommend wire gates
• 1 Single Length Runner
• 1 Double Length Runner
• 1 Cordelette - 6 mm diameter, 6 meter length

o Camera - we’d like some shots for the PGS website!
o Ear Plugs - essential for sound sleep
o Camp Booties
o Thermos - vacuum type
o Note Pad and Pencil - Rite-in-the-rain brand waterproof notebook works
o Compass - adjustable declination a must
o Altimeter - Suunto watch works well
o Map Case - large zip-loc will suffice
o Maps - contact guiding office for appropriate quadrangles
o Collapsible Water Canteen - good for storing snowmelt at camp
o Warm Socks - to sleep in
o Lightweight Bivy/Tarp - handy with a floorless tent
o Foot Powder
GROUP GEAR PROVIDED BY PGS   *Please contact the guiding office if you prefer to bring your own gear in place of any of our group gear.
o Tents
o Stoves
o Fuel
o Cooking Pots
o Rope
o Technical Group Gear, VHF radio or SAT phone
o Group 1st Aid Kit

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET TO WHISTLER AND HOW DO I GET THERE FROM THE SEATTLE AND VANCOUVER AREA? It takes about 4-5 hours from Seattle, and about 2 hours from Vancouver to get to Whistler.From the Seattle area, drive I-5 North towards the Canadian border.  Many people prefer the border crossing near Lynden, since it is less crowded.  Get there by taking Hwy 539 North in Bellingham.  This turns into Hwy 13 once you are in Canada.  Then go west on Hwy 1.  This will get you around the city of Vancouver without too much trouble, then just continue on the Mountains to Sea Hwy all the way to Whistler. 

WHERE CAN I LEAVE MY CAR?There is an overnight parking area in the base parking area (Lot 4).  We have never had a problem with break-ins, but we certainly cannot guarantee anything.  Try not to leave any valuables in your car during the trip. 

 WHERE CAN I STAY THE NIGHT BEFORE THE TRIP? There are many hotels in Whistler, so the choices are wide open, but we actually prefer to stay in Squamish the night before.  Check out the Sea to Sky Hotel, it is located about 3 miles north of the Squamish Downtown area on the right hand side.  HTTP://WWW.SEATOSKYHOTEL.COM 


WILL WE HAVE TIME TO DO SOME SKIING WITHOUT THE BIG PACKS? Yes, the legs from camp to camp are short enough that this is possible. 

I HEARD THAT WE GET TO STAY IN A HUT ONE NIGHT. WHAT IS IN IT? Well, not that much. You will get to stand up straight and be out of the weather, but it won't be warmer than inside the tent.  It is also a first come, first serve hut without a hutkeeper, so there is not a guaranteed spot.  

WHEN WILL WE BE OUT ON THE LAST DAY? We are typically out in the early afternoon of the last day.

SHOULD I TIP MY GUIDE? AND HOW MUCH SHOULD I TIP THEM? Although tipping is not a requirement it is considered standard practice in the guiding industry and is appreciated by our guides. We generally recommend roughly 10%-15% of your course or trip cost or flat price tip that you are comfortable with.