TR – Racing the weather to Mt. Fitzsimmons – Whistler

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I went skiing (or rather skittering) on the ice around Baker ski area on Friday, and decided it would be good to check out the snow up in Canada. Jon Schleder, a friend from Alaska, and I drove up to Vancouver Saturday night, planning to backcountry ski somewhere the next day. After answering weird questions from the Border Patrol and getting lost in Vancouver, we found Sky Sjue’s house, checked out some maps of the Whistler area, and sacked out in Sky’s backyard.

Around the beginning of the hike, Fitzsimmons is somewhere below the red arrow.

Near the beginning of the hike, Fitzsimmons is somewhere below the red arrow.

The next morning, we met up with Mike and Andy Traslin and Thomas Brunner, and caravanned up to Whistler ski area. The weather called for clearish skies in the morning with some clouds and light snow in the afternoon. Driving up, it was fairly cloudy already, and we wondered if we would be able to get to Fitzsimmons before it moved in. We decided there was a chance we could, bought one-ride tickets at Whistler, and headed up the lifts.

Once off the lifts, I asked someone in our group which one of the peaks was Fitzsimmons. “You can’t see it yet. It’s behind those mountains,” was the reply. Darn that looks super far, I thought to myself. We started off at a good pace, with clouds above us and blue sky to the east. We kept the pace up, and made it to the top in about 4 hours. We skinned to within a hundred feet of the top, with an easy bootpack from then on. We even had a bit of sunshine as we sat on the summit.

Enjoying a short bit of sunny weather near the summit of Mount Fitzsimmons

Enjoying a short bit of sunny weather near the summit of Mount Fitzsimmons

We skied down the top of the west side, and then the north face down to the glacier. The snow was pretty good powder for backcountry skiing, with a two inch wind slab in spots. The weather started to move in as we skied down, and the light became quite flat. By the time we were on the glacier, you could hardly see the top of the peak. We’d hit it just right. We had a great 3,000 vertical foot run, and then followed the creek in the valley bottom for a little while.

We skinned back up and headed for the top of Cowboy Ridge. By the time we got to the top it was dark. We donned headlamps, and had some great nighttime powder skiing down to Singing Pass trail. Then there was 8 miles of an icy traverse track that is Singing Pass trail. No trip report can address the incredible joy and fun of an 8 mile icy traverse, so I won’t even try.

the obligatory summit shot

The obligatory summit shot, the POC goggles have been working well.

Sky feeling around in the flat light

Sky feeling around in the flat light.

Mike enjoying the powder

Mike enjoying the powder.

Mike and Sky figuring out where to go next, our route in the background

Mike and Sky figuring out where to go next, our route in the background.

Second time backcountry skiing in the Whistler area, had a great time. Still haven’t skied on the ski area though. Who needs that, right? Twelve hours, a good amount of vertical, and about 20 miles of distance. The icy traversing is world-class as well. I will definitely be back soon.

Comments

11 Responses to “TR – Racing the weather to Mt. Fitzsimmons – Whistler”

  1. Dostie January 29th, 2010 1:05 pm

    For years a buddy and I explained the joy of backcountry skiing with a quote from an article in Outside magazine about why people want to climb Denali. Jon Krakauer was the author. The whole article did a great job of capturing the mountaineering mindset for doing big peaks. One climber distilled it succinctly when he said, “it’s kind of like fun, only different.”

    Louie’s understated, “No trip report can address the incredible joy and fun of an 8 mile icy traverse, so I won’t even try” carries a similar insight.

  2. Caleb January 29th, 2010 1:52 pm

    Nice trip Louie. Looks like you are already in Alaska shape. The Singing Pass trail. I have a “friend” that used to sleep in a van in lot 4 and use the free access to Whstler ski area via that trail each morning. Hmmm, I wonder if that is still possible?

  3. Mike January 29th, 2010 1:56 pm

    Not unless you want to get shot with the amount of military boys around here right now!

  4. Bryce January 29th, 2010 3:47 pm

    Mike, is the Canadian Army patrolling Whistler’s parking lot to make sure everybody pays for a hotel room or did the Russians occupy British Columbia?

    Looks like a gorgeous route. Thanks for the report.

  5. M Traslin January 29th, 2010 4:07 pm

    Thanks for the day and report! My brother made a little video of the day it should show up in your mailbox.

    Yes that ski out always makes it a classic.
    Thanks to the crew for a calm approach when making our route plans.

    As much as we wanted to hit the slope with big turns,the flat light and wind loaded slope forced us to make conservative jump turns which was fun nonetheless!
    Fun crew…..

  6. Mike January 30th, 2010 8:16 pm

    @ Bryce – more of a dirtbag round up! :devil:

  7. Jason Hummel January 31st, 2010 10:39 am

    Right on guys! When the weather is warm, going north is a fine cure.

  8. Stano February 1st, 2010 12:23 am

    Whiteouts, who doesn’t love them.

    We just currently had them for two summit consecutive days in the Rockies. Not the best skiing but lots of fun with friends. So very similar to your day, I guess.

  9. Sky February 1st, 2010 11:58 am

    Good to ski with you again, Louie. Last time it was an epic for a few powder turns. This time it was an epic with lots of powder and a big steep face. Maybe next time we can even get some vis?

  10. ATraslin February 1st, 2010 10:42 pm

    Awesome ski.I’ve been starring at the line for 14 years.You guys saw it once and skied it.Sometimes timing is everything.

    A short video from the trip.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IZ8Jos1_B4

  11. Bryce February 2nd, 2010 9:10 am

    Oh yeah, the military is for the Olympics. I read that they were going to close off a bunch of access roads to private vehicles and even restrict access to the surrounding backcountry during the games. So yeah, might not be the best time to bunk in the parking lot.

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