The McBride Range Ski Traverse is well documented and is done by at least a few groups every year. So we didn’t expect it to be the most challenging and scariest of all the ski traverses we’ve done. The route crosses several steep avalanche slopes. In the mornings we risked slipping and going for a big slide on the frozen hard snow. In the afternoons we risked being caught in a wet, spring avalanche.
There was only about a 2-3 hour period during the day when we felt comfortable crossing the slopes. Time constraints sometimes forced us to travel when it was risky and scary. Thankfully we had no incidents on those slopes. We did however have some other drama in the last few hours of our seven day trip.
Five of us did this trip: friends Janet, John, and Susan; friend of a friend Grant; and the two of us. We were very saddened a year later when Janet and John died in an avalanche. A separate page on this website commemorates them.
The traverse starts by doing the half of the well known and deservedly popular Spearhead Ski Traverse connecting the Whistler and Blackcomb ski areas. One can start either at Whistler or at Blackcomb and leave the Spearhead Traverse halfway along by descending to the Cheakamus River valley. Then ascend to Mt Sir Richard and ski the length of the McBride Range. There are also two alternatives for ending the trip: cross Garibaldi Lake or do half of the Neve Ski Traverse to Elfin Lakes. We started at the Blackcomb ski area and ended by crossing Garibaldi Lake.
The drama happened while crossing Garibaldi Lake. In May when we did the trip the lake still had a thick layer of ice with no danger of us breaking through into the deep water. There was however about 20 centimeters of melt water on top of the thick ice and a thin layer of ice on top of the water.
We made the mistake of trying to ski 4.5 kilometers directly across the lake rather than taking the long way around the shoreline. Compounding that mistake was that we moved fast thinking that would help avoid breaking through the thin layer of ice and getting our feet wet. Grant broke through the ice and crashed hard dislocating his shoulder. Fortunately both Janet and Susan are physicians and Susan was able reduce Grant’s shoulder dislocation.
With some effort we moved to the shoreline but only after two more of us broke through the thin ice and went in the water up to our shins. We divided up Grant’s load and finished the trip by skiing to the end of the lake and down the summer trail.
Following is a video and slideshow of the trip. The video is a Google Earth tour of our route.
Now the photos which are slides scanned in 2021. If you expand the photo viewer to full page the “Adventures” menu will stop working. This is because of technical issues with the website software. Pick any other menu item and go to that web page. The “Adventures” menu will then work properly.