I was fortunate the other day to spend some time with some of our mountain elders. I wanted to learn more about the Spearhead and Fitzsimmons ranges and some of their history, at least the human kind vs the geological kind. I also wanted to speak directly to some of the people who were early explorers, even before the lifts on Whistler were built.
They were mountaineer types. Men and women, young and tough and full of adventure and desire. They wanted to explore their home ranges as far and wide as their legs would take them.
In their day, there was only a ferry to Squamish. Then you had to hop the train to Alta Lake. You could stop a various whistle stops along the way… Squamish Valley, Garibaldi, etc. but once off the train, there were only rudimentary trails and sometimes very rough logging roads which were primarily in the valley.
Whatever your adventure goal was, you had to carry all your provisions and gear for many, many days of travel. That meant slow and steady progress was the formula. Not fast out and backs…no record speeds, too dangerous and perhaps foolish. Because, the goal was to climb every peak, swim every lake, wander every ridge enroute. Immersion in your quest was the preferred modus operandi.
On many of these quests, they were the first. The first to climb it, the first to name it, the first to see it. What a great feeling that would be to be the first to be at that lake, in that pass, on that peak. All the while keeping careful notes and thoughts about what you have seen.
Explorers all. Werner Himmelsbach, Don McLaurin and Karl Ricker all live here in Whistler. They all live at the foot of one of the many ranges of mountains that they explored in the early days of this Sea to Sky corridor.
Karl was part of the first traverse of the Spearhead and Fitzsimmons ranges. They did it from the Blackcomb side. 9 days with huge packs and big loads. Their goal was to climb all the peaks they could and explore all the glaciers and side valleys time would allow. They named most of the peaks and glaciers as they went. This was 1964.
The Varsity Outdoor Club had a trip in the 1950′s that almost made all the way around. But they got weather out at Pattison. So they retreated to their start. Back around Overlord, down to Cheakamus Lake, and back up all the way to Sphinx bay at the S end of Garibaldi Lake where they had another group of VOC’ers hanging out post spring exams.
Karl brought in his torn and faded map from the trip with the scribbles of names and such they had written on it. It was like parchment and torn on all sides with the folds barely there. He also brought in the skis that he had completed this first traverse with. A pair of Head 360s like my Dad used to have, 215cms or so, with cable bindings. Similar in weight to a pair of Dukes with a big pair of freeride skis… heavy. And very hard to ski with. I hope to get photos from the original trip and copies of the maps posted here soon. Hopefully it will help inspire some of you to set some adventure goals this winter, right here in your backyard.
When I got home I was sent a link to a great short film of a different kind of inspiration. But inspiring it is. Enjoy.