Phalanx Mountain

Elevation Gain: ~1600m
Distance: ~24km
Total Time: 11 hours 17 minutes
Date: March 26th, 2023

Stats have the initial chairlift ascent deducted and are approximate

Phalanx Mountain is the northern most summit on the Spearhead Glacier. From the south it rises prominently above the glacier offering several couloirs and a steep broken ridge line as ascent options. From the north, it’s a tame snow ascent from the base of Whistler Village. Andrea was working on her ski2sky challenge and needed to ascend or ski the “stairmaster couloir” which is located on the steeper south side. We had just finished The Spearhead and Blackcomb Peak and were now making a circuitous route to reach the base of Phalanx Mountain.

To get to the start of the climb we needed to ascend up Cham Chutes first as that’s also part of Andrea’s challenge. From the base of The Spearhead we did a traverse around to the base of the chutes and then transitioned so that we could boot up. In the process Andrea’s ski leapt for freedom and made a mad dash down the hill. Thankfully it came to rest only 60m down, but Andrea had to retrieve it the baking sun and deep powder.

Traversing towards the base of Cham Chutes

Once she had recovered the ski, we all started the boot pack up. The conditions made for perfect bucket steps and we soon reached the top. We swapped back into our skis and made a nice long diagonal line towards the western start of the Spearhead Glacier. On the way we had no shortage of perfect cold powder turns and it was an excellent addition to our day. Once our ski line flattened out we transitioned again and started to skin around to the base of Phalanx Mountain. At this point, Geoff made the call to head home as the exit back to Whistler Village was just over the ridge.

Geoff starting up the chutes
Looking down at Geoff and Andrea coming up we swapped leads. Mount Pattison in the background I think.
Andrea coming up
Phalanx Mountain in the clouds

We said our goodbyes and then Andrea and I continued on to Phalanx. As we navigated around the south side, we came across two couloir entrances. The first twisted out of site and seemed quite steep. Meanwhile the second one looked like more of a straight shot. It wasn’t clear which one was the stairmaster, but we were keen to get the summit either way so we risked ascending up the wrong one. After stashing our skis we started the boot pack up. Once again, we had perfect bucket steps and the ascent was straightforward and fun.

The Spearhead engulfed in clouds
Sidehilling to the base of the two couloirs
Looking up the Stairmaster Couloir, although we didn’t know it at the time
Continuing over to the other couloir
Looking up that second couloir
Andrea starting up
Getting higher up the couloir
Looking back at Andrea. Some touring parties visible down on the glacier below
Forking right up the couloir now
Looking down one last time

From the top we traversed a short ways along the ridge until gaining one of two high points. The first one we landed on seemed to be the summit based on the map, but I wasn’t going to rule out the other one just yet. Between both high points, we discovered the actual stair master couloir, which Andrea was able to identify based on photos of the entrance. By some luck the coulour actually was a lot less steep than the one we came up so we decided we can just descend it and still count it towards Andrea’s challenge. But first, I dashed up to the other high point and then joined Andrea on the descent.

Andrea leading us to the exit
Just a short walk over to the summit now
The secondary high point from the summit. You can see the entrance to the stairmaster couloir on the right
Looking down the broken west ridge
Views of the Spearhead from the lower high point on Phalanx Mountain
Looking across at the summit where I just was

The stairmaster was an apt name as there was a high way of boot tracks, which we some how missed from the base. This made for super easy descent though and we reached the base in no time. That’s all the summits out of the way, but the days not over yet. Now we must traverse all the way past Cham Chutes to the eastern end of the glacier and ski the Vista Bowl. Then on to both lakes before exiting out of the DOA chute.

Andrea heading down the stairmaster couloir
Reaching the end

The traverse didn’t take too long and we had a highly variable ski run down vista bowl with a few pockets of nice powder. Andrea had a scare stopping just before a massive cornice above the bowl, but thankfully stopped in time. It’s crazy to think what can sneak up on you so quickly when you’re skiing.

Andrea traversing around. In hindsight we should have cut across the glacier instead as there’s too many blind spots here.
A nice view of Phalanx Mountain from the other side of the glacier

From the bowl we skinned up to Decker Lake and then Circle Lake; both part of the challenge. By now day light was running out and clouds were closing in, dropping visibility significantly. I started to get a bit stressed about being in big terrain without visibility, but Andrea kept us on track and we closed in on the final slope to our exit just before dark. We decided in the fading light that DOA did not make sense and opted to ski out of the Body Bag Bowl instead.

Skinning up to Circle Lake
Visibility is dropping
Looking down the Body Bag Bowl
Andrea in front of Blackcomb Peak. DOA is just above her in the image.

The ski out was fantastic and we got to ski out of Whistler all to ourselves in the dwindling night. We pulled up to the car around 8:40PM or so and that finished off an awesome day out. Our final run was mega icy, but it didn’t phase me on account of how fun it was to be out late at night on our own adventure.

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