The Perfect Alternative to the Spearhead Traverse in British Columbia

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Whether you are from Canada or not, the Spearhead Traverse, located near Whistler, B.C., is likely the most popular traverse in the entire province. Of similar distance and vertical gain is another option, only a few miles south.

While still popular, the Garibaldi Neve Traverse offers you a good chance of finding solitude on the summit of Mount Garibaldi (8,786 ft.), one of the tallest and most recognizable volcanoes in Canada. It’s also not uncommon to find yourself alone on numerous other peaks that you can ascend (with extra days) from one of several huts or an established camp on one of the area glaciers.

Here’s what you need to know to get there.

The Stats

  • 25 miles one-way
  • 5,500 feet of vertical gain (more if you summit peaks)
  • 2-4 days
  • 3 glaciers (Garibaldi, Sentinel and Warren)

Camping and Huts

During my trip, I stayed at the Elfin Hut and the Burton Hut (also called the Sphinx Hut). Registration, availability and other details should be planned ahead of time for both huts, as well as other huts in the area.

Details and fees for the Sentinel Bay and Burton huts are found on the Vancouver Outdoor Clubs Wiki Page.

Details and fees for the Elfin Hut can be found on the British Columbia Parks page.

While the huts are a nice amenity, they can be noisy and full, so it’s a very good idea to have a tent along. Other factors like weather, getting off-track and conditions, as well as enjoying other attractions better-accessed from an established camp on the glaciers, are all great reasons for bringing a tent.

When to Go

The best time to go is as soon as there is a solid snowpack and until the waters of Garibaldi Lake begin to melt. The most optimal time is between January and May.

Permits

You can pre-order permits ahead of time. They are $10 [Canadian?]per day, per person, for Garibaldi Provincial Park. You can also pay at the Elfin Lakes Trailhead.

How to Get There

Parking for the Garibaldi Lake Trailhead is at the Rubble Creek parking area, located 20.5 miles north of the town of Squamish. Most parties end their traverse here. In the winter, the road is not plowed, so you aren’t often able to drive to the parking area.

Getting to the Elfin Lakes Trailhead is by a steep gravel road from the town of Squamish. Go east on the Mamquam Road and when you reach a fork, turn left and drive to the trailhead. Having a four-wheel-drive vehicle and chains is recommended, especially when your car is going to be there for more than a day and may be covered by snow. Try not to leave valuables in your car. Thefts aren’t common, but they occur more often here than at other trailheads.

Garibaldi Traverse

Amar Andalkar leaving the Elfin Hut and ascending Mount Garibaldi.

Garibaldi Traverse

Amar Andalkar with Mount Garibaldi looming overhead.

Garibaldi Traverse

Amar Andalkar stands on the summit of Mount Garibaldi, looking back at the way we had come.

Garibaldi Traverse

Garibaldi Lake, which is frozen over half the year, is crossed on your final day back to Rubble Creek Trailhead and your second vehicle.

Garibaldi Traverse

In the distance, Amar skis across to a pass that will bring us to the shores of Garibaldi Lake.

Garibaldi Traverse

Mount Garibaldi.

Garibaldi Traverse

Garibaldi Lake at sunset from the Burton Hut.

Garibaldi Traverse

Hannah Carrigan ascends the Parapet on a day trip from the Burton Hut.

Garibaldi Traverse

Hannah Carrigan and Sky Sjue ascend the Parapet with Mount Carr behind.

Garibaldi Traverse

Sky Sjue milks a long day in the mountains, just before the final climb and descent to Garibaldi Lake.

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