Powdercap Ski Traverse

Route description and topo map download

This ski traverse west of Squamish gets a bad rep for being overrun by snowmobiles but when we went at the end of March 2019 we saw none. Granted, there were signs of motorized usage but if nothing else then the tracks allowed us to follow the route with ease. Impressive, jagged summit of Mt. Fee and Mt. Cayley provided a stunning backdrop.

Powdercap winter traverse map / 51 km total

Brew Hut access trail

The approach to the starting point of this ski traverse is the same as getting to Brew Hut by driving on Chance Creek and Roe Creek forest service roads. The best route description is on the VOC website. At the moment of writing (March 2021) you cannot drive past the snowcat operation parking lot at 400m elevation up on Chance Ck as the road beyond is snowed in and / or tracked for snowmobile use. If you do not have a snowmobile you will need to cover ~11km on foot. However, in early or late season you should be able to drive Chance Ck road and up to Roe Creek FSR. In 2020 Roe Ck FSR has been deactivated just before branch R-100 / Roe-100 and is undriveable past ~5 km from Highway 99. Access is on foot / skis / bicycles only beyond this point and involves fording a small creek (watch for spring melt runoffs).

VOC-owned and operated Brew Hut.

The bowl around Brew Hut is known for getting socked in frequently and receives inordinate amounts of heavy snowfall so if you are caught out in one of these events you will need to rely on a GPS track to stay on route. On a sunny day, however, you will be rewarded with stunning views of Tricouni peak just across the valley. From Brew Hut the route ascends NW over the summit of Keg Peak to rejoin the main Cypress-Fee divide. There is some micro terrain to navigate on and around Keg Peak but nothing too big or insurmountable.

Impressive views of Tricouni mountain as seen from Keg Peak, NW of Brew Hut.

Between shuttling cars in the morning and having to deal with the extra 5 km on the logging road this likely be a tiring day but there is a nice spot to camp at the col on the main divide (if not windy) or by dropping to a small lake/tarn in the protected bowl just to the NE of the col (Coord: 50.0607, -123.2561).

A calm beautiful evening at camp. This is one of the reasons why I do it.

Following the Squamish-Cheakamus Divide

If you had to drop down to the tarn, getting back up onto the divide will be a steep climb. In springtime snow (frozen in the morning) you might have to put on boot crampons and bootpack it up. Once on the main divide though, the sailing is very smooth. As much as you might be disturbed by the existence of snowmobiles, following their tracks made staying on route really easy.

Following snowmobile tracks along the divide and towards Mt. Fee.

The route crosses several glaciers but having seen them in summer when the the snow is gone they are rather compact and void of any major jumble of crevasse. Passing at the toe of Mt. Fee on its west side will be one of the highlights of this trip. This volcanic peak is so jagged that it makes you wonder how it’s still standing at all. Snow and ice is the answer – that’s what holds it together and that’s why it’s never climbed in summer.

Skirting along the west base of Mt. Fee.

Past Mt. Fee pay attention to the map / GPS as the snowmobile tracks will start going off in various directions. You will want to generally trend north and curving NW crossing several indistinct passes. See my topo map for the recommended route. Shorter variations of this trajectory exist but they also are also more exposed to avalanche-y slopes.

Powder Mountain and Powdercap Glacier

Once you drop onto the glacier spilling SE from Mt. Cayley the terrain opens up considerably. Passing NE of Mt. Cayley and climbing onto the Powdercap neve stick to the existing (snowmobile) tracks or stay more to the center-left of the climb as I recall seeing some crevassed terrain to the (climber’s) right of this spot.

Descending to the glacier spilling SE from Mt. Cayley as the visibility deteriorates.

Having reached the Powdercap Never the weather closed in on us completely. It had been deteriorating since the previous night and from the continuously dropping barometric pressure we knew that our time on the Powdercap was up. We were planning to stay high for one more night and soak in the scenery but that was now out of question so we were barreling across the icefield to make it to Callaghan Valley in one long push before the storm arrived.

An alternative exit is possible via mellow Powder Glacier and then following a creek out but not having more information on that route at the time we decided to press on towards Banner Pass.

No vis from Mt. Cayley all the way down to Journeyman Lodge in the Callaghan Valley.

Descending from Powdercap to Callaghan Valley

To drop down to Callaghan Valley you need to hit the right col. Banner Pass is a inconspicuous col that will take you safely down Solitude Glacier while more obvious passes around would lead you away into other places. So finding the right col is critical (hint: 50.1784, -123.2938). Getting down Solitude Glacier we kept to skier’s left to avoid steeper terrain caused by the receding glacier. It was an enjoyable ski down and out of the driving snow and wind.

We followed Solitude Creek out toward the flats W of Journeyman Lodge and had to carefully pick our way down because the creek has formed a small canyon here.

Setting camp near Journeyman Lodge after a difficult day’s travel in worsening weather.

Once in the valley we set up camp and enjoyed a quiet evening. It was a long tiring day but we made the right decision as the weather had developed into a full-on blizzard. It would have been quite unnerving to be stuck up there in wind and zero visibility for several days.

From Journeyman Lodge the way out is easy (albeit 11 km long) on groomed cross-country ski trails. Follow Meadows Loop to Upper Wild Spirit Trail and then the Callaghan FSR out and back to your car at Alexander Falls.

Ski out on the X-country trails.
Reaching car parked at Alexander Falls.

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