The Tantalus Traverse is a beautiful breath taking adventure through some of Squamish’s local Mountains. Depending on your route it will be anywhere from 36km – 45km with 3600m – 5000m of elevation gain.
Most commonly done from North to South, the full traverse starts at Sigurd Creek and finishes at Lake Lovey Water trail head. Some parties will take a helicopter to the Zenith Col and get picked up at Lake Lovely Water, no shame in this as it will save your knee’s over 1500m of up and down trail slogging.
It is possible to do the Traverse and stay on friendly-ish terrain. Meaning no scrambling harder than 4th class several straight forward rappels and basic glacier travel. But if you get off route you will quickly find yourself on the wrong side of some very large mountains.
Jacob Cook and I completed the Tantalus Traverse starting at Sigurd Creek and finished at Lake Lovely Water trail head. We summited Tantalus, Dione and Serratus. We had one bivy near the summit of Tantalus.
For a good section of the hiking and scrambling we just hiked in our boxers as it was so hot! The melting snow made water not a problem, we found creeks and glacier run off thought the traverse.
What we Took:
The plan for this trip was to go fast and light, so we had minimalist in mind while packing. Each of our packs were about 30L and had the following in them each:
- 2x 1L water bottles (+ water tablets)
- light sleeping bag + sleeping pad+ bivy
- Light ski harness (rap device, few lockers and slings)
- Light skimo style axe
- Aluminum crampons (Strap on to fit your footwear)
- Tape (to fix anything)
- Energy / Snacks (cliff bars, snickers, etc)
- 2x Dehydrated meals
- 3x hard boiled eggs + some cheese (Jacob had some meat)
- Jet Boil
- First Aid Kit
- Midtop Light Hiker/ Approach Footwear (You need to hike, scramble and attach a crampon)
- Soft Shell Pants
- Good socks ( This is very important for blister prevention)
- Quick dry tee
- Midlayer ( + Puffy in pack for evenings)
- Sun hat (what I call it…Sexy Hat)
- Glacier Sun Glasses
So if you are planning on going river to river, get ready from some serious elevation gain and hiking. Be sure not to short yourself in time or food. This traverse has a speed record close to 11hr (summiting just tantalus), but it commonly take’s 2-4 nights. As always make sure you are ready to be in the mountains for longer than planned. Practice safe travel and make your own judgement calls.
The first few km and 1200m from Sigurd Creek to the alpine is nice marked trail. After this you find yourself crossing Sigurd Creek as the bridge blew out over this past winter.
On the way up to Pelion, stay to the left of glacier, starting on moraine then trend left up scree, stay on rock as long as possible tracing over some 3rd and 4th class. You will need to strap on your crampons and get ready for some glacier travel, we had good firm snow.
For the least technical travel we went around the left (east) side of Pelion and hugged the summit tower (not summiting). Safely cross over the bergschrund. Some quick down scrambling on 3rd class will get you on the South side of Pelion (see picture above). Run down some snow slopes and you will be on the ridge heading towards Zenith.
After you traverse the ridge line towards Zenith you can take a shortcut. Its known as the Summer bypass that allows you to run along some snowfields and take a more direct line towards Tantalus’s North Ridge.
Get ready for some ROCK! Jacob and I both agree (now, we are rock climbers) that the next section of the traverse is the best. You gain Tantalus’ North Ridge, starting slightly left (south) on 4th class. Trending left through mid 4th and low 5th terrain until you gain the ridge. Some people rope up for this section.
Once on the ridge, stay ON RIDGE don’t go to either side, really at all. Traversing this ridge line was breath taking, defiantly the highlight of our trip! Crossing some sections of 3rd class. At the end of the ridge, go climbers right onto snow, then back onto ridge and across a bergschrund onto a nearly flat snow slope to gain summit tower via a loose 3 class scramble.
I got very some very tired legs at this point in the day so I talked Jacob into having taking a slightly early bivy on the ridge just below the Tantalus Summit.
The next morning we summited within 15mins after soloing some 4th class rock.
From the summit down scramble to the notch. Go south around the tower on a fourth class ledge system. Arrive at steep gully with chalk stone. We did one rap about 25m, scrambled down for about 8m trending skiers right (south). 2 more rappels and some scrambling we made it. Most parties do several rappels and potentially do some roped up scrambling to travel over to the base of Dione.
Dione is a scramble that we climbed in about 30mins up and down. It is mainly 3rd class with short sections of 5.4. You can rappel or down climb back to the snow field.
From base of Dione run along the snow field to a decent couloir, at the bottom trend down and right on the glacier (away from hut), this allows you to travel around some large cliff bands. Once underneath the cliff bands turn South, to travel to Jim Haberl Hut.
From the hut we scrambled over to Serratus, and climbed a 5th class rock route to the ridge. On the ridge we ditched our bags and made a blitz for the summit.
From the ridge to the summit the rock quality went down, lots of lose 3rd class.
We down climbed back to the ridge and began our descent.
Our descent sucked, we down climbed the ridge for ~100m then down climbed south face on chossy ledge systems.
To compleat our travers we need to decent the South-East side of Serratus, but I don’t recommend it.
I would encourage people if time was not a problem to rappel the climbing route and go around on the glacier. This would be a safer option.
From here we had an enjoyable walk down to lake lovey water to make dinner on the dock. A cold swim to wake up our legs. Followed by a couple hours back to the river.
Huge thanks for Eric Carter and Ryan Larkin for giving us the some great beta that made this travers possible.
On behave of Jacob, big thanks to Rab for the continual support.