Letters to the Editor for the week of March 15th, 2012 

A dissenting view...

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You recently published a letter to the Editor about proposed huts on the Spearhead traverse. I would like to contribute my own views to the one sided story that was told in that letter last week:

I am strongly opposed to the proposed huts system in Garibaldi Park, well known as the Spearhead ski traverse.

The park is unique because of its ease of approach from the Lower Mainland. The good side of this is that many Canadians and visitors to Canada can experience a unique alpine glaciated environment without having to trudge huge distances or to hire aircraft to access similar terrain further north or inland. The bad side of this is these same people have a huge burden removed by use of Highway 99 and the Whistler Blackcomb lift system to access the terrain. This has inevitably allowed some people access that would not otherwise have been as attractive to them.

Safe travel in this particular alpine glaciated terrain requires physical ability and mountaineering skills. The huts system largely reduces physical ability as the factor it is today, which inevitably draws those without the necessary mountaineering skills. That requirement for physical ability has been a self sustaining safety valve responsible for keeping those out of this terrain that should not be there.

But most important is "The big picture." Much of the wilderness of Canada is under pressure from a lot of different interest groups. Garibaldi Park is only one such wild area. The day trips one can make are nearly endless in the south Coast Mountains. The Spearhead ski traverse is one of only a few opportunities to truly experience what multiday travel in glaciated terrain is like and yet be so close to the Lower Mainland. In that way it is unique. The only other similar ski traverse is the Garibaldi Neve traverse and it is no where near as spectacular or unique in the chain of glaciers at high elevation.

A small but vocal group of supporters are pushing hard to make this system of huts a reality. I anticipate this will destroy the existing wilderness experience. It will also inevitably increase search and rescue calls due to the degradation of a self sustaining safety system (due to lower standards of physical ability being the primary process of accessing the park). There is no doubt in my mind that proponents do not appreciate the wilderness experience. And once gone that experience can never be retrieved.

One doesn't have to look further than the incredible beauty of the European Alps and the lack of wilderness apparent there in the present day. Where in Canada we require ropes to safely mountaineer, in the Alps they have fixed ladders, staircases, cog trains, and mechanical access from almost every valley. We have the beauty of large wild animals such as black and grizzly bears and wolverines, whereas most Europeans have never seen such jewels of the wilderness except on television or the internet.


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