5 - 6
FATMAP difficulty grade
For a deeper dive into the route and some detailed terrain photos, check out the post on Beyond Our Peak: https://beyondourpeak.com/sts-couloir-rogers-pass-an-absolute-beast/ STS Couloir is an absolute beast of a run… and a notorious one at that.
Nestled in the north face of Cheops Mountain (2581m) near the headwaters of Connaught Creek, the route offers 700 meters of epic north-facing couloir skiing with an average slope angle of 45 degrees.
As a matter of fact, it’s one of Rogers Pass’ more popular ski-mountaineering routes, requiring a short rappel to get through the large overhanging cornices looming over the entrance.
Even by the Pass’ standards, that’s a hell of a run.
As for the name itself, STS couloir, originally Cheops North 4 avalanche path, was renamed after the Strathcona Tweedsmuir School avalanche incident – I’ll let you dig more into that subject on your own. The route takes you through the imposing Connaught Valley all the way to Balu Pass, a popular ski touring area.
As I’ve mentioned many times in previous articles, travelling through this valley exposes you to seriously hazardous avalanche paths that require careful consideration before crossing.
Keep that in mind while you’re passing through.
Once you've gained the mellow slopes of Balu Pass, first enjoy the wonderful views of the Ursus Major South Bowl and the Cougar Valley to the west, then veer to the south towards the Cheops West Ridge, a long-winding, rocky ridge to the top of Cheops Mountain.
It's usually windswept and icy, requiring a carefully planned uptrack.
You'll soon pass the entrance to the Cheops North Bowl.
Continue onwards, up the ridge, to the entrance of STS Couloir.
There you'll find a few trees with some old cordelette strung around them.
Those are old rappel anchors.
Looking ahead, you'll have a birds eye view of the solar aspects of the Connaught Valley, the popular Video Peak, 8812 Peak and Ursus Minor Mountain. Earlier in the season when the cornices are still quite small, it’s possible to hop into the line without rappeling.
However, as the cornices grow, a 5-10m rappel is absolutely necessary to enter the 45+ degree slope.
Careful cornice assessment (while on belay ideally) is a must here as you’ll be exposed to them during your entire descent. STS Couloir is steep, averaging 40-45 degrees the whole way down with two steep rocky walls on both sides.
The left side tends to harbour some dangerous wind slabs while the right side exposes you to rockfall.
Thankfully, it's pretty wide until the very end where it chokes up.
Slow down at that point and you'll be fine.