A spectacular ski mountaineering day along a narrow ridge

Statistics

5 - 6

hrs

631

m

1,740

m

23

max┬░

Difficulty

FATMAP difficulty grade

Difficult

Description

There's no doubt that this is the hardest and best day on the traverse of the Bonington range.

The ski descent at the end of the day is excellent, but this route is really all about the undulating ridge which leads from Copper Mountain to Empire Peak.

The ridge is exposed and corniced, so only attempt it in good visibility - if you wake up in the Copper Hut in bad weather then one way to bail is to descend back to Erie Creek, cross over it as high up as you can and then skin briefly to reach Saddle Cabin Recreation Site, due south of Mount Connor.

From here, a loooong but objectively safe track (which has hopefully had some snowmobile traffic to create a trail for you) leads you down the Snowwater Creek valley to the power station at South Slocan.

Ending up here would likely be a logistical pain, but it beats being stuck halfway along a narrow ridge in a whiteout! The day starts out easily and gets progressively tougher, so treat the straightforward skin up to the ridge coming south from Copper Mountain as an enjoyable warmup.

Head south along the ridge as it winds and undulates towards Territory Peak.

Until it reaches the final summit dome of Territory Peak the ridge is simple enough, but the last section before the peak is steep and narrow, and you might need to bootpack it.

From Territory Peak the ridge stays narrow but is ski/skin-able as it winds down to Colony Peak.

After Colony Peak things get much trickier and the ridge really gets narrower and more exposed, so expect your speed to decrease considerably.

Being so high above the surrounding valleys the ridge catches all the wind going so it can have some huge cornices on it - be extremely careful when picking your exact line and consider carrying a short rope to offer a bit of security on the more exposed and corniced sections.

The ridge begins to flatten out as it approaches the summit of Empire Peak, and upon reaching it you're rewarded with magnificent views of the mountain you've spent the last few days traversing.

Toast the fact that the uphill is now done and then drop off the summit down towards Barrett Lake.

There are several ways of skiing off Empire Peak, all yielding some superb tree lines, so pick your poison! Aim to reach the valley floor a few hundred metres to the north-east of the lake so as to avoid getting stuck on flat ground and having to pole/skate to the final section of the descent.

The lake is a popular spot for snowmobilers and you'll likely be glad of the tracks that they create on the long journey out from the lake and down to the highway.

Without any snowmobile tracks the descent trail might not be that obvious and would certainly be slow.

If there are tracks then your descent will be fast, furious and - in anything other than perfect conditions - somewhat intimidating! Control your speed and take regular breaks so as to avoid any last minute injuries. Once back at the highway, head for civilisation and raise a glass to a classic ski traverse!