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Massive Mountain

Summit Elevation (m): 2435
Elevation Gain (m): 1100
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 16
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something
Difficulty Notes: Winter ascent includes serious avalanche risks. Learn how to manage these risks and perform avalanche burial rescues before attempting this trip.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
MapGoogle Maps


Back in February 2013, Raf and So managed to negotiate a ski route up Massive Mountain that sounded much more attractive than previous snowshoe or ski trip reports that I’d heard about. I didn’t have any GPS tracks or anything to go off and by the time I could finally attempt this trip I knew Raf’s ski tracks would be LONG gone – I mean it’s almost 2 months later right? Well, as it turns out – WRONG. I put together a few way points based on Raf’s description and hoped for the best as Wietse and I planned a ski ascent of Massive for a beautiful sunny day on Saturday on March 30 2013.

Massive Mountain Route Map
Google Earth image of the ski route up Massive.

As we left the Redearth parking lot to ski back along the highway I right away noticed that we were on very old ski tracks! The snow that had long ago covered the tracks was now melting away and the firmer tracks were visible due to their resistance to the melting. We weren’t 100% sure these were Raf and So’s tracks from February but as we continued skiing it became obvious that we’d have ski tracks to follow up the most difficult route-finding sections in the lower forest. This was great news and we followed the 2 month old tracks all the way up to the upper bowl between Pilot and Massive before they vanished! We thought at first that the route isn’t very obvious from along the Trans-Canada hwy fence, but actually it is fairly straight forward, on hindsight.

You can see (from the route map) that you simply ski back along the Trans-Canada fence until you come to an obvious drainage going to your right. This drainage is right at a fence that could save you some skiing except it’s buried in hard snow if you’re skiing! Follow this drainage for about 500 meters or until you come to a massive log jam in the creek bed. Scramble up to the forested slopes on climber’s left of the drainage and make your way up gentle slopes on the left side of the creek. Raf and So’s track took us quite a bit left at first but there’s no need to stray too far from the stream / drainage. The only reason you’re not in the stream bed is that it’s too full of debris.

Entering the upper valley – still in the drainage. Serious avy slopes to the left of the picture out of sight.

When the going gets steeper (about 1.5-2km after entering the forest), you will be ‘forced’ to cross the creek to climber’s right. After a couple hundred meters it’s not worth staying out of the drainage – just enter it for the remainder of the trip. An obvious rock wall marks the spot you want to make sure you’re actually skiing in the drainage. The drainage / creek was awesome! We had spring conditions but with fresh snow this would be skier’s heaven! I can see why Raf and So had so much fun descending it back in February. As you get higher in the drainage the dangers of the route become more obvious. There is serious avalanche risk along the entire upper ski route. Please take the necessary precautions here!

Looking up a serious slide path on the east slopes of Pilot Mountain.

We kept a nervous eye on the huge avy slopes coming down the east slopes of Pilot – they were already exposed to the full power of the Spring sun and could bury us instantly if they came down. Obviously we planned our route to be under these slopes early in the day and planned to ski down under them quickly on the way back! The upper drainage was very obvious to follow and provided excellent access all the way into the back bowl – a beautiful upper alpine valley nestled under the high point between Pilot and Brett. We made our way right to the last stand of trees coming off Massive before the a final avy slope to the col between Brett and Massive before taking a break out of any danger zones.

From our resting spot under the Massive / Brett col we deviated from Raf and So’s route. Their route went directly up treed slopes to the col, while we made a more indirect route to take advantage of better snow conditions on north, rather than south slopes which were heavily crusted up. We avoided as much serious avy terrain as possible but eventually had to cross a rather serious slope. We were confident in the conditions and the fact that this slope was north facing and not getting direct sun. There were no layers in the snow pack here and no signs of instability.

Pano from the bump along the ridge just after crossing the avy slope shows Brett on the left, unnamed and then Pilot. You can spot all the valley we came up with Massive on the right.

We crossed the slope individually and eventually topped out slightly south and above the col. We made quick work out of descending to the col and skinned on hard slabby crust to an obvious rocky break on the ridge to the summit of Massive. We dumped our skis here even though technically we could have ski’d around the break on climber’s left – it wasn’t worth the bother considering the crappy snow pack here. The summit was a short boot pack away and we enjoyed some awesome views from the top.

Looking over the Brett / Massive Col with Pilot at right. Our ascent / descent avy slope at mid center.
Panorama from the summit. L to R we have Bourgeau, Black Brett, Brett, Unnamed, Pilot.
Wietse on the summit with Cory and Ishbel at left.

After staying at the summit for a while it was time to head back before the avy slopes started really acting up. We had already noticed a steep north-facing slope had let go and avalanched the slope beneath it and obviously every steep south slope was started to slough and dump snow as well. The trip down was fast and fun for the most part. The snowpack was so low and crappy in the treed section that we just put our skins back on. The trudge out along the highway went fast.

Massive Mountain was a very nice surprise. First of all we had two month old tracks to follow and secondly the route wasn’t too hard to follow once we started. There is serious avy terrain on this ski tour but the turns that can be had make it a totally worthwhile objective in stable conditions. Highly recommended for a late winter / early spring ski tour.

Massive Mountain
Skiing along the TCH fence.
Skiing along the TCH fence.
Looking up the old ski tracks along the trans-Canada fence.
Looking up the old ski tracks along the trans-Canada fence.
The obvious drainage that is your clue to turn towards the mountain - head up the stream bed.
The obvious drainage that is your clue to turn towards the mountain - head up the stream bed.
The stream isn't ideal ski terrain lower down.
The stream isn't ideal ski terrain lower down.
Exiting the stream bed at the log jam (climbers left).
Exiting the stream bed at the log jam (climbers left).
Exiting the stream bed at the log jam (climbers left).
Exiting the stream bed at the log jam (climbers left).
After trudging uphill through light forest for a while (~1.5-2km), the going gets steeper and you cross the creek bed for about 100-200 meters.
After trudging uphill through light forest for a while (~1.5-2km), the going gets steeper and you cross the creek bed for about 100-200 meters.
Skiing up the creek.
Skiing up the creek.
Skiing up the creek.
Skiing up the creek.
Now we're laughing! Look back down the drainage. Ishbel in the background.
Now we're laughing! Look back down the drainage. Ishbel in the background.
Skiing up the creek.
Skiing up the creek.
Entering the upper valley - still in the drainage. Serious avy slopes to the left of the picture out of sight.
Entering the upper valley - still in the drainage. Serious avy slopes to the left of the picture out of sight.
Looking up a serious slide path on the east slopes of Pilot Mountain.
Looking up a serious slide path on the east slopes of Pilot Mountain.
Looking up at a slide path coming off Massive Mountain as we ski past it (skiing to the right here).
Looking up at a slide path coming off Massive Mountain as we ski past it (skiing to the right here).
The gorgeous upper bowl under the unnamed summit between Brett (left) and Pilot (right). We ascended through the treed slopes on the far left.
The gorgeous upper bowl under the unnamed summit between Brett (left) and Pilot (right). We ascended through the treed slopes on the far left.
Ascending the steeply treed slopes under the Massive / Brett col.
Ascending the steeply treed slopes under the Massive / Brett col.
Ascending the steeply treed slopes under the Massive / Brett col.
Ascending the steeply treed slopes under the Massive / Brett col.
We knew we wanted to ski back down this slope - being north facing it was safer and had no sun crust like the south facing slopes had.
We knew we wanted to ski back down this slope - being north facing it was safer and had no sun crust like the south facing slopes had.
Wietse works his way onto the avy slope we had to cross. You can see our approach gully under him to the right.
Wietse works his way onto the avy slope we had to cross. You can see our approach gully under him to the right.
Pano from the bump along the ridge just after crossing the avy slope shows Brett on the left, unnamed and then Pilot.
Pano from the bump along the ridge just after crossing the avy slope shows Brett on the left, unnamed and then Pilot.
Wietse comes up the bump before the col behind me with Brett in the background. You can see the huge avy slope we crossed to access the ridge.
Wietse comes up the bump before the col behind me with Brett in the background. You can see the huge avy slope we crossed to access the ridge.
Boot packing up climber's left of the rock step on the summit ridge.
Boot packing up climber's left of the rock step on the summit ridge.
Panorama from the summit. L to R we have Bourgeau, Black Brett, Brett, Unnamed, Pilot.
Panorama from the summit. L to R we have Bourgeau, Black Brett, Brett, Unnamed, Pilot.
Looking down the avy slope that I took a photo of coming off Massive.
Looking down the avy slope that I took a photo of coming off Massive.
Wietse on the summit ridge with awesome views of Brett (L) to Pilot (R) and our ascent valley.
Wietse on the summit ridge with awesome views of Brett (L) to Pilot (R) and our ascent valley.
Looking north, east and south from the summit - the Banff Trans-Canada hwy corridor.
Looking north, east and south from the summit - the Banff Trans-Canada hwy corridor.
Looking north, east and south from the summit - the Banff Trans-Canada hwy corridor.
Looking north, east and south from the summit - the Banff Trans-Canada hwy corridor.
Tele of Castle Mountain from the summit of Massive.
Tele of Castle Mountain from the summit of Massive.
Descending to the Brett / Massive col.
Descending to the Brett / Massive col.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Falling down Massive Mountain... :)
Falling down Massive Mountain... 🙂
It felt very good to make turns again after too much 'shoeing in March.
It felt very good to make turns again after too much 'shoeing in March.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Skiing down Massive Mountain.
Entering the gully.
Entering the gully.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Skiing down the lower stream bed / gully on Massive Mountain.
Back in the thin forest.
Back in the thin forest.
Getting into the gnarly section of stream.
Getting into the gnarly section of stream.
Spring skiing can be tricky.
Spring skiing can be tricky.
Back at the TCH.
Back at the TCH.
Skinning back to the parking area.
Skinning back to the parking area.

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