Summit Elevation (m): 3100
Elevation Gain (m): 1550
Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 15.5
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain something.
Difficulty Notes: This is the ski route which has obvious avalanche terrain on route.
Technical Rating: MN6
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
Way back in 2009 I scrambled Storm Mountain from hwy 93 a day after completing nearby Mount Whymper. It wasn’t the most pleasurable scramble thanks in large part to the horrid scree slopes under the summit plateau and the lack of views at the summit for all my efforts. On May 11, 2012, Wietse and Bill skied Storm Mountain and Bill provided a great trip report detailing the route. For the past decade or so since, I’ve had Storm Mountain on my ski summit list as a repeat. Since it was a repeat it was never top priority but always there as an option. A few years ago I skied up the SE approach valley solo to check it out but turned back from the SW ascent bowl due to stormy weather and spooky snow for a solo ski ascent. As the 3rd weekend of April 2022 approached I was more than a little keen to bag another peak on skis before the season of snow sticks comes to an end for another year. The Preacher was a highlight ski trip that carried me through a month of no-adventure weekends but a rib injury courtesy of a family ski trip to Sunshine knocked me out longer than I was happy with. Finally as the 4-day Easter long weekend approached, I felt ready to test the injury. I started with double laps on Prairie Mountain for Friday and Saturday before deciding it was time to push the injury a bit further. I contacted Sara Mclean and she was in for a Sunday ascent of Storm Mountain.
I was happy to park along hwy 93, just across the highway from the Storm fire break ski hill. If there is enough snow melted from along the hwy you should choose this option over parking at the Stanley parking lot which only adds confusion and distance to your day.
With spring skiing you never really know for sure what sort of snow conditions you’re going to get on the slopes you choose to ski. Considering cool temps and “low-low-low” avalanche risk ratings we were pretty sure we would have a stable snow pack but you’re never guaranteed of anything in the mountains. The fire break was frozen and packed solid with a skiff of fresh snow on top making for quick and easy ascent. Unfortunately for me, I was counting on a -14 degrees from the road and the -6 combined with the relentlessly steep ascent meant I was quickly overheating. I’d rather be warm than cold and the outer layer quickly came off as we neared the top of the run about 1km from the road. We followed a small cutline a few hundred meters before flagging and an icy track led right up the SE access valley through tight trees. We were only ~30 minutes to this point from the car – it’s a quick ascent in the conditions we had!
The trees were tighter than I remembered from my previous solo venture and we both commented that the return trip could be “interesting”. After another 30 minutes on a very icy skin track we came to an opening at the bottom of a huge avalanche slope and some fresh tracks descending an intimidating line down a steep couloir / ramp from an unnamed peak between Stanley and Storm. Partly due to our distraction with the ski tracks we proceeded get off an optimal ascent line at this point. Bill’s report indicates they also ascended in trees to climber’s left of more open avy slopes and we tried this line as well. Soon we were off any recent tracks and searching for a reasonable line back into the SE valley proper.
Thankfully it didn’t take long to find some descent tracks that we followed back into the SE drainage which led out of trees and into a magical south bowl under over 900 vertical meters of rock and snow slopes to the summit of Storm Mountain high above.
Despite being “low-angle”, the SW snow slopes of Storm should not be underestimated. There are a few things going on here to be aware of. Firstly they are obviously steep enough to slide in the right conditions. Secondly, they are exposed to a LOT of sun which could work against you depending on warmth and snow stability. Third, there are large cornices hanging off of cliffs high above that threaten much of the SW line and do collapse often. Fourth, there are shallow spots on the slope that seem to randomly appear, both acting as a failure point for avalanches and a skiing hazard for descent.
Thanks in part to my rib / shoulder injury and partly due to the 3000 vertical meters I’d put on the two days previous, I was feeling a bit winded as we started up the never-ending SW face of Storm Mountain. Sara kindly broke trail up this entire slope and I could hardly keep up. (My ongoing OMAD experiment might also have had something to do with my low energy levels… 😉 I’m still trying to figure out how to fast and accomplish high energy days in the mountains – it’s an ongoing adventure.)
We ascended the bottom 1/3 before continuing up and over what I call the “middle bench” that is exposed to cornices off cliffs above. At first we thought we might ascend straight up a steep gully under the summit but as we ascended the next 2/3 of the SW slope we got spooked by the relentless sun hitting our slope and bailed off towards the south ridge instead. This meant less skiing and more bootpacking but safety trumps comfort. The 300 vertical meters of south ridge from the ski drop sucked more than a little. As we ascended the slick snow and rocks in stiff ski boots, the wind became cold and the sun started playing shy. This was good from a snow safety POV but uncool from a personal comfort POV!
Despite another “stormy” summit on Storm Mountain, our views were still respectable and it felt great to sign the register as a ski ascent after all the years I’d spent planning to do it. Views over Gibbon Pass towards Pilot, Brett, Bourgeau and Howard Douglas were stunning, as was the huge Mount Ball directly behind the Stanley Peak outliers to the south. At 3100+ meters, Storm Mountain is not a small viewpoint.
We didn’t linger long in the bitterly cold winds and soon were slipping, sliding and stumbling our way awkwardly down the south ridge back to our waiting snow sticks. The ski down the SW bowl and upper SE valley was much better than expected on a soft crust that skied pretty easily. We stuck high on skier’s left out of the trees we’d been stuck in on approach and managed to sneak through a neat rock “gate” feature that had plenty of blue water ice in it to keep things interesting.
The descent through the trees to the cutline went much easier than predicted and before long we were already back at the fire break. Despite a very hardpack surface, the skiff of fresh snow kept the final run down to the hwy reasonable and quick. I was very surprised when I stopped my Gaia recording at only 6 hours 50 minutes of round trip time, especially considering how gassed I felt most of the day. I loved this ski tour, just as I thought I would. Thanks again to Sara for breaking trail. I highly recommend this ski for a nice stable spring day with plenty of sunshine but not too much.