After Hidden Chute, the thrill of couloir skiing got to our heads and Gab started obsessively looking at maps to find an even more obscure, narrow, steep and remote North facing line.
Ripple mountain, the highest point in the vicinity of Kootenay Pass seemed to present such an opportunity. Although evaluating skiable terrain from maps and satellite imagery is often inconclusive, it looked like there was a slim couloir skiable from the top on its NW slope. In March, an extended period of very stable and firm snow provided a window of opportunity and on the 17th, we gave it a try.
We got going in starlight and reached the Lightning Strike ridge just in time for the deepest colors of dawn. As the sun rose, we traversed to the headwaters of Monk Creek and ascended some more to reach Ripple’s East ridge. The NE side of the mountain is an impressive rock face featuring massive cornices, this was no place for complacency. The opposed slope however, is relatively mellow, allowing us a wide margin of safety.
The summit was exquisite. Warm temperatures and no wind were perfect for enjoying lunch with a view. We skied down about 50m to the top of the hypothetical line, but were unable to clearly locate the entrance because of cornices. A nearby chute further down the ridge offered an excellent alternative. At the bottom, we traversed back towards the couloir and we finally saw it. A narrow strip of snow, gouged into the rock, that climbed all the way up to the ridge.
Gab set about bootpacking up right away. Roxanne was hesitant at first, but failed to resist the stairway that was laid ahead of her. After a strenuous and intimidating ascent, standing beneath the cornice, Gab dug a platform into the snow to transition while Roxanne waited below the crux with the camera. Dropping the snowboard or anything important up there would create a very compromising situation.
The descent was sensational. It’s fascinating to be so high yet so deep within the rock. The crux of the couloir is about 2 – 2.5m wide and around 40° of slope. It’s possible that this was a first descent. There is no documentation or mention of it anywhere online and it’s in a zone very few people visit in winter. However, it seems unlikely that no one ever skied such an aesthetic line in the 55 years since the highway was built.