Big Buck Mountain

No winter satellite imagery available unfortunately

Elevation Gain: 943m
Distance: 22.22km
Total Time: 7 hours 2 minutes
Date: December 17th, 2022

Leading up to the week before Christmas, Andrea and I wanted to get one last ski tour in before she left on vacation. It was feeling like time to try a longer outing on skis, but we still wanted to keep the terrain conservative. That’s when the suggestion of Three Brothers Mountain came about. It’s generally simple terrain if you select your route carefully and the normally long service road descent can be dealt with easily on skis. I had been in this area the year before to do Burnt Knoll so was quite familiar with the approach. Just east of Three Brothers is a lowly forested summit called Big Buck Mountain. I thought on a strong day for both of us, we could tag it on as an extra summit, but that would depend on how we felt that day.

With the objective in sight, Andrea and I drove out to Manning Park on the 17th and pulled into a parking lot with a few snow shoers awaiting their crew. We hit the skin track a few minutes behind the snow shoe group and made good strides along the moderately sloped road. Somewhere just before Burnt Knoll, we passed the group, but paused in the sun to have lunch. We yo’yod past them once more on the ridge and then we were on our own for the rest.

Andrea in the parking lot
A nice highway of skin tracks
A few sections of alder on the way up
The snow shoers ahead of us
Burnt Knoll visible from just above the col

We crested onto the ridge up to Three Brothers at around 12PM under nice sunny conditions. Ahead of us was another 3km of ridge rambling to gain the col between Three Brothers and Big Buck Mountain. All summits looked in good shape, but we knew we’d want to avoid the southern slopes as they had been reverse wind-loaded in the previous days. As we continued along, I started to realize with our pace we might not make it back in time before dark. Adding to that, Andrea was starting to feel unwell and our pace was slowing down. We kept moving forward, but in the back of my head, I was conjuring up a back up plan to go straight for Big Buck Mountain instead. It would involve quite a bit less elevation gain and much less complicated terrain to reach the summit, albeit a less exciting objective.

Silver Tip and Rideout I believe
One of our last views of Three Brothers

Just before reaching the col, the clouds closed in on the upper sections of Three Brothers and that was our cue to save it for another day. I asked Andrea about going for Big Buck Mountain and she mustered up her remaining strength to give it a shot. I lead us on a more direct line on the east side of the col to avoid unnecessary elevation loss/gain. From there, we we weaved through some denser clusters of forest until hitting the ridge line. Now it was an easy plod, albeit a cold one with the advent of clouds, up to the summit. By now, the clouds had socked in all the views, so we consulted the map for our high point and peaced out as quickly as we arrived.

Typical ridge terrain
Looking into the Pasayten Wilderness
Looking towards the summit of Big Buck Mountain
Three Brothers cloaked in clouds now
Andrea coming over the ridge
Plodding towards the summit of Big Buck
On the north west ridge looking at Friday Mountain
Typical terrain near the summit
Just below the summit
Andrea on the summit

We kept the skins on for descent, as there’s a long ways of flat ridge traversing on the return. At about the 1km mark on the ridge, we ditched our skins and skied down through the open ridge and onto the service road. We managed to ski all the way down to the 4.5km mark on the service road before hitting a flat section. Neither of us was keen to transition again, so we hopped, duck walked and scooted along until the next downhill section. This battle happened a few more times until we reached a more consistent down slope that lead us all the way down to Cambie Creek. Finally we had to resign to getting off our skis. Seeing as we were a few hundred meters to the car, we just walked instead of skiing.

We reached the car before dark and that ended up being a great day out despite Andrea starting to feel ill. I’ll come back for Three Brothers another time as the slopes look amazing for skiing and the summits look quite enticing under winter conditions.

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