Sootip Peak

Elevation Gain: 1,486m
Distance: 17.31km
Total Time: 8 hours 59 minutes
Date: December 2nd, 2023

Sootip Peak has long been a popular summit thanks to it’s easy access off of the Soo River FSR and straightforward terrain to the top. It’s most often done in the summer time thanks to motor vehicle restrictions in the winter. However, that doesn’t start until December 5th and with a recent dump of snow it was looking like a promising option to do some ski touring. Andrea, Ana, Eric and myself figured we should take advantage of the new snow fall but the big unknown was how far we’d make it down the road. Nonetheless, we decided to take a chance and drive out on a Saturday to find out.

Driving along the Sea2Sky I peered down a few service roads and could see at least 12″ of snow, so it was looking iffy. Thankfully, when we pulled onto the Soo River FSR some fresh tracks were already cutting through the new snow. I followed these for ~1.5km and then the road suddenly became plowed. A miracle! We drove all the way to Branch 5 and found a parked truck idling by. I pulled up to ask him how the road was an he explained they were doing some heli logging and clearing the road up to kilometer 2. They kindly said no issues for us to drive up, but the road was slick, so we opted to park and skin up from the base.

Lower road conditions and the logging worker who kindly gave us all the info we needed

The road was indeed plowed to the 2km mark and we had to briefly skirt off the road when a grader made another pass coming down. After that point we skinned up the remainder of the unplowed branch 5 road. On the way up we also got to witness the heli logging in action. The logging was being done by a blacked out K-MAX helicopter a heli with inter-meshing rotor blades. One of the coolest helicopters out there, if you ask me. Anyways, after that welcome distraction we continued our push up and soon hit the unlogged forest at 1200m.

All of us skinning up the road
The grader coming down
The K-MAX heli
Unplowed road for the remainder
Time to head into the forest

Snow coverage in the forest was a bit lacking, but continued to improve as we climbed higher. Somewhere around 1400m, Eric started experiencing binding issues and his ski refused to stay attached. He kindly offered to break off from the group and just hang out while we went further. I don’t normally like to split a group up, but we were right next to the road so it felt like a safe option in this case.

We broke out of the forest at around 1800m and the summit still felt a long ways off. The trail breaking was getting quite intensive on the upper slopes and I had to push hard to make a decent pace. Ana was contemplating turning back here to ski the nice powder in the meadows, but both Andrea and I felt we were close enough to at least go check out the final summit slopes.

Getting above the tree line
Myself pushing up
The summit a ways off still and obscured by clouds
A brief view!

I lead a long traverse across several undulating sections of ridge to reach a gully on the east side of the summit. We pushed north and wrapped around to easier terrain. The summit was still partially obscured in clouds but what looked like quite steep slopes proved to be fairly tame in the end. I endured on and perhaps 50m below the summit Andrea made the call to hang back and wait with Ana. They kindly let me push ahead for the top. I had to drop into a small depression and then climb one steep section, but the snow felt stable. After that it was a short cruise to the top.

Gaining the north face
A look at the terrain ahead
Ana and Andrea following behind
The final steep slope below the summit
The views at the top

There weren’t any views, so I turned around and skied back to Andrea and Ana. We ditched our skins and skied all the way back to our tracks on the ridge. We had to skin back to the meadows at 1800m from there as there were too many ups and downs. Once at the tree line we had amazing turns through the forest until 1500m where it thinned out. A bit of survival skiing got us back to the road and we skied all the way to the plowed portion of the road.

Back on the ridge
Getting some nice colours on the return
We skied down this cutblock to the road with some great powder in between
A look back at the nice skiing
Back on the road

We walked the remained of the way and reached the truck + Eric just as it was getting dark. A superb day out, but a big day of trail breaking made this a hard push for a normally easy summit.

Final walk home

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