New Ski Descent of Epic Chute on Mt Brennan

Four Nelson, British Columbia, residents have successfully skied what appears to be a new line off Mt Brennan in the Goat Range. Here are the details. (All photos by Cam Shute unless otherwise noted.)

On April 25, 2018, four Nelson, British Columbia skiers tackled a chute off the North face of Mt Brennan, a 2,862-metre (11,2637-foot) peak located in the Goat Range, northwest of the village of Kaslo. Troy Swanson, Nelson Rocha, Steve Ogle and Cam Shute rappelled into the top of the 1,300-meter-long ski run that boasts a sustained slope of approximately 45-50 degrees. The athletes believe it’s the first descent of the line, after having talking to many locals about it.

We touched base with Cam Shute to learn more details about the adventure. Below is the interview.

Bootpacking down before rapping into the chute.

Congrats Cam! How long have you been eyeing up that line?

I first became aware of it in 2013 when Mike Davies sent me a photo of the whole north face. Nelson Rocha, Steve Ogle and I skied the line skiers right of it in January 2016, and when we looked up at the chute the three of us knew we had to try it.

What made this the year to go for it?

Weather and snowpack made it feasible this year. The combo of tons of snow, cool temps well into the spring and it being super filled in right now. On other years there’s one sketchy rock section that doesn’t always fill in according to Jason Remple [owner of Stellar Heli Skiing.] One of the biggest cruxes was just getting four busy dads to find a day that we could all commit to. We saw the only cool day of the week, and we all committed to giving it a try. It would be absolutely terrifying in icy conditions, but luckily it was perfect soft chalky snow for us for nearly the whole thing. So lucky!

Where’d you approach from?

We started on foot from the highway between New Denver and Kaslo at the turnoff to Retallack. We took the normal ski touring route to the summit of Mt. Brennan.

How’d you access the chute?

This was actually not that easy as we had to get down off the summit to access a notch at the top of the chute. From the summit we had to down climb about 30 metres to the west, and then we chose to do a 60-metre rap down a tight gully feature placing us just below the notch at the top of the south-west face. That face looks like a rad ski too! It was our plan B if the chute looked too scary. I got belayed to go look over the cornice, and as soon as I saw it I knew we could do it. We just had to do an overhanging rap over the cornice to get on to the chute and commit. When I saw it I called out to the team and told them it looked like a bigger version of Hummer B [a popular slackcountry run at Whitewater Ski Resort]. It turned out it was a bit steeper than that, but it helped dissolve our anxiety about whether it was possible.

The blue line off the peak of Mt Brennan is the group’s descent. It’s steep! Click image to enlarge. Mike Davies photo.

What’re you going to call it?

We’re not sure how we feel about naming it as it’s pretty much just the north facing summit chute on Mt. Brennan. But if I was pushed to choose a name I’d call it “G-rad-itude.” Not sure what the other guys think, but that day we all appreciated where we live and that we were all able to do it together with the support of our families. I’m still blown away we actually skied it.

How long did it take from car to car?

It was 15 hours car to car starting at 4:00 am from the highway. Big slog! It was about 21 kilometres round trip with approximately 2850 metres of elevation gain involved to pull it off.

What was the scariest part?

Dealing with the unknown of what we were going to find. And then once on the line it was super scary, for me at least, to make that first steep turn. The anxiety of committing to the unknown was possibly just as scary as the skiing itself, but thankfully we worked as a super solid team and kept it as fun as we could.

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