Skyladder, BC

In year four of Cody Townsend’s “The Fifty Project,” we’re showcasing his lines and route descriptions in onX Backcountry. Go deeper on The Fifty Project and get the beta from Cody on how he plans, executes, and conquers these 50 descents.

Watch The Fifty: Skyladder, BC

Hanging above the Athabasca Glacier lies a classic line that is equal parts aesthetic and intimidating. The site of a multi-fatal avalanche in 2021, the old alpine climbing route needs a special blend of conditions to become skiable and safe. To help illustrate the challenges and changes of the Skyladder, the first descentionist and Canadian ski legend, Doug Ward joins to talk about his first time skiing it and give the crew some unique insight to the line. Joined by Kevin Hjertaas of MTN Guiding, the Skyladder is an exercise in patience but a reward of pure alpine fun.

View Cody’s Line in onX Backcountry

 Below is an interactive map of Cody’s line for Skyladder. Use Control + Drag to rotate in 3D on desktop or two fingers to pinch, zoom and rotate on mobile.  Login or create an account to gain full functionality.

The Fifty Project Guidebook: Skyladder

onX Backcountry has partnered with Cody Townsend to bring you guidebook quality descriptions of routes in The Fifty Project from Cody himself. Read his beta on Skyladder. Start your free trial of onX Backcountry today to view these lines and descriptions in the App.


A ski line that dominates the skyline from the viewpoints of the Columbia Icefields. Hanging a thousand feet over the Athabasca Glacier, this steep, beautiful line truly feels like a ladder to the heavens. A classic ice climbing line, this has slowly morphed into a classic steep skiing line as equipment and skill has progressed. In order to cover the blue ice that renders it unskiable for most of the winter, a wet, warm spring snow storm must plaster the face in order for it to be safely rideable. Come in May and June and wait for it to come into form to get an incredibly exposed yet fun climb and ski.

Photo: @BjarneSalen

Ascent Description

The ascent winds along the lower flank of Mount Athabasca, traverses under some large hanging serac filled basin and passes through crevases and the rapidly receding tongue of a blue ice glacier to reach the base of the ski line. A bergshrund crossing is required and then steep, exposure climbing leads to the western ridgeline of Mt. Andromeda. The exposure mellows as the ascent to the false summit of Mt. Andromeda beckons. Click in on the false summit. A roundabout route to the summit of Mt. Andromeda exists, but do not utilize this route if skiing the Skyladder line. One must climb what you ski on this line to properly evaluate snow and ice conditions. Avalanche stability is a must. Multiple people have been caught in avalanches and swept to their deaths over the thousands of feet of exposure this line has.

Photo: @BjarneSalen

The Descent

The descent is hanging, exposed and high up in the sky. It feels like you’re skiing off the edge of the earth. But it’s 35-40 pitch skis far more mellow than the viewpoints from the parking lot suggest. Yet still, any fall in this terrain would most likely be fatal. Be cautious of any hint of blue ice and instabilities on descent. Classic spring skiing conditions are the best conditions to ski this line in.

Photo: @The.Fifty.Project


The ascent presents serac fall hazards along with crevasse fall hazards. Glacier equipment is required. The ascent presents serious avalanche and exposure hazards, any avalanche, no matter how small it could be, would be most likely fatal. Extra caution when it comes to stability is suggested.

Photo: @BjarneSalen


Access is at the Columbia Icefields Center. Easy and plentiful parking as well as overnight parking exists. National Park passes are required for entrance.

Photo: @BjarneSalen

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