Gray’s Peak in Kokanee Glacier Park

on May 12, 2010

Gray's peak, located near the southern boundary of Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, offers easy mountaineering on glaciers along with a few fun granite alpine ridge climbs. This 2740m peak is easily accessible from Nelson and can be climbed in a day from the Gibson lake trail head near Nelson B.C. Here you will find a brief route description for the south-west ridge, the full south ridge and the regular north glacier route.

Access to Mountaineering Routes

There are 3 different mountaineering routes described here, all within Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. To better understand access and route information, we highly recommend the use of the local 1:50000 topographical map sheet called “Kokanee Peak” (82 F/11) along with a Kokanee Glacier Park trail guide. The best access point for these routes is the Gibson Lake trail head near Nelson. To get there from Nelson, drive HWY 3 A east toward Kaslo for 19km and turn left on the well signed Kokanee Glacier Park road. Follow this dirt road for 16km to Gibson Lake and the trail head. Two wheel drive vehicle are fine but the road is sometimes rough. The access to both the North Glacier and the South West Ridge routes starts here at Gibson Lake. The full South ridge is access by bushwhacking from a different parking location 14.5km up the Kokanee Glacier road (about 1.5km short of the Gibson Lake trail head). 

Each of these mountaineering routes are described below.  Contact us if you need more details or for private guiding on these or other mountaineering adventures in Western Canada, check out guided mountaineering trips and courses.

The South-West ridge of Gray’s peak, grade III 5.4 (aka the Cosmic Arête)

This is a good alpine granite rock ridge with some loose sections. It offers exposed and easy climbing along a sharp ridge crest with a simple descent down the regular north glacier route. Plan on being out for most of the day! Enjoy and be careful.

To get to the base of this ridge, follow the trail towards Kokanee Lake for about 900m. You will pass one switch back after 500m and you will come to an old trail junction after 900m. From here, the regular trail to Kokanee Lake goes up and left. The access to Gray’s peak continues straight along the old bushy trail for another 300m to the next switch back (following an old mining road). From this switch back, bushwhack in an easterly direction (with a slight tilt to the south) for about 30 to 40 minutes. After gaining about 180 vertical meters over a 500m distance you will end up in an open boulder field below the west face of Gray’s peak. Scramble up still in an easterly direction to the top of a forested knob at about 2050m (grid 901080). From here contour in a southerly direction towards the south west ridge. The best possible way to get on this ridge is via a mossy and forested ramp near 2200m.

Once on the ridge, follow it to the North West summit of Gray’s peak. Good route finding skills will help you find the easiest route. Beware; there are many big loose granite blocks along the way. Most of the steeper steeps can be bypass on the west side. There is a mandatory 20m rappel from a solid horn along the ridge near 2550m. From the North West summit continue along the undulating ridge to the south east and the main summit. The best descent is done via the regular north glacier route as described below.

The North Glacier route, grade II (the normal route)

This is an easy mountaineering route involving fun scrambling, basic glacier travel and a little bit of steep snow & ice travel. This route will take a full day for most parties.

To get there; follow the access information as for the south west ridge till you get to the open boulder field. From there, you will want to scramble up this boulder field and open terrain above in a north easterly direction to a 2540m col between Gray’s peak and Kokanee peak (grid 907092). From the col, gain the north glacier and head south towards Gray’s peak.

The summit is reached by ascending the short but steeper snow and ice couloir (40 degrees) on the north face. Depending on snow coverage and season, crampons may be required for this final section. Please note that there are a few crevasses on the north glacier, roped glacier travel is advised. This route is the best possible descent from Gray’s peak.

South ridge of Gray’s Peak, grade III 5.4

A long, aesthetic and exposed alpine rock ridge with great views. Rock quality is generally very good with a few loose sections. This route is a bit more of an adventure. It involves more bushwhacking, require stronger route finding skills and spends more time on technical terrain. Plan on a very long day for a round trip.

From a parking spot about 14.5km up the Kokanee Glacier park road, bushwhack up and east towards a west facing bowl a few kilometers south west of Gray’s peak. After gaining 320m over a kilometer, you will be at the base of the west facing bowl. From here, continue bushwhacking in a south easterly direction to a 2130m col at the base of the south ridge (grid 906057). The bushwhacking eventually leads to more open but steeper terrain. From this col, walk and scramble along the ridge in a north easterly direction.

The ridge will eventually turn more northerly as the difficulty increase. Follow the undulating ridge for 1.5 km to the main summit of Gray’s peak. Most of the difficulties can be bypass on the west side of the ridge. There is one steep section that must be climbed on the east side closer to the summit. There is a very loose but lower angle section just before the summit. The descent is done via the regular north glacier route as described above.

Additional Mountaineering Objectives

For those of you interested in more cool mountaineering option in this area, the Kokanee Glacier has lots to offer. There are a number of other easy mountaineering routes well worth doing in this area. including the south west ridge of Esmeralda (II 5.6), the north ridge of the Battleship ( I 5.4), the south west ridge of John Carter (II 5.3). There is also potential for new routes in this area.

Ico DeZwart and I climbed a very neat summit about one kilometer north-north east of Gray’s peak a few years ago. This summit which we called Ico Pico is at grid reference 913091. We climbed a good 6 pitch 5.7 route on its east buttress. The climb followed good granite cracks on featured and solid rock. I would highly recommend this route. I would also recommend exploring some of the east facing ribs and faces of Gray’s peak above Coffee creek, there is some good looking alpine rock objectives there.

Ascend with care and respect and enjoy exploring this worthy area…

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