Whitewater Rocks

on Jul 25, 2016

Whitewater Ski Resort is well known for its advanced ski terrain and fantastic backcountry skiing. Despite being easily accessible from Nelson, summer opportunities are little known; they include off-trail hiking, ridge walks, peak scrambles and, now, alpine rock climbing. Since 2010, David has spent numerous days developing a collection of climbs with various partners in the shadow of Ymir Peak. These efforts resulted in the creation of several 2-4 pitch climbs scattered over various rock walls between Half Dome and Ymir Peak.

In total, 11 mixed bolted & trad pitches ranging from 5.5 to 5.10a were created. All pitches, 30m or less in length, have bolted belays and can be rappelled with a single 60m rope. The climbing is interesting and varied however, the quality of the rock and routes does not warrant a classic mention. That being said it provides a unique mountain experience with fun easy climbing and great views close to Nelson. Each individual sections are interesting on their own, linking multiple sections together as part of a day trip increases the quality of the experience.

The names used for the various climbs were inspired by the famous Whitewater Cookbooks written by Shelly Addams. An ascent of all sections from left to right (including the Salad climbs) combined with ascents of Half Dome & Ymir Peak makes for a fun full day in the hills (referred to as “The Full Meal Deal”). Enjoy and remember to eat your greens: your mom would be proud!

Access & route information has been compiled below. Enjoy and thanks to everyone who contributed!

Download all info & view photos at the bottom of this page

Getting here

Head south from Nelson along Highway 6 (toward Salmo) for 12 km. Turn left on the Whitewater Ski Resort access road, drive 10 km and park near the Whitewater Day Lodge (closed in Summer). Of note, motorized access (dirt bikes, quads, jeeps, etc.) is not permitted on the ski resort property. 20-25 min.

The Rock & Gear

The rock in this area is a form of granite. It is very fractured and loose by local standards however, it is average by Rockies standards. Much of the route perimeters have been cleaned of major loose blocks but caution is advised as there are still loose stones. Also, the routes are not manicured like at the crag. Expect lichen, shrubs and dirty ledges along the way. Because the rock requires more careful assessment then other local venues, these climbs are not considered classics and should only be attempted by experienced climbers. Following other parties is not recommended.

For gear, take one set of cams from 0.3” to 3”. Small to medium nuts are useful. Also bring 10 draws (including 4 extendible ones), a 60m rope, personal carabiners, cords and slings. A helmet is a must and an ice axe can be useful early in the season.

Weather & Season

These routes are located in the alpine environment so temperatures will be much cooler than in Nelson and sometimes the wind will make thing even colder. Also, the surrounding ridges & peaks are good targets in the event of thunderstorms. Dress accordingly and adapt to the changing weather conditions.

The season spans from late June to late September. Expect some snow along the approach and descent routes even in summer. The base of some climbing sections may have lingering snow patches and deep snow “moats” earlier in the season. If you are planning to climb here outside of the suggested season, expect colder temperatures and more snow. If you are looking at making a winter ascent, check the avalanche bulletin and use avalanche safety gear. Also, make sure you read the “Backcountry Access” web page on the Whitewater Ski Resort website before heading out. See link below:


Overview Photo



Start by hiking up along the “Lower Sluice Box” ski run towards Ymir Bowl on an old quad trail with a foot path. Some of this section is seasonally wet. After 20 minutes of walking the “trail” merges with a maintenance road. Follow this road up a short distance to a switchback located at the end of the “Little Mucker Traverse.” From here, continue along a faint climber’s trail leading out of the ski area in a south-easterly direction towards Ymir Bowl. This short “trail” initially crosses a healthy section of alder trees before emerging into an open talus slope at the bottom of “Goat Slide” in lower Ymir Bowl. Ascend the steepening talus slope straight up Goat Slide. The talus leads to steep grassy slopes and eventually the base of “Starters” on the Goat Wall. The approach to this point typically takes 1-1.5 hours.

Descent options

The Northwest ridge of Half Dome is a good descent for routes on the Goat Wall & Half Dome. There is a well-travelled scramble down to the Five Mile Ridge. From the Five Mile Ridge follow an old flagged trail in a Southwesterly direction back to the ski resort to the top of a ski run called “Yankee Girl.” From here descend along the maintenance road to the switchback and retrace your steps on “Lower Sluice Box” back to your vehicle. Descending from Half Dome takes 1-2 hours.

From Ymir Peak, scramble back down the Northeast Ridge of Ymir Peak for 100m. Descend a steep snow/talus slope (35-40 degrees) in a Northwesterly direction to “The Bench” in upper Ymir Bowl. Depending on the season, an ice axe may be useful here. Follow “The Bench” in a Northerly direction on snow/talus towards a low-angled meadow above “Scobbs Knob.” Continue along the skier’s right side of “Scobbs Knob” in a north-westerly direction towards upper Goat Slide and retrace your steps from here. It is possible to descend more directly on snow early in the season. The Ymir Peak descent takes 1-2 hrs.

The Climbs

Goat Wall Area

1. Starters, 5.9 (3-4 pitches), bolts & gear to 3”

FA: P2-P4; D. Lussier & J. Croston, July 2010. P1; D. Lussier & J. Furger, Sept 2015

This climb starts about 15m right of a large right-facing corner located in the center of the wall. Depending on snow coverage, pitch 1 can be bypassed by scrambling up easy ledges 20m to the right and traversing back left across a loose/grassy ledge to the P1 anchor.

P1. 20m, 5.6, 2 bolts & gear. A “bonus pitch” when there is no snow. Locate the 1st bolt and climb up a featured slab towards a second bolt. Gain the loose slanting ledge and two bolt anchor above.
P2. 20m, 5.5, 3 bolts. Climb featured slabs up & right 8m to the first bolt and then up & left past 2 more bolts to a two bolt anchor at a small ledge. P1 & P2 can be combined.
P3. 29m, 5.8, 6 bolts & gear. Climb up to a small overlap passing a few bolts. Continue up trending left towards the main right-facing corner. Smear up the right-facing corner and climb a gear-protected layback crack higher up to a two bolt belay on the left wall.
P4. 29m, 5.9, 5 bolts & gear. Continue up the corner above to the first bolt. Step left (5.9) and make a rising traverse towards a second bolt. Climb up and left past a third bolt then ascend a broken groove straight up followed by a thin finger crack. A final bolt-protected slab move (5.9) leads to a two bolt anchor at the top of the Goat Wall.

From the top of this section, stow the rope away and scramble left & up to the NW Ridge of Half Dome. To reach the next section on the SW face of Half Dome, follow the gentle ridge towards Half Dome for 200m. At a point where the ridge steepens again, scramble down 20m towards Ymir Bowl. Contour in a Southeasterly direction below the base of the SW face along loose talus for 200m.

Soups & Salads Area

2. Baba’s Borscht, 5.8, 60m, mixed bolts & gear to 3”.

FA: D. Lussier & J. Furger, Sept 2015

The base of “Baba’s Borscht” is located on the left side of the main Southwest Face of Half Dome below an orange corner caped by a large roof. The first pitch follows a right slanting crack feature; a bolt marks the start.

P1. 5.8, 30m, 1 bolt & gear. Climb past one bolt and ascend a right-trending crack leading to a broken ledge system and a 2 bolt anchor.
P2. 5.8, 26m, 3 bolts & gear. Climb up and left to a short layback crack then up and right past 3 bolts via a broken right-facing corner. Finish up and left on blocky ground to a bolted belay at a good ledge.

From the top of this section, scramble up to the summit of Half Dome. If you are done for the day, scramble back down the NW Ridge of Half Dome as described in the descent options below. If you are interested in climbing “Spring Greens” and/or “House Salad,” rappel back down “Baba’s Borscht.” To skip the Salads and go directly to “Dinner,” scramble down the South Ridge of Half Dome to the Saddle on route to the base of “Dinner.”

The next two climbs are single pitch routes located on a black triangular rock buttress about 30m right of “Baba’s Borscht.” Earlier in the season there is lingering snow with a snow moat at the base. 

3. Spring Greens, 5.9, 30m, gear to 3”.

FA: D. Lussier & B. Winter, August 2011

Nice climb located on the left side of the triangular black rock buttress. Climbs a clean right-facing corner with a thin crack to a broken ledge. Follow the ledge up & right and climb a shallow left-facing corner with a hand crack. Continue up & right to bolted anchor.

4. House Salad, 5.10a, 30m, gear to 2”.

FA: J. Furger & D. Lussier, Sept 2015

This interesting climb is located in the center of the triangular black rock buttress about 10m right of “Spring Greens.” Climbs past an overhang on clean rock and follows a series of beautiful right-facing layback flakes up and left. Merge into “Spring Greens” near the top.

To get to “Dinner” from the base of “Soups & Salads,” traverse across talus & boulders for 200m in a southerly direction maintaining your elevation to the west facing wall extending towards Ymir Peak.

Dinner & Dessert Area

5. Dinner, 5.9 (2 pitches), bolts and gear to 3”

FA: D. Lussier & J. Furger, September 2015

P1. 5.9, 30m, 1 bolt and gear. Start at the base of the first west-facing continuous crack system about 80m right of the Saddle. Earlier in the season, there is a lingering snowpatch & snow moat below this route. There are two possible starts located 5m apart. The left hand start follows a nice right-trending arching crack and layback (5.9). The right hand start follows a broken left-facing corner (5.5). Both options merge at the halfway bolt (5.9). Continue up & left to a ledge and bolted anchor.
P2. 5.9, 25m, gear. Climb up & left onto a leaning pillar then up a beautiful double corner with good gear to a ledge. Step up and left (5.9) to a broken crack near an arête. Belay on a good ledge with two bolts near ridge crest.

To get to “Dessert,” scramble along the increasingly exposed & beautiful NE Ridge of Ymir Peak for 120m to a 2 bolt anchor near a sharp notch and steep west-facing couloir. Make a wild 30m rappel in the couloir beside a cool rock feature dubbed the “Fingerboard.” Scramble down another 30m to the bottom of the loose couloir (or 35-40-deg snow). “Dessert” climbs the arête-like feature on the climber’s right side of the couloir back up to the NE Ridge of Ymir Peak.

6. Dessert, 5.7 (2 pitches), bolts & gear to 3”

FA: D. Lussier & J. Furger, September 2015

P1. 5.6, 30m, gear. Start at the base of a vertical cracks on the west-facing wall 5m right from the toe of the arête. Climb broken cracks (5.6) to easier ground (loose) and a two bolt anchor at a small stance below a steep pillar-like block on the arête.
P2. 5.7, 40m, 5 bolts & gear. Climb the pillar above directly and continue following the crest of the arête throughout (5.7). Belay at a two bolt anchor on the ridge crest.

From here continue along the NE Ridge with great positions and views to Ymir Peak. Alternatively, scramble in a Northerly direction across the sharp notch (easier on East side) back to the “Fingerboard,” rappel and descend from here.

You can download access & route information below:

Whitewater Rocks Phototopo

Whitewater Rock Routes & Access info

Enjoy and let us know what you think!



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