Gray's Peak South Face Climb Kokanee Glacier Park
Gray's Peak is the highest point in Kokanee Glacier Park just North of Nelson BC. It's also the most dramatic mountain viewable from downtown Nelson and so it taunts climbers, hikers and skiers year round. The approach is not in any guide books nor is there a trail to take you to the summit however the climb is relatively straight forward. I have been summiting Gray's Peak pretty much each year for long spring ski descents. This year was no exception with an Early May ascent from Kokanee Glacier Cabin. The 22km ski tour took approximately 8 hours to complete, the details of which can be viewed on my Suunto Moves Count we page here.
(click horizontal images for a larger view)
With my last summit three months previous I was looking for a climb this past weekend and my gaze once again fell upon Gray's Peak. This time it was to be more of a recon mission to see what the South face held in terms of ski-ability for future backcountry skiing trips. The South face of Gray's is what is viewed from Nelson and offers up a formidable looking challenge as it's rocky peak seems to rise to the sky without any relief or easy access. Having stood on the summit of Gray's over a dozen times I have on occasion studied this new approach and was able to find numerous climbing options to the top. The one in particular that seemed to be the easiest was a 1,000ft scree chute that led almost right to the summit. This chute stopped short by only 60' at the glacier below and it would then be an easy climb to the top.
The plan was set and we were in motion by 7:00 AM with our goal tohave it be a 5 hour climb to the top. From the Gibson Lake parking area we followed the traditional route veering South once we arrived at the obvious boulder field. From here there was a small ridge in our way and once over we traversed a large open meadow to encounter a second larger ridge which had to be climbed. The obvious scree gully provided good access to the top of ridge number two and from here we wrapped East around the summit ridge until we found ourselves in the south bowl of Gray's Peak. After a quick lunch stop we headed higher to find the chute which I had gazed down years previously. This would provide access the Kokanee Glacier which was a short climb beneath the summit itself.
On the summit we took in the traditional views of Nelson, Kane Peak, Mount John Carter and many more incredible vistas. Our route down would follow the more traditional ascent path since we did not fancy down climbing the rather dangerous scree slopes that we had to negotiate on our way up. After traversing the small glacier we reached the saddle and headed straight down with Gibson Lake which was in our sights the entire time. After 3+ hours of boulders and bush whacking we were once again back at the car. Tired, sore and bellies full of huckleberries we shared a quick high five and headed home with the knowledge we needed for next spring's descent of Gray's Peak via the South face. Mission accomplished.