The Nelson region is abundant with great climbing opportunities. The West Kootenay Rock Guide Book (available at the Visitor Centre & local retailers) has over 400 listed routes (with another 100 routes established since), putting us clearly on the map as a destination climbing area. The weather is overall drier than Squamish and cooler than Skaha. The mild climate makes for a long season too, typically April to October. Many areas are close to water for a quick après-climb dip in the heat of summer. The climbing is mostly on good quality granite and gneiss and both traditional as well as bolted sport climbs can be found on routes ranging from 1 to 8 pitches long.
Recommended local areas include the Squatter’s Bluff, CIC, Kootenay Crag & Hall Siding, but fantastic climbing can also be found at the Waterline and Kinnard Bluffs in Castlegar as well as the Slocan Bluffs by the lake in Slocan City. For some great multipitch climbing try Pulpit Peak in Nelson and the Brilliant Wall in Castlegar.
For alpine rock climbing, the Valhallas are exceptional. The Gimli parking lot lies 1.5 hrs. from Nelson and gives access to the classic South Ridge of Gimli Peak along with many other excellent climbs on Gimli, Niselheim, Gladsheim, Asgard and others.
Mountaineering and Alpine Scrambling
Kokanee Park has some great ridge climbs like the SW Ridge of Esmeralda and the Battleship Traverse, and some fun snow & ice climbs like the North Faces of Mt. Kitchener and Grays Peak (depicted on the Kokanee beer label). The Kokanee Glacier makes for pleasant Glacier Trekking and there are several scenic scrambles like the Outlook – John Carter traverse, the Nansen – Robert Smith traverse, the Pyramids, and the Keyhole. Pristine lakes, abundant wildlife and alpine flower meadows make this area a local treasure. The east side of Kokanee Glacier Park also has excellent opportunities for alpine rock climbing, general mountaineering and scrambling out of the Silver Spray and Woodbury huts.
The stunning skyline of sharp jutting peaks drenched in Norse mythology make Valhalla Provincial Park another local favourite. Along with classic alpine rock climbs, fine scrambling awaits on scenic ridgelines with panoramic views of the Selkirk mountains and the pristine Mulvey Lakes basin below. The biggest bonus is that you will find very little foot traffic here. It’s not uncommon to have the whole place to yourself!
Rock Climbing – Single or multiple pitch climbing on rock (no snow or ice) using fixed protection (e.g. bolts) or traditional gear placements.
Alpine Rock Climbing – Rock climbing in an alpine setting (i.e. at altitude above treeline) where sudden weather changes, remoteness and intricate descents increase the seriousness. Permanent or seasonal snow and/or ice may be encountered on the approach or descent possibly requiring an ice axe and/or crampons.
Mountaineering – Climbing peaks in the alpine where rock and/or ice and/or snow are involved in the approach, ascent and descent. Possible considerations include snow stability, seracs, crevasses, cornices and loose rock.
Alpine Scrambling – A hybrid of hiking & climbing to ascend generally non-technical peaks that usually only require the hands for balance. The use of a helmet, rope, crampons or ice axe may be warranted under certain conditions or to increase safety margins and/or comfort levels for some individuals.
Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Safety
- The sport of climbing although highly fun and rewarding does carry inherent risks. Beginners should seek instruction in roped techniques and consider hiring a guide for outings beyond their personal skill level.
- All climbers and mountaineers, regardless of their skill level, must thoroughly investigate, and have a good understanding of, all gear, safety concerns, hazards and weather-related (e.g. avalanche safety) requirements, prior to setting out on any outdoor climbing or mountaineering excursion.
- In order to avoid mishaps or injury, seek advice and information from local guides, clubs, or associations before venturing out.
- Also all climbers and mountaineers should make sure that their travel health insurance is up to date and includes coverage specific to their chosen activity.
Guided Rock Climbing, Scrambling, Glacier Trekking and Mountaineering
A certified ACMG guide can remove the guesswork from a climbing or mountaineering trip and greatly increase your comfort level and safety margins. Professional guide companies offer instructional courses as well as customized trips to suit your own personal itinerary. Single or multiday trips are usually offered, often with meal options and technical gear (either rented or supplied).
Certified Outdoor Guiding & Instruction
Other Climbing Links