KOKANEE GLACIER – Day 3 – Mt Robert Smith

Words by Lee Lau. Pictures by Lee Lau and Steve Hutchison

Other useful links:

  • British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment official web-page for Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park
  • Kootenay Rockies webpageon Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park with summer routes and activities primarily


  • Alpine Club of Canada’s webpageon the Kokanee Glacier chalet.

It didn’t look pretty in the morning. The sky was overcast, the temperatures

had not dropped below freezing all night and to top it off, the pine marten

had somehow got some of our cinnamon buns. These are the chances you take when

you tour in the spring. With Nelson’s climate near-tropical forecast for the

entire week (plus 20s for the next 5 days) all Steve and I could hope was that

today was an anomaly.

We decided to play it conservative and go look at some peaks north of the chalet.

Kaslo Lake sunset.

Approaching bad weather and thunderheads chases as away from

Retallack and Granite Knob

I had this itch to look at two nice size peaks north of the chalet – Mt Retallack

and Granite Knob. As we crested the first rise north of the chalet, we realized

that our route would involve traversing under some west facing slopes that had

been blast by intense sun through the last few days. Additionally, these slopes

had seen some sizeable avalanche activity in recent times. Not liking our chances

under big exposed sun-phacked slopes, we elected to head up a more sheltered SW

facing drainage towards the Nansen – Giegerich – Robert Smith group.

Steve approaches

the ridge of Robert Smith

Conditions deteriorated further as we progressed up this drainage

with Nansen’s cornices to the west of us. Already we could nervously hear

wet slides naturally trigger every 10 minutes or so. We discussed heading

back but decided to scout a line on a protected ridge up towards Robert

Smith. At the very least, we figured we would get a good view towards Boomerang.

Fortunately this route did go and it was safe. We parked at a good spot

near Robert Smith but neither of us felt all too good about testing cornice

integrity towards Robert Smith proper.

View from Robert

Smith ridge towards Sunset, Giegerich, Nansen – from L to R.

Great views. Frightening perch. I’m not kidding when I say

that natural slides were coming off slopes at a rate of close to one a

minute. None of the bus-sized cornices on Nansen went while we were looking

but I could imagine them getting more and more droopy.

We skied out the way we came, headed back towards the Lemon

Pass area and then bee-lined back to the chalet. Everyone else made it

back in one piece although the Scots had an exciting time with big wet

rollys on the east face of Sunset Peak.

Dropping down

slurpee snow off Robert Smith

Lee with view

looking back towards ridgeline north to Retallack.

Steve with view

looking back to Nansen- Robert Smith area

Wet slide danger

was high today as the Scots find out ~ photo Todd Nichols

Touring in alpine

boots is never fun. Touring in alpine boots in wet sticky snow is painful.

Relief on Steve’s face

Views of living room

and kitchen at the Kokanee Glacier chalet

Chalet evening


Day 3’s route

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