Words by Lee Lau. Pictures by Lee Lau, Steve Hutchison and Todd Nichols
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 described.
- Alpine Club of Canada’s webpageon the Kokanee Glacier chalet.
I still had the itch to slay a steepish line. Steve wasn’t too excited about that prospect. The hut custodian, Todd, came touring with us today and suggested taking a run at the Keyhole – a nice long SW face off the col immediately north of Esmeralda Peak that dropped over 700m down to Kokanee Lake. It never takes much to twist my rubber arm so off we went boot-packing and skinning up the frozen slopes of Pyramid and the Kokanee Glacier to find some steep corn.
Testing limits of skin traction
Some wildlife on the Kokanee Glacier
The entry to the Keyhole is pretty easy to find. It’s marked with a small cross. We peeked onto the slope and saw a bunch of slide debris but that looked easily avoidable. Moreover, conditions seemed perfect as the sun was just beginning to cook that aspect, making it nice and creamy – the top ice layer was just starting to soften.
Panorama shot shows the Keyhole and the slopes below descending to Kokanee Lake
At the rocky entrance to the Keyhole
The entry involved dulling our edges on some rocks but wasn’t too much of a problem. It was tight and steep for a few turns and about a 100m of elevation loss but quickly fanned out into a nice protectible 30 degree slope. Perfect conditions!
Todd navigating the entrance then dropping down to the apron
View looks up to Keyhole entry from the apron. Only thing to watch for is falling rock from the dessicated faces. No cornice buildup on the overhangs
The apron wasn’t quite in shape just yet so we played on a natural windlip hucking meat and waiting for the full corn cycle. In no time it was on and we hit the remaining descent navigating down to Kokanee Lake without any trouble. Just a quick note that we headed off to skiers right (north) about 500 m or so then took the fall-line down to the lake. Any further then that and you run into cliff-bands as well as exposure from wet-slides from above. This won’t be a problem in good visibility of course as the hazards are easy to see.
Todd going for it on the Keyhole
Last drop to Kokanee Lake
We got back down at about 1pm. I debated heading back up to Pyramid to see if I could farm one last set of corn off N slopes but we only got to the base of the slope at about 2pm. It would have taken another couple of hours to get up there and the snow was already wet and sticky. Besides, Todd’s mum had baked a huge batch of cinnamon buns and it would have been rude not to go back and demolish them. That decision being made, we headed back and stuffed our faces full.
The last peak of the day – Mt Cinnamon Buns.
Day 6’s route