Words by Lee Lau. Photos in first part by Sharon Bader, Lee Lau and Max Melchior. Photos in second part by Karl Mascher and Max Melchior
- Trip preparation page
- 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 webpage on the Kokanee Glacier chalet.
- Snow observations from Selkirks
- Lee’s trip from last year
- 1:250 scale map of Kokanee area
- 1:50 scale map of Kokanee area – east map; west map
- 1:20 scale TRIM data map (best for navigation imo)
- 1:20 scale TRIM data map of North Kokanee area
The first after a storm is usually a day to mellow out. Surprisingly however, yesterday’s snow had only brought 7 to 10 cms new. We already knew that conditions were good, snow was stable and travel was fast. The weather held fine the next day as we woke up to more cold, clear temperatures. While Sharon, Rob, John, Gregor, Max and myself set out south again to go high and possibly tour to Gray’s Peak, the rest of the group headed north towards the Tanal, Granite Knob, Retallack area.
Bootpack on Kitchener Ridge
Gregor and John on Esmerelda
Light new snow below Esmerelda
Gregor hamming it up then pulling it back together
We took our usual path to Kokanee Peak. This is the fourth time I’ve summited in two years so i’s getting to be a habit. This time was a little different as we wrapped south around the summit and along mellow snowfields towards the col immediately north of Gray’s. Beta pictures from others had shown me that there was beautiful skiing in a bench running WSW from this col. This indeed was the case. Max and Sharon dropped down the col to enjoy a 1km vertical run down to Gibson’s Lake while Rob, John, Gregor and I headed up to Gray’s Peak to see what the view looked like from there.
Descending from Kokanee Pk towards Gray’s Col
Looking south towards Gray’s Peak. You can access the east glacier by wrapping around looker’s left of the summit. The knifeedge bootpack to Gray’s NE couloir is off the peaklet to the right
Rob contemplating the Gray’s Summit Couloir
I had made no secret of the fact that I really wanted to ski something steep today so it was a joyful occassion to get to Gray’s Peak and see a gorgeous steep line right off the summit mound waiting to be bagged. However I also really wanted the NE Couloir and hoped that I could get it from the summit. Rob and John didn’t feel the love and decided to ski back down off Gray’s Peak and head back to the Kokanee area and got some very nice turns. Gregor and I forged on ahead contouring south around the summit.
Sharon and Max getting great snow down Gray’s col all the way to Gibson’s Lake
Scouting picture of Gray’s Peak NE Couloir. Note the sketchy bootpack entry. It is not possible to go around the ridge by going SE around the peak
As soon as Gregor and I wrapped around the peak SE it was like we were in another world. A wind-loaded cold-smoke glaciated world. It was very tempting to ski the fall-line down to the lake further to the E but we could see the ridge we wanted to climb. The climb is about 150 m to gain another knife-edge with two saddles. Relying on instinct that turned out to be wrong, I headed for the south saddle.
Climbing up the Gray’s E glacier to a ridge that runs N-S from Gray’s
It’s a good idea to carry an ice-axe or a whippet or some arrest tool if you ski couloirs. That way if you ski down a 50 degree slope that starts out narrow, becomes narrower, then gets rocky, then cliffs out – at least if you have to transistion to boot-packing and have to climb back out, you don’t have to rely on your Dynafits as pickets to climb up ice. I skied down about halfway only to realize that the line didn’t go. Thank god Gregor didn’t drop down all the way. It was a bit of a gripping Elvis-leg affair getting out ofthis little pickle and after about an hour or wasted effort and some fancy hand and footwork on crumbly chossy rock and iceholds we were back where we started.
We traversed the knife-ridge (in itself not the most confidence-inspiring affair) to the N Saddle. To our enormous relief the line went and was a nice relatively mellow 50 to 45 degree powder slope dropping the 1km to Gibsons Lake. This skied beautifully in deep deep snow. The only issue was that we finally got to Gibsons Lake at 1560m at 6pm. We finally dragged our asses back to the hut at 9pm. Even though it was my turn to cook dinner that night, thankfully Sharon saved my bacon by preparing the meal!
The right couloir
Gregor enjoyed the fruits of our labours
Closer-up view of this theatre of couloirs.
The couloir to picture left is not the one from the main summit – the summit couloir is actually off the shot to picture left. I speculate that you can get to this leftmost couloir by climbing up the summit hump of Gray’s Peak
Gibson’s Lake – still two more hours left to go at bonking speed
Tanal – No-name
Peak – Granite Knob – Keen Creek
While Gregor and I were doing our own little Bataan death march, Trevor, Steve, Joel, Vince and Karl were taking the “death march” motif a little further. They worked the ridge north of the hut from Tanal, to the unnamed-peak N of Tanal then all the way to Granite Knob. If they had enough daylight, I’m sure they would have ended up circumnavigating Retallack. Their snow quality was also amazing. The group’s trip ended with a descent all the way off the E face of Granite Knob to the 1300m mark of Keen Creek where they skinned back for 4.5 hours through mature timber and a convoluted creekbed.
View N along Tanal ridge towards Granite Knob and Retallack
Dropping down Tanal’s E face
Three course dinner starting with soup served on an industrial stainless steel gas range
More roughing it
Day 4 route – 2240m for Gregor and me