Driving directions from Creston
Drive 72 km from junction of Highways 3 and 3A along the Kootenay Lake road to the Gray Creek community. Cross bridge over Gray creek, 150 meters after bridge turn right on Oliver Road/(Gray Creek Pass Road) Km 0. Head up the main road ignoring all spur roads. Km 7, bear right through snow gate. Km 18 at the Pass, small parking area for several vehicles just before ‘Steep Grade’ sign on road heading down toward Kimberley. The road was open through to Kimberly though much rougher than the Gray Creek side (check the Back-Roads map book to locate the correct forest service roads down toward Kimberley.)
North Summit hike
(This description is not a step by step travel log but rather a general description of the route/trail)
From the parking area it is obvious on a clear day where you are headed to the north alpine summit. If you are here and can’t see the summit, probably not a good place to try and find in the fog! There are several well-worn trails starting at the parking area on the north side of the road. Either will lead you in the right direction by starting through the larch forest. The larch begin to thin with elevation gain and the way up is evident while staying on the trail. Approx. 35 minutes of hiking through the thinning trees and you are out in the open. This portion of the trail/route has been flagged (Aug 2016) and goes pretty well straight up the slope toward the summit. Any traversing while still aiming for the ultimate goal can ease the climbing angle and strain on the “climbers”. Another approx. 20 minutes of steady up gets you to the summit to the Northeast (to the right of where the trail comes out on the ridge). To the left is another lookout but it is slightly lower than the summit, both offer great views west to Kootenay Lake, the ferry from Kootenay Bay to Balfour and Crawford Bay as well as countless peaks in the distance (time to pull out the topo map).
This “trail” is really a “route” as the existing trail flagging, while well intentioned, is too sparse to follow visually from one to the next and should not be solely counted on for guidance. Also, there is a maze of animal trails that all look like “the trail”. Get your bearings for your eventual ‘daylighting out of the forest point’ while at the parking area or better yet from the North Summit (assuming you have climbed it first). Otherwise, head directly across the road from the parking area. A trail heads up the road cut-bank, turns left and passes an old A-frame cabin/shelter. Head SW in front of the cabin, down through a shallow gully, into the forest, up a rocky ridge and down into a second slightly deeper gully. Continuing SW, you will get glimpses of a white rock talus slope as you ascend through the forest. Keep left of this slope and continue heading up. Once you reach the base of the second rock slide begin your ‘rock ballet’ ascent. If not familiar with the term ‘rock ballet’, you soon will be; some of the boulders are a bit shaky so proceed up the steep slope with that in mind. Follow the ridge above the rock slide to the first summit. The second summit beckons. Your choice, enjoy this one or continue on a nice alpine ramble with an approx. 90 meter (290 ft) decent then up the alpine ridge to the second summit. This is a good place to break out the topo map, water and snacks, locate Haystack Mtn and Snowcrest Mtn. and soak up the views! Further ridge walking and exploring SSE can be done for those with extra ‘gas in the tank’! But remember to save a bit for the way down.