The Nelson and Kootenay Lake region is home to some amazing rock climbing, whether you’ve been climbing for 20 years or are new to the sport.
April to October are the best months to climb outdoors, but the hardiest will stretch that by weeks, depending on the weather. Spring can start early and fall can span across months in the region. Access is relatively easy to all local crags, and most areas are child and dog friendly. Indoor climbing is located at The Cube, at Selkirk College Tenth Street Campus. Its doors are open throughout the fall and winter.
A wonderful and informative starting point is The West Kootenay Rock Guide, available at Otter Books, Valhalla Pure, and the Nelson Visitor Centre. The local climbers’ bible has over 400 listed routes. For all up-to-date information make sure to check for the latest updates. (And watch out for a new edition to be released in 2021.)
Rock Climbing around Nelson & Kootenay Lake
There are several crags right in Nelson ranging from easy slab that’s great for kids and beginners (eg, Anthill and Sunnyside), to steep and hard where you can project your next 5.12 (eg, Kootenay Crag). Besides being a quintessential local hike, Pulpit Rock is also home to fun multi-pitch sport routes with great views over Nelson. A 15-minute drive will have you at three sport crags that have great moderate to stiff climbing (Hall Siding, Gotham City, and Riverside).
To the north of Nelson, towards Kaslo, the Woodbury bluffs offer superb climbs for sport and trad ranging from 5.6 all the way to 5.12. There are also fantastic views over Kootenay Lake and Mt. Loki in the distance.
Further afield are many crags with climbing for all skill levels in both sport and trad. Slocan Bluffs will keep you busy for days with a beautiful lake for a dip in the hot summer months. In nearby Castlegar, check out Waterline, Kinnaird Bluffs, and the crags in the Arrow Lakes region. Megawatts is a classic moderate multi-pitch sport route up Brilliant Bluffs.
If you’re in need of a partner, outside or inside, join the Kootenay Climbing Partners group on Facebook.
Kootenay Climbing - TAWKROC is a great resource for staying up to date with everything climbing in the Koots.
Bouldering Around Nelson BC
As of 2020, a new bouldering guidebook has hit the shelves. In it are 960 problems in the West Kootenays including areas right in Nelson. Bouldering has really taken off in recent years and more and more areas are being discovered and developed constantly. Visit West Kootenay Bouldering to learn more and how to buy the guide.
Indoor Climbing in Nelson
The Kootenay Climbing Association operates an indoor climbing centre up at Selkirk College, The Cube. It’s closed during the summer months (when you should be outside anyway!).
Alpine Climbing nearby
There are countless peaks to bag in the region, many of them requiring trad climbing knowledge and skills. Gimli Peak in the nearby Valhallas is one of the more popular alpine climbs in the West Kootenays. Along with classic alpine rock climbing, there’s scrambling on scenic ridgelines with panoramic views of the Selkirk mountains and Mulvey Lakes basin.
Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park has some other impressive ridge climbing and glacier trekking, and there are several scenic scrambles which are worthwhile.
Summit Mountain Guides is a local company specializing in guiding outdoor adventures on rock, ice, snow, and dirt. They also run all sorts of courses from rock climbing to avalanche training to hiking and trekking.
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