South Ridge of Gimli

The Valhalla Range is a group of stunning mountains, part of the Selkirk Montains in the West Kootenays. It’s hard for me to leave the Coast, but this past August I finally convinced myself that there is climbing outside of Squamish, and there are nice mountains that don’t involve adventurous logging road drives and arduous bushy approaches. Chris Barrington-Leigh and I only managed to spend one day this beautiful area, climbing the popular south ridge of Gimli. A more complete description of the route can be found here.

We drove from Vancouver the previous afternoon, and bivied on highway rest stop outside of Castlegar. The next morning, we woke up early and finished the drive up to Slocan and into the Valhallas. The first time that I heard of this area was when I saw a photo of Gimli in my friend Duncan’s bathroom. I remember looking at the south ridge, and thinking of how phenomenal it looked. That was a few years ago, and I’m glad I finally made it out to here.

An incredibly pleasant trail leads you up into the alpine. There is at most an hour of hiking in the trees before breaking out into the high alpine, and another hour to reach the base of the route. Watch out for the mountain goats which guard the base of the climb.

This was my favourite pitch of the route, a long steep 5.7 pitch which follows an exposed but very featured arete. The rock is metamorphic, mostly solid gneiss. Chris keep comparing the rock very favourably to the stuff in the Tetons. After two weeks of climbing with Chris and hearing about the Tetons, I think I’ll have to go there sometime.

Looking down halfway on the 10a crux pitch, which traverses a roof. I didn’t find the move very difficult, and thought the first steep corner pitch off the ground was more sustained and difficult.

The route tops out on the slightly lower south summit of Gimli, and a short scramble over lead us to the higher north summit. From the summit, there were way too many mountains that I was not familiar with. This is looking at the south face of Asgard Peak.

Chris descending the west ridge, which would be a great scramble in its own. There are many other interesting peaks in the area, with varying levels of technical difficulties, and lots of alpine rambling to enjoy. I can’t wait to come back.

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