Gray Creek Pass Summits
Zosia Zgolak and I ascended a number of
unnamed high points in the vicinity of Gray Creek Pass in British
Columbia on 14 August 2020. We got the idea for this outing from
Kathy & Craig Copeland's guidebook, Where Locals Hike in the West
Kootenay, and they refer to the high points collectively as Gray
Creek Pass Summits. We would later learn from some actual locals
that the high point to the north of the pass is more commonly referred to
as Thanksgiving Mountain.
From Highway 3A, turn east onto Oliver Road about 7.0 kilometres south
of Crawford Bay. Drive for 350 metres and keep right to cross a
bridge over Gray Creek before intersecting Anderson Road on the other
side (Anderson Road can also be accessed from Highway 3A about 600 metres
south of the Oliver Road junction if coming from Creston). Go
straight passing a sign advising the use of winter tires or chains.
Drive for 900 metres to the junction with Gray Creek Road and keep left.
Ignoring all minor side roads, drive 16.5 kilometres to reach Gray Creek
Pass (the pass is about 800 metres east of Oliver Lake Recreation Site).
Park in a small pullout at the top of the pass.
From the pass, Zosia and I decided to first head north to ascend
Thanksgiving Mountain. A good trail climbs gently at first and then
more steeply up the southeast aspect of the mountain. When we
reached the foot of a talus slope, we headed to climber's right to gain
the crest of the east ridge, and from there, we continued up to the
summit without difficulty. A short distance to the south is a
subsidiary summit which grants an aerial view of nearby Oliver Lake.
After taking a short break at the subsidiary summit, we backtracked a bit
before taking a short cut down the aforementioned talus slope. In
retrospect, it would be easy enough to skip the east ridge and ascend
this way. In any case, we had no problems cutting down the slope,
and upon regaining the trail, we quickly made our way back to the
trailhead at Gray Creek Pass.
||Thanksgiving Mountain is readily seen from
the trailhead at Gray Creek Pass.
The trail skirts along the edge of the talus slope here before going up
the ridge at left.
Zosia pauses to enjoy the views from the ridge she would subsequently
(right) is visible to the north from the ridge. The prominent
mountain on the distant horizon at left is Mount Loki.
Zosia and Sonny stand on the summit of Thanksgiving Mountain (2364 metres).
Zosia wanders over to a subsidiary bump of Thanksgiving
Zosia and I took another break at our car before heading up
another trail on the opposite side of the road. Our plan was to
skip the first high point and go straight to the subsequent high points
further south. Unfortunately, the trail quickly ends at a cabin
hidden from the road, and after a fruitless search for a beaten path, we
bit the bullet and headed southwest through moderately dense bush.
In contrast to the nice trail we enjoyed on Thanksgiving Mountain, the
bushwhack on this side of the road was more than a little annoying.
Promising game trails disappeared as quickly as they appeared, and some
elevation loss was necessary to avoid hidden short cliffs. Even the
odd cairn provided only puzzlement and false hope. Fortunately, the
thrash was relatively short, and we eventually stumbled across to a
saddle separating the first high point from the second high point.
Skipping the first high point as planned, we hiked up the second high
point via its north ridge. Other than being very steep, this ridge
presents no technical challenges. Reaching the top of the second
high point, we continued easily along the connecting ridge to a third
high point where we stopped for lunch. By the time we finished
lunch, the warm weather sapped any desire to continue further along the
ridge, and we simply retraced our steps over the second high point and
back down to the saddle. We endured another round of bushwhacking
on the way back to Gray Creek Pass, but it seemed less arduous this time.
Zosia enjoys a drink beside the elaborate cairn on the subsidiary bump.
Oliver Lake sits at the foot of one of several unnamed peaks south of
Gray Creek Pass.
With cellular reception available here, Zosia checks for messages on
Zosia takes a short cut down the talus slope she circumvented on the
I am uncertain if Thanksgiving Mountain by itself is a worthwhile
objective on its own given the lengthy drive to reach the trailhead and
the shortness of the hike. The other Gray Creek Pass Summits make
for worthy extensions but only for experienced
hikers. Novices may find the bushwhacking too unappealing to
stomach. Perhaps a better alternative would be to combine
Thanksgiving Mountain with
further to the north.
The summit at far left is the second high point
south of Gray Creek Pass. Also visible are the first high point (left of
centre), Thanksgiving Mountain (right) and Sphinx Mountain (far right).
Distance: 7.4 kilometres
Round-Trip Time: 5 hours 37 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 614 metres