Peak Access Notes
Kootenay Mountain is a “ultra-prominent” peak located just north of the Idaho/BC border. It’s an attractive peak with a fun scrambling ascent and could be a popular objective for prominence-oriented peakbaggers. However, the access situation is quite problematical, with all approach options involving long distances.
The area around Kootenay Mountain was a private reserve that was heavily logged until about 2009. It is now owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and is called “Darkwoods”. Any access requires a permit from the Nature Conservancy—call 250-342-5521 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Permits are free and valid in summer only.
Even with a permit, all the old logging roads into Darkwoods are gated at the reserve boundary with no provision for general public motorized access, and once inside the reserve the roads are deteriorating badly. This might be the strategy of the Conservancy, to let nature reclaim the area. The old logging roads in the Shaw Creek drainage are blocked by a washout 3.1 km from the Topaz Creek gate, and suffocating slide alder is rapidly reclaiming them. The Kootenay Mountain Club used to be able to get a gate key for organized hikes, but it is no longer possible to get a vehicle anywhere near the peak. A mountain bike is helpful now, but as the roads get more overgrown eventually they will not even be walkable.
The standard route up the final slopes of Kootenay is from the southeast, at a clearing at the end of a logging road. A bushwhack through mostly open forest, with a scramble over large granite blocks on the ridge, leads to the summit. Routes are easy Class 3 at worst, and mostly Class 2. Getting to the start of this little hike is the challenge. Also, Kootenay has been climbed from Mount Wood to the southwest with no major issues reported.
These are the various approach options as of 2017:
Option 1: Earl Approach. (used by Jones/Packard, Woodall/Slayden)
- This uses the main Topaz Creek/Midgely Road.
- Parking: at Topaz Creek gate, 4.5 km from Highway 3, elevation 725 m
- RT Distance to Summit: 57.8 km
- Total RT gain to Summit: 2170 m (extra gain 220 m each way)
- Breakdown: Bike (or hike) for 23.1 km (last part on alder-choked roads); Hike overgrown roads for 3.1 km; bushwhack/scramble 2.7 km to summit.
Option 2: Bjorstad Approach (used by Stolk/Myers, Dillmore/Bernier)
- This uses the Newington/Toby Creek Road
- Parking: at Toby Creek gate, 21 km from Highway 3, elevation 1620 m
- RT Distance to Summit: 37.4 km
- Total RT Gain to Summit: 1525 m (extra gain 400 m each way)
- Breakdown: Bike (or hike) for 5.3 km; Bushwhack over col for 1.9 km; Hike roads (party-to-mostly overgrown) for 8.8 km; bushwhack/scramble 2.7 km to summit.
Option 3: Jersey Creek Approach (speculative)
- This uses the Blazed Creek/Jersey Creek Road
- Parking: At washout Blazed Creek Road, 1 km from Highway 3, elevation 980 m
- RT Distance to Summit: 43.3 km
- Total RT Gain to Summit: 2200 m (extra gain 360 m each way)
- Breakdown: Bike (or hike) for 11.6 km; possibly bike another 6.2 km on spur logging road; Bushwhack/scramble up to Mount Wood; traverse to Kootenay for 3.9 km.
Options 1 and 2 have been used by well-known peakbaggers. In 2017 it was possible to mountain bike in 23 km using option 1, but the last couple km were very overgrown with alder and it is likely that by 2019 it will be very difficult to even hike the last portion of the roads. The Option 2 approach road was also verified to be in good shape for its first 13 km at the same time, and is probably OK to the Toby Creek gate, a further 8 km.
The advantage of Option 1 is the ability to use a mountain bike for the majority of the distance, while for Option 2, a bike only helps for 5.3 km and then there is a 13.4 km hike. However, the state of the roads in the Shaw Creek drainage is such that the bike is of limited utility anyway, and Option 2 is likely the best strategy at present, and even there a bike will help for over 5 km of road past the gate, each way. The 2017 party anticipated being able to bike to where the bushwhack/scramble begins, and had they known about the alder on the roads, they would have gone for Option 2.
Option 3 is intriguing—there is a clear-cut 1.5 km due west of Mount Wood, and one could bike up to that and then bushwhack/scramble to Wood and then follow the ridge to Kootenay. But the washout on the Blazed/Jersey Road 1 km from the highway makes that a long journey, and even if that was fixed there is a locked Darkwoods gate 6 km beyond. The status of the upper logging roads is unknown.
A faint old road leads from the Jersey Creek Road about 8 km from Highway 3 and heads east up to a col providing access to the Shaw Creek drainage road network. This road would gain 500 m to the col and it is likely quite overgrown, and once over the col there is a ways to go on more roads (also likely overgrown) to get to the standard SE scramble route on Kootenay.