MOUNT THOR 2940m 9646′
Hughes Peak, and Mounts Thor, Grady and Burnham (north to south) are seen from the ferry when nearing Galena Bay. Mount Thor is massive and of complex design. It appears pointed from this angle, but is really a ridge seen edge on. The summit is hidden from view from the northeast by ridges.
Map 82L/9 Gates Creek.
Drive: From Revelstoke, Hwy 23 goes south down the west side of the Columbia River to the Shelter Bay Ferry 50km (31mi). Ferry goes to Galena Bay 6am to 2am.
48.6km 30.2mi (1.4km north of ferry) Turn west on a logging road that accesses the road systems on the west side of Upper Arrow Lake.
0.0 Start on road that terminates at Coursier Lake – Dry Creek Road.
2.4km 1.5mi Turn right (north) on Dry Creek Rd, 90 degrees from Shelter Bay FSR, the main road that goes south down the west side of Arrow Lake.
4.5km 2.8mi Go left on Dry Ck Rd, go left of shacks. Stay on this main road.
8.8km 5.5mi Go left, switchback taking the lower left fork up Longsworth Road for Odin Creek. (Straight goes to Coursier Lk).
17.9km 11.1mi Go left
19.5km 12.1mi New road to Pingston Lake, go right (sign).
12.2mi 19.6km Cross Pingston Creek bridge. After 80m, turn right (west) up the south side of Thor Creek (high clearance vehicles) that has been logged and is in a state of devastation. (It starts south of the first road, south of the Pingston Creek bridge).
A point (7351 feet, 2241m) on the northeast ridge was occupied as a triangulation station in 1925, from a camp on the south ridge of Mount Hall (2228m; north of Mount Thor and just southeast of Coursier Lake. Map 82L/NE Revelstoke, B. C. 1979; IRBC 1963). A huge cairn was found below the southeast ridge at about the same altitude by Leon Blumer and Earle R. Whipple in the year 1985 (near the Escarpment Trail).
Access to Niflheim Cirque (Thor-Niflheim Cirque), North Side of Stegosaurus Ridge. As described above, take a right turn just beyond the Pingston Creek bridge, drive to the end of the road (high clearance)
Route: Backpack up marked trail on the north side of South Thor Creek (the main branch of Thor Creek; difficult to cross). Cross South Thor Creek again on a log jam at the lower end of the lake. (Trail from road recut, 2015.)
Backpack up and slightly left through light (i.e., not seriously difficult) bush to contact orange tape markers. Soon after climbing an easy rock outcrop, the markers trend up and right, generally, toward the stream flowing from the Niflheim Cirque in light to medium bush. When a small cliff is seen, the markers lead around its base and the base of a bear den moraine with gigantic boulders. Continue with the markers, well above the stream and sometimes on steep hillside, to the gateway to the cirque, about 6 hours from the end of the road. Bring mosquito repellent. (This trail was recut in 2006.)
Late in the season, parties have traversed the lake shore to the waterfall coming from the cirque, and gone up the west side of the creek.
One may reach the glacial col on the northeast ridge from a camp on the east side of the creek in the Thor-Niflheim Cirque on the north side of Stegosaurus Ridge. Climb a 150 meter headwall to the left of the central waterfall and then a moraine to the glacial col of the northeast ridge.
Amund Groner, Dan Robertson, Patrick Triggs, August 5, 1984.
There is no route on the southeast ridge.
An alternate approach to Route 1 is from the east-southeast. Consult ‘The Escarpment Trail’, just before Mount Thor.
Escarpment Trail High above the north side of Odin Creek, the edge of the cliff is bare of soil and vegetation for more than a kilometre, and the scenery is magnificent. It is a hiking route, and also gives access to Mount Thor, Route 1.
In 1985, Leon Blumer and the author descended the Escarpment after climbing Mount Thor. We approached approximately where the trail was later cut and were not the first to be there. The trail was cut by Leon Blumer and friends in 1993, but now is certainly overgrown.
TH – upper left of a big clearcut 1.6–2.0 km north of Odin Creek and 12.5 km south of the Pingston Creek bridge. Orange tape markers (and later blazes) start a bit left of centre.
Route: The trail goes left, first below cliffs and then at the top of the clearcut on an old skid road, into the trees and then willows. Higher, a traverse up and left on a rock band free of trees has fine views and reaches the edge of the escarpment at about 1830m (6000 feet). The unmarked pathway on the escarpment begins a little above this point. At two or three places, the escarpment is cut by small joints or faults. Bushwhack in and out of these and regain the edge.
If a two-day backpacking trip is desired, camp near tree line below the east glacier. It is probably best to cross the meadows well below the glacier to avoid a short overhanging step in the southeast ridge. While climbable, the step would be very trying with a pack. Pass over the col in the northeast ridge (a little glacier travel) and descend into the cirque north of Stegosaurus Ridge (Niflheim Cirque) going down next to a waterfall, or one half km north of the fall, to the flat meadows at 1740 meters.
Take the trail out of the cirque, on the east side of the stream, and descend to the trail on the N side of South Thor Creek, and to the road on the S side of Thor Creek (Killeen Road).
It is best to carry a rope, an ice ax, a few long slings (for trees) and a little protection in case parts of the descent into the Niflheim Cirque become a bit technical, especially with heavy packs, and for the glacier.
1. East Glacier, Northeast Ridge.
Bushwhack into the basin north northeast of the peak (see below) from the south side of Thor Creek, and ascend a rockslide to the glaciers above. Bivouac above tree line (now a long one-day climb). Climb to the ridge above and descend to the glacial col of the northeast ridge of Thor. Avoid the first short section of the ridge by climbing snow and ice to a notch, from either side. It is best to climb high on the snow southwest of the ridge and ascend a short gully to reach the ridge.
At the first step (notch), attain the ridge by climbing a short vertical wall on the north side (2 adjacent routes; 5.4). (It is Class 4 if suitable couloirs are chosen on the southwest side of the ridge.)
At the second step (on north side of ridge), climb it directly or outflank it by zigzag ledges.
The third step, close to the summit (at the junction of the NE and SE ridges) may be climbed, or avoided by a descending traverse on the south face (slabs, a vertical mile above Odin Creek) and reascending to the ridge (Class 3-4). One can rappel the third step on descent. Ice, Glacier (III,5.4,s).
Graham Hollins, Chris Kopczynski, John Roskelly, David Parfitt, 7/8/1966.
From the road, an undrivable logging road provides access to Mount Thor, Route 1. Ascend into the big clear cut above, climb to its upper right hand corner and traverse up and right into the bush. This reaches a large sickle-shaped rock slide that leads to the alpine zone. The approach is modern, better than the original or the Jones approach. The climb can be done in one long day.
David P. Jones approached from the northeast in 1968, and used the north ridge on the east side of the basin NNE of the summit. When part way up, traverse to the centre of the basin. The lower ridge has timber with little undergrowth.
2. West Ridge. See Mount Sigurd for the 1971 traverse.
3. Northwest Buttress or Ridge. The northwest ridge is well defined and consists of buttresses and ridges.
Gain the north pocket glacier from the basin directly below the mountain. Starting from the eastern edge, ascend the glacier to the start of the northwest ridge. Climb through three small overhanging roofs. Two are Class 5.8 and the crux roof requires four pitons for aid. Several roped pitches up to Class 5.6 follow, and the final pitch below the summit is 5.7. There are about 15 technical pitches, 12 hours up. Glacier (IV,5.8,Al,s).
FRA 21/8/1986, Second RA John and William Petroske, 8/1971.
MOUNT THOR (West Summit) 2820m 9252′
This is 0.8 kilometre west of Mount Thor. The west summit was traversed west to east in 1971. No data available.
MOUNT ANDVARI 2760m 9055′
This wedge-shaped spire, smallest of the spires, was traversed west to east in 1971, and is west of the west summit of Mount Thor.
The gold of Fafnir, who transformed himself into a dragon, was accursed and included the gold ring originally owned by the dwarf Andvari. Sigurd killed the dragon and took the accursed gold which tragically affected his life, and especially his love, Brynhild.
One of the best views from base camp at this year’s climbing camp was of the long east-west ridge that stretches from Kelly Pk. in the west to Mt. Thor in the east. A week of contemplation persuaded me to return again to the legendary bushwhacking of Thor Creek for a second attempt on Thor itself.
Back in July of 1986 Howie Ridge, Pete Wood, Janice Isaac and I had made a one-day attempt on the peak only to get snowed-off before we got to the base of the mountain. That tantalizing glimpse of the bulk of Thor shrouded in fog and mist remained to tempt me over the next few years–that desire always tempered by remembrances of the painfully steep approach, and bushwhacking in slide alder, devil’s club, and rhododendron. However, this year Howie had been saying, “I really want to climb Thor again on the twentieth anniversary of the first year I climbed it.” Despite good intentions, it wasn’t until the weekend of September 7th and 8th that our schedules matched and we could mount an expedition.
The first goal was to get close enough to the mountain to climb it in a day, previous visits having soured us on the idea of dragging a heavy pack up to the alpine for a high camp. After one false start, we followed the route to Odin Cabins south of Coursier Lake (the same car approach as for this year’s climbing camp). Immediately after crossing Pingston Creek, we turned right or west onto Killeen Road and drove 3.5 km. to the effective end of the road. Since there was no water at this site, we returned to Pingston Creek for a car camp.
Saturday morning we were up about 4:30 to cook breakfast under a full moon. By the time we reached the end of Killeen Road and inspected two other vehicles parked there, it was 6:10, time to start.
We followed a skid road up and to the east till we reached a big, new clearcut that Earle Whipple had mentioned to me. We crossed the cutblock to its upper right hand corner and traversed up and right into the bush. Fortunately (or maybe it was by skill; not mine anyway), we soon reached the large sickle-shaped rock slide we had seen by moonlight the night before. For over an hour we ascended this slide of enormous boulders till we reached the lower edge of the alpine. “Amazing,” I thought, “we’ve made it without the bushwhacking that defines climbing in the Gold Range.” We next climbed over a prominent north-south ridge to the west and descended into the basin below the normal ascent route.
Writing this, I’m constantly reminded of how complex a mountain Thor is and how complicated it is just to describe the route to get to the base of the mountain itself.
Our next task was to reach the headwall south of our basin. By this time of year much of the glacier was bare, so we roped up, put on crampons and crunched up to the eastern of two cols separated by rock. Now my mind brought back memories of our previous attempt as we descended some snow, traversed, ascended to another col, and picked our way down a rock face and ridge to reach a snowy col below the base of Thor.
It was at this time that Howie noted some gear stowed on the rocks hundreds of yards away. Soon we heard voices and realized another party was on the mountain, probably the owners of those trucks we had seen on the road. Hm-m-m, we didn’t think we would have to stand in line to climb Thor.
Nevertheless, we donned crampons again for a trudge up some hard snow to the base of the rock and started climbing. What followed was a very pleasant class four climb which we did comfortably in plastic boots without use of rope for climbing or rappel. We found that the climb of Thor is made up of three steps, none of which present any great difficulties. We began by scrambling up the ridge for 20-30′, then moved right or north for a short wall that I thought was the hardest part of the climb. Regaining the ridge, we traveled through a band of lighter-coloured rock, continuing until the ridge steepened and we made a detour to the left. At the second step we traversed to the right and walked along ledges until we regained the ridge and descended about 40′. Here we met the other party which was from the ACC’s Calgary section who had hiked into Thor Creek for a week-long camp. From this point we traversed left again, ascended the face (there are many possible routes), and regained the ridge.
Now, it was an easy scramble to the summit, which we reached at 2:30, 8 1/4 hours after starting. A look at the summit record showed that four or five parties had climbed Thor since the beginning of August; so much for the forbidding, inaccessible Gold Range. We also went through summit formalities by introducing ourselves to Chick Scott and his party of relatively inexperienced climbers and by taking group summit photos for them.
By this time I was beginning to feel the pain. The lack of water, my chocky bar resting like a slab of chalk in my throat, and a long descent spiced by the thought of getting benighted in the bush all gave me an anxious twinge. Well, better get moving.
The five-hour descent was straight-forward and uneventful as we retraced our steps. Below the alpine section, we kept to the bush east of the rockslide, thinking that in our fatigued state a misstep on the giant boulders would be disastrous. We reached the top of the skid road just as darkness fell and got back to the truck shortly after 8:00.
Although I was as tired as I have been for the last few years, I decided to drive back to Nelson. After all, it’s part of going on a trip with Howie to drive home after a strenuous day rather than camp. One disadvantage of this approach was that there was no place to get a meal after 9:00 between Nakusp and Nelson. The advantage was that, like a teenager, I learned to appreciate the virtues of Nelson’s 7-1l store at 1:30am.
In summary, Thor was a 14-hour day for us. We traveled at a steady pace without too many breaks, and roped up only for glacier travel. My feeling is that the mountain is better to climb in July or August when there is more snow on the glacier and the days are longer. Whenever you go, it’s worth it.
As a final note, I would recommend reading Bob Dean’s account in the fall 1970 Karabiner of his climb of Thor with Howie. In those days just getting across Thor Creek could be an epic.