SPHINX MOUNTAIN 2591m 8500′
Visible due east from the entrance to the West Arm on the Kootenay Lake ferry, this route follows a hiker-made trail as it passes subalpine meadows to a summit with great views. Wildflowers and larch in season. Gives access to other areas.
Location: Gray Creek pass.
Elevation gain: 655m (2150′)
Key elevations: TH 1936m (6350′); saddle 2348m (7700′); Summit Sphinx 2591m (8500′)
Distance: 3.5km one-way
Time: 5-6 hours
Access: last 4km, 4WD necessary
Season: July through October
Map: 82F/10 Crawford Bay
Drive: From Balfour catch the Kootenay Lake Ferry.
0.0 Start Kootenay Bay when disembarking the ferry on the east shore. Drive Hwy 3A to Crawford Bay then south.
12.3km Pass Gray Creek Store and 150m beyond, turn left (east) onto Oliver Road. Zero odometer.
From Creston (junction of Hwy 3 and 3A) drive north on Hwy 3A – 72kms and just after crossing Gray Creek, turn right (east) onto Oliver Road. Zero odometer.
0.0 Start on Oliver Road known locally as Gray Creek Pass Road.
.3km Turn right and cross bridge over Gray Creek. Stay on main road up switchbacks.
1.3km Bear left on Gray Creek Pass Rd. Sign reads “Marysville 84km; Hwy 95A, Kimberly 88km.
7km Go left goes to Sphinx Mountain TH. (right through a winter snow gate on Gray Creek Pass Road. 9.1km Cross a creek
11.7km Road levels. Park on left just before cabin ruins 1936m (6350′)
17.5km Gray Creek Pass. Park here for either of the Gray Creek Pass summits. 30.3 kms Bear left; 30.7 and 35kms Cross Redding Creek; 40.5 and 44km Proceed straight. 53.7 Bridge over St Mary’s River
Trail/Route: Cross a creek on big logs then follow a hiker-made trail as it climbs NW throughout a subalpine forest. The “path” can be vague or marked by tape in the alpine as it approaches an obvious saddle at 2348m (7700′). Two choices. Right climbs 243m to the summit of Sphinx.. Left goes up UN 2530 (only 61m lower than Sphinx).
What to do?
1. From the summit of Sphinx, walk up to 5kms one-way along the east ridge.
2. Climb UN 2530 from the saddle.
SPHINX MOUNTAIN (EAST SUMMIT) 2580m 8465’
Map: 82F/10 Crawford Bay
This Kootenay Lake landmark actually has three summits. As none of us had been to the east one, we set off on a fine, sunny late October Saturday for an attempt. Our party of Janice Isaac, Peter Tchir, Myler Wilkinson, and the reporter caught the 8:10 ferry and drove up the snowy power line road to the trailhead at 6300’.
Our plan was to hike up the trail to avoid bushwhacking, then diagonal across the main summit’s south ridge to reach an alpine basin south of our goal. We found this to be do-able but not recommended, at least at this season. The snowy slopes of the south ridge were treacherous enough that we found it better to continue straight up the ridge rather than traverse. Reaching a flat section at 7600’, we descended 200’ to the east on slippery, snowy turf and rock (about 8” of coverage), then continued north through alpine terrain to the col between the east and central summits (252-975, 7850’). After a brief snack, we finished off the remaining 600’ of our peak’s west face, a walk-up, and arrived at the large cairn (no record) thankfully located at the northwest end of the peak. Our ascent had taken about 3.5 hours from the truck.
Deciding we wanted no part of returning via the ascent route, we lingered on top a scant 25 minutes, then returned easily to the col. From this point, we headed due south, passing west of a tarn not on the map, easily reached the power line road about 400 m. east of our truck, and were back by 3:30. As our descent took a scant 90 minutes and provided only minor bushwhacking, we recommend that other parties reach the peak via this route. Alternatively, the south ridge of the peak could be followed right from the power line road.