It’s hard to say what the best part about Castlegar’s latest rock climbing destination is. It could be the outstanding views of the valley that take in the mighty Columbia and Kootenay river. Or maybe it’s the fun, moderate routes that can all be ticked in an afternoon. Perhaps it’s the fact the area was developed as part of a new routing clinic offered by The Association of West Kootenay Rock Climbers and taught by David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides during the annual Kootenay Climbing Festival. Or maybe it’s the fact the approach is relatively easy and there’s a huge meadow near the base of the wall where kids and families can hang out, enjoy the views, and play. Yes, definitely that last one. Aside from Waterline Walls and Pub Wall, the newly developed Grad Wall is one of the best in the city for families. There are nine moderate routes ranging from 5.8 mixed to 5.10b sport and it’s easy to access the top of the crag in order to set up top ropes. (There are multiple anchors from which to rappel in order to access the tops of the routes, most of which end three-quarters of the way up the cliff face.)
The following information was provided by David Lussier and the original route developers.
From Castlegar, drive north on Highway 3A. After the Brilliant Bridge over the Kootenay River, turn right on the Robson Access Road. If coming from Nelson on Highway 3A south, turn right on the Robson Access Road just before the Brilliant Bridge. At 1.2kms, turn right onto Terrace Road (Verigin Tomb Road). Park about 300m up the road on a wide shoulder. From the parking area, walk a steep, faint trail up the middle of a bowl-shaped grassy slope. Once the trail levels out, continue directly towards the walls. You will cross a deep ditch and soon find yourself on a gas line. Walk west on the gas line for about 50m then follow a faint trail up the hill toward the rock walls. After about five more minutes you’ll arrive at a beautiful open grassy bench below the Grad Wall. The total approach takes about 15 minutes.
Even on a cloudy day the view from Grad Wall is excellent.
New School (5.8 mixed 23m small gear and 2 bolts). The dihedral on the far right side of the wall. Make your way up to a bolt, then layback and stem your way up a crack that protects well with small cams and nuts. Arrive at a leftwards sloping ramp, clip another bolt and head up to the anchor. FA D. Raber and K. Story
Pump & Circumstance (5.10b 25m 8 bolts). Follow the flake on the right side of the wall up to the second bolt, then move onto the face for some fun, steep climbing. Shared anchor with New School. FA D. Lussier
Pass or Flail (5.9 21m 7 bolts). Start on the right side of a solid flake. Follow the flake to the second bolt, then move left and head up for a steep crux. FA D. Lussier and D. Raber
Career Path (5.8 50m 2 pitches). A pleasant two pitch climb that starts on the large boulder in the middle of the wall.P1:(30m 9 bolts) Clip the first bolt on top of the boulder, then take an airy step onto the face. Move up the face, then traverse right under a bulge, move up through a groove, then traverse left to a slabby finish. P2:(19m 7 bolts) From the belay, climb up to the roof. One tricky but well protected move gets you over the roof. Follow a blocky ladder up to a flake. Finish at a two bolt anchor on the top corner of the wall. Descent:Two rappels or turn right from the top and enjoy a bushy walk off. FA K. Lessard, D. Lussier, D. Raber C. Stowell, and Y. Troutet
Graduation (5.10 28m 8 bolts). Start just left of Career Path.A tricky opening slab move followed by fun, steep climbing in a great plumbline. FA D. Lussier
Prom Date (5.7 50m 2 pitches). A beginner friendly lead that starts just right of the graffiti. Steep for the grade. P1:(30m 10 bolts) Enjoy fun three dimensional climbing with lots of options for hand and footholds. About 2/3rds of the way up, take an awkward step left onto a sloping ramp and traverse upwards to an anchor on a large ledge. P2:(20m 6 bolts) Trend up and right on easy climbing towards a steeper finish. Descent:Two rappels or turn right from the top and enjoy a bushy walk off. FA J. Brooks, N. Coates, D. Raber, and Y. Troutet
Overhead Projector (5.10b 30m 9 bolts). This route climbs up past the graffiti and through the middle of the obvious roof. Start on easy slab that gets harder as you approach the roof. After you pull the roof, enjoy face climbing to the ledge finish. FA D. Lussier
Grade Inflation (5.10a 25m 9 bolts). Technical face climbing brings you to an undercling, then a ledge. Enjoy a layback off the ledge and a few more moves to the mantle finish. FA D. Lussier
Friends & Colleagues (5.10a 25m 8 bolts). This route follows the pillar left of the alcove. A slab start brings you to some steep moves on the face of the pillar. Finish on jugs and some blocky moves. FA D. Raber
The new routing course participants about to set their tools to work on Grad Wall for the first time in September 2019. Photo by David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides.