Nursery Peak

Elevation Gain: 1,645m
Distance: 16.04km
Total Time: 8 hours 28 minutes
Date: February 19th, 2024

Sometime in 2022 while Steven and I were discussing interesting or rarely climbed peaks, he mentioned an obscure summit known as Nursery Peak. It’s hidden out of sight in between Mount Grainger and the VRC summits and not easily spotted from surrounding peaks. Apparently, it has no easy way up in the summer with at least one pitch of low to mid 5th class climbing required. The first ascent used spring snow to climb the “standard” route up the east face at about 60 degrees. Intrigued, I started doing sleuthing around to see what I could dig up about this peak. Only two trip reports really came to light. One in 2011 on ClubTread and then none other than Doug Kasian’s account from his first ascent in 1978. As I would later find out, this summit was quite popular in the 90’s when climbing was prevalent around Grainger. Now in the 2024, it’s fallen into obscurity as knowledge of ascents pre-2000s has failed to transfer over.

Fast forward to the winter of 2024 where we’ve been experiencing a highly unusual season complete with high snow lines, long periods of stable weather and generally bomber snow conditions. As it would happen, Steven extended an invite to do Nursery Peak on the last day of the February long weekend to take advantage of the conditions. The high snow line would mean that we’d likely be able to drive quite far up Eagle Creek FSR to gain access into the Nursery-Grainger cirque. There was still some mystery around the road status, but Chris Gulka generously drove out the day before to confirm we could get far enough in to make an attempt. In turn I invited Alex and we were now a party of 5: Steven, Chris, Noah, Alex and myself. Steven couldn’t leave work until 9:40pm, so I offered to drive Chris and Alex in early so that we could scout further up the road. Chris had been stopped by a fallen tree, but with a chainsaw, there’s a chance we could go a ways beyond.

On Monday evening the three of us drove out and by 10pm we had reached the fallen tree. I was able to dispatch with it using my chainsaw and created enough room for any truck to drive past. We continued for perhaps less than a kilometer before encountering a blown out water bar. A culvert had been blocked and some recent rain event had created a massive 3′ deep trench. There was a narrow crossing that only an ATV could get through on the right side. That was a good starting point though and we decided to try and fill it in. After 30 minutes of rock stacking and refining some nearby deadfall, we had a manageable way across. With two spotters I made it through no issue and then we pressed on. One more trench crossed our paths immediately after, however it was narrow enough to simply crawl through.

Chainsawing the deadfall away
Alex and Chris clearing a bunch of fallen rocks from the road
The crux ditch that we filled in

At last we were on the home stretch and made it to E100 (Eagle Creek FSR), we were stopped a kilometer layer by the snowline, but that put us a mere 3km from the start of the old trail to the cirque. We all setup camp for the night and woke up around 5:30am after a chilly night of tossing and turning. Steven had pulled in around 1:30am and we now grouped up in the early morning hours and headed down the road.

Steven’s view as he pulled in around 1:30am
On the road
Alpenglow on Grainger

After about 3km of road walking, we reached the terminus and made a short bushwhack through alder and onto a large boulder field traverse. We found a reasonable line, occasionally picking up old cairns and then through pleasant old growth forest. About 2 hours into our travel we reached the base of the massive Nursery-Grainger cirque. High above us, we could see the slopes were laden with heavily wind affected snow. The forecast had called for a lingering wind slab problem on SW slopes and it was clear that the wind had certainly been busy shaping the snow pack up here. However, our line would follow NE slopes and we could see some of the slopes had already slid where we needed to head.

Bridge out near the end of the road
Onto the boulder field
Chris exiting the boulder field
Steven leading us through the short stretch of forest
Nearing the cirque. Grainger high above
Nursery Peak appears for the first time. The true summit is the leftmost snow capped near the center of the image

With that, we donned snow shoes and kept our guard up for any signs of reactivity. Steven lead us through a series of ramps to the base of a short ice fall. As we climbed we did found small spots of wind slab, but they were short lived. On the whole, the slabs were breaking off in small chunks and generally bonding well to the underlying snow. Feeling more confident, we continued on and found a rocky step to bypass the short icefall. Here the slopes eased off and we curved around underneath the western ridge system up to Nursery.

We transitioned to snow shoes here
Steven leading the way into the cirque
Weaving through this small ramp system
Now to bypass this short ice water fall
Mixed snow shoeing
Alex’s turn
Getting higher above the cirque here
Ascending with Grainger as the backdrop
Nearing the top of the first slope
The wind affected slopes that we thankfully didn’t need to cross

The snow was quite variable here with a mix of wind scoured surface and deep loose powder. Trail breaking was tough, but with a team of 5 we made relatively quick work. We soon funnelled into a small gully and then topped out at the base of the small glacier below Nursery Peak. We geared up with harnesses and then crossed the glacier up the base of long running ramp on the north east side. Doug Kasian had posted a photo of this ramp in 1978, however he had climbed from the south side up a 60 degree gully. To our knowledge, this ramp had not been ascended yet, nor had the peak been done in winter (although in these conditions it didn’t exactly capture “the spirit” of winter climbing). I initially wanted to check out the standard route, purely out of curiosity, but the ramp looked in perfect condition and so we just transitioned to climb it anyways.

Our route ahead
Chris on one of the tougher sections of trail breaking
Aiming for the left gully
Steven and crew walking through
Summit in sight!
Trio Peak/Spanish Peak. Not to be confused with the nearby Trio Creek Spires
Gearing up for the glacier
Noah and Steven making their way towards the north ramp
The rest of us plodding up

Noah started up first, then Steve and then myself. Lower down the snow was loose and challenging to gain purchase, but the ramp quickly steepened and firmed up into perfect neve. Near the top of the visible portion it steepened to perhaps 50 degrees and then eased off a touch as we passed above the granite ridge line to its right. The ridge gave way to some huge exposure on the west side and the positioning of our route kicked up a notch. The angle continued to ease off and I was soon standing on the summit with more than enough room for the 5 of us.

Noah starting up and Steven wallowing behind
My turn to wallow
Myself, Alex and Chris climbing up
Awesome positioning on the exposed arete
About to top out
Robie Reid and Judge howay off in the distance. Winslow group just a valley over
Looking towards Old Settler across Harrison Lake
Vienesse, Recourse and Clarke. Mount Bardean just poking out behind them
Myself on the summit
Discussing future mountain plans surely

The scenery was outstanding. We were just a valley or two over from some of the most inaccessible peaks in the area. Judge Howay, layered in complex snow slopes nearly stole the show, but Robertson, Kessler and a host of other obscure peaks really caught my interest. Everyone hung out for awhile and then Steven kicked off the descent facing and starting down the exposed arete. We all followed after and regrouped at the base of the glacier.

Looking down at our tracks far below
A scenic descent
Steven captured the rest of us descending

Steven kept his snowshoes on while the rest of us opted for crampons or just boots. Given the variability of the snowback, we had an easy time on the downsloping scoured sections, but numerous face plants wherever the crust broke through. Around 1 hour after departing the base of the summit ramp we had reached the cirque a full 1000m below. An excellent way to kill off some elevation!

Back on the glacier
Alex descending with our summit behind him
Chris heading down the gully
Nearly to the base of the cirque
Back through the boulder field
Final stretch of road
All of us back at the trucks

Our return through the forest was uneventful and we briefly strayed too high up in the boulder field, but before we knew it were on the road again. We reached our trucks after 8.5 hours round trip. Not bad for an obscure peak with some big unknowns! I lead the convoy out and the road was much easier to drive on the return, now that we were acquainted with all the obstacles. All of us met in Mission for some food after and finally parted ways.

Some deep water bars on the way out
Steven getting through

Special thanks to Chris for doing the pre-trip recon on this road! It made all the difference.

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