Crater Mountain

October 14-15, 2017


Keremeos / Cathedral Provincial Park, BC

Crater Mountain is a broad “sky island” near the small town of Keremeos along Highway 3 corridor. The far eastern reach of BC Cascades is better known for the deep deserted valleys as well as the famous Cathedral Provincial Park. The park has some of its unique geologies but is unfortunately too far away from Vancouver (close to 400 km) hence not many peak-baggers actually come this way. The summit of Crater Mountain is actually just outside the park and the approach is entirely different. The easiest way is by driving up the decommissioned Crater Mountain FSR for as far as possible (at least 5 km) and then walking up the rest. The road goes pretty much all the way to the summit so there’s no technical difficulties whatsoever although it’s a long slog if you have to park low down.

The trickiest thing for this weekend was to pick the right objective. Fresh dump of snow occurred even at low elevation and then the weather forecast downgraded at the last minute. The only area with at least some form of “sunshine” in the forecast was towards far south-east past Manning Park. Most peaks down that corridor by Osoyoos are just bumps but Cathedral Provincial Park might worth a visit. Unfortunately the jeep services are over at this time of a year but then I noticed Crater Mountain by simply browsing the maps. It’s a bit too short as a overnight outing but I couldn’t come up with any better idea, neither could Alex so that’s it.

Not knowing how far exactly we could drive up that access road we left home at around 6:30 am in the morning. About 350 km down Highway 1 and then Highway 3 later we turned south onto Ashnola River Road. This is the access road to Cathedral Provincial Park but as soon as it turns gravel we would pay close attention to the Crater Mtn. spur road. There are lots of cross ditches on this narrow and steep road but the Tacoma did an excellent job. I managed to craw across every single ditch without scrapping the bottom and it was eventually the snow that stopped us from driving further. With just regular all-season tires and without chains I didn’t want to push but even so we had shaved off 5 km distance and 600 m elevation gain. The weather was shitty though as it was snowing pretty damn hard…

Crater Mountain via Crater Mtn. FSR. GPX DL

It’s depressing to say the least but then we did manage to dispatch a good amount of road walk. After a couple hours of napping we eventually dragged ourselves out by 3 pm. It was still snowing but what else we could do. Beside that we had to haul snowshoes thank to the unknown amount of snowfall and this surely made a heavy pack. The road walk was boring and mundane with the only “interesting” feature being a couple confusing side branches. The first major branch you have to take a left turn even though it seemed like most of the trucks and ATVs are going right. Those are probably hunters or 4×4 enthusiasts. The narrower left hand branch is the one leading to the summit. Higher up there’s also a sign saying “no motorized access beyond this point” but it’s irrelevant to us and then there came another couple side-branches. The key is to have a pre-drawn GPS track.. Upon reaching treeline we decided to not go any further and instead, set up camp right by a flat spot in the woods. Quiet and peaceful.

This picture sets the tone…

Alex seems like having quite some fun with this road walk.

No motorized access.

As much as the views we got on Day 1

Not a bad camp site. The downside being shielded from views.

There’s lots of time to kill in the evening as darkness literally fell at around 6 pm. That’s a wee bit too early to go to bed so Alex had a wonderful idea of making a fire. I don’t have much experience with that but Alex’s an expert. There’s lots of dead woods and dry grass nearby thank to the leeward location of this area. The big fire lasted for at least a few hours and was still going even when we returned to camp the next day AFTER the ascent..

Alex knows how to enjoy a backcountry camping trip!

The morning of Day 2 we woke up later than expected. The weather had totally cleared up which certainly helped boosting our motivation that in no time we were off towards the summit. Much of the ascent was still following the old road up and snowshoes were still not required (they were left at camp for show). The post-holing was boot-top at the deepest. The road took us around the south and then west side of the summit and by the time we left that road it’s literally just a short walk to the highest point. There really isn’t much worth documenting.

In the morning we woke up with this views!

Alex charging up the remaining road walk.

As much as the road walk goes…

Would be awesome skiing terrain too.

Looking back at the upper section of this road

The summit is in sight now.

Gaining the “summit ridge” now looking back.

There really isn’t a lot of things to see.

Summit Panorama from Crater Mountain. Click to view large size.

Lakeview Mountain

Grimface Mountain etc. in the core of Cathedral Provincial Park

Alex and myself on the summit of Crater Mountain

After admiring the views (best was towards Cathedral Provincial Park) we decided to traverse the summit ridge to make the most out of this peak. The most enjoyable part was actually climbing to the top of a subsidiary bump with a bit of real scrambling. This bump offers great views down into Keremeos valley as well so totally worth the extra effort. And then we bailed straight down the south slopes and then leisurely walked back to camp.

View from another high point. This one has a cairn but a tiny bit lower

Northwards view.

This is looking down into Keremeos valley and further into the southern Okanagan

This is looking east into Snowy Mtn. Wilderness

Scrambling up a subsidiary summit. Photo by Alex

A panorama from the subsidiary summit. Click to view large size.

Very cool low clouds looking down into the valley.

This is southern view into Washington state

The true summit from the eastern outlier

Heading back to camp.

About 20 minutes were spent breaking camp. The tent was totally soaked thank to the snow melt from the trees but everything was stuffed into the pack nonetheless. The descent from camp was a pure mind-numbing game with nothing but a plod down forested road. The grade was very consistent and so was the views (just trees)…

Going down now.

Road plod, plod, and plod…

These columns are cool though. I think it’s just part of Crater Mtn.

The snow’s almost gone.

One last picture of this boring road

It’s Taco time!

The crux came at the end. The warm temperature had melted most of the snow on road but then this is normally such a dry area that the road had completely turned into a mud show. With just the stock tires I had to drive down at pretty much slower than 5 km/h and even that I felt very insecure at a couple spots. Thankfully nobody was coming up at the same time. The rest of the way back home (350 km) was quite a scenic ride actually.