Climbing King’s Peak North Spur Route

King’s Peak stands guard high and mighty within the boundaries of Strathcona Provincial Park located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Rising to the elevation of 2065m it holds position as the 9th tallest peak on the island. The first summit was achieved in 1913 and since then has become an Island Alpine Classic. Here is my trip report on climbing King’s Peak north spur route.

The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as King’s ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I have been up Kings several times prior but there was one route that had eluded my schedule a few times and now was the time to make it a reality.  The North Spur route is an island classic with exhilarating exposure , endless views and a good entry into 5th class rock terrain. The best time to climb this route is late spring when the snow has compacted and risk of avalanche is minimal. Safety is paramount accessing the route as you climb up the chute of the main gully up onto the North Glacier to reach the solid rock of the North Ridge.

King’s Peak Trailhead

The trailhead is located on highway #28 just past Lady Falls headed towards Gold River roughly 67km west of Campbell River. Here you can turn left at the Kings Peak highway sign and travel just over 1km to the parking area. Alternatively if you have a 4×4 you can turn left prior to this turnoff and go up the power line road which which meets up with the trail higher up and takes a good 1hr off your total hike time.

My good friend Jain, a seasoned alpine enthusiast was game to join me so we set out to sleep at the trailhead and climb the early next morning at sunrise. A good nights sleep and we set out at 630am walking past the beautiful Kings Peak trail to the mountain created by the local Alpine Club the Heathens. The trail to lower meadow at the base of the climbing routes meanders several switchbacks and waterfalls through beautiful old growth taking anywhere from 2-3 hrs for most fit hikers.

Once we reached the lower meadow the Main Glacier Gully was straight before us, conditions were absolutely perfect. On when the crampons and out came the ice axes as we slowly and steadily climbed until we reached the massive North Kings Glacier.

 main gully Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Looking up the Main Gully from the Lower Meadow – Not to be attempted in high Avy risk times

Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Once on the glacier trend to your left to gain access to the North Spur

Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Sunny skies and the ridge of the North Spur across the skyline


King’s Peak North Spur Route

From here you will continue up the glacier until you see a nice traverse heading to your left. We made our way below the North Ridge heading to the NE where the access point of the North Spur can be found.

Here we climbed what I felt was the crux of the route as we had to go up the steep wall making very exposed moves from 4th to low 5th until we reached the ridge top. Once on top we made quick time working along the North Spur headed for the main summit.

The North Spur has amazing atmospheric views as you have the NorthEast glacier on one side with the North Glacier on the other. About half way up the route you come to the infamous North Spur Notch, a break in the ridge with exposed drops to either side. You will descend into the notch and take  a very airy leap of faith across the gap when the two ledges are close enough, then climbing out and continuing you way along the ridge.

The final bit of the route is completed with an extremely exposed spine where you reach the last blocky face of the summit, route finding for the easiest weaknesses until you are standing on the summit block.

King's Peak NE Face Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Once on the ridge the views of the NorthEast face of Kings Peak are amazing

Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

The final exposed spine of the North Spur before reaching the class 4 blocky terrain to the summit

Summit King's Peak Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

No finer view into the mighty peaks of the Elk River Valley corridor than from the summit of King’s peak


King’s Peak Summit

We could not have asked for better conditions with a slight breeze, blue skies and a warm sun on our faces. At the summit we met up with Ryan VanHorne who was back solo to capture his 2nd first ascent in a week of the East Buttresses of Kings. Check out the article at Gripped Magazine  Then shortly after fellow Alpine Club members Peggy, Roger and Roxy reached the summit via the North Glacier and Kings Queens Colouir.  It turned out to a good old summit party swapping stories, laughs and of course chocolate.

East Buttress King's Peak Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Ryan Van Horne showing us his recently climbed first ascent of the East Buttress

King's Peak Summit Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Scheming and Dreaming, telling tall tales and hopes of new conquest


Descending After Climbing King’s Peak North Spur Route

For climbing King’s Peak north spur route there are a couple of options when it comes to descent. You can retrace your steps down the north spur, you can head down King’s North Glacier or you can choose West Ridge. We chose to enjoy the West Ridge, a nice relaxing class 3 route on solid snow. Some glissading and a few steep snow faces made it fun and exciting. An interesting down climb of  the west gully dropping into the lower meadow in mixed late spring melted out snow conditions soon found us having a wonderful late lunch break along a glacier fed creek.

From the King’s Peak lower meadow our group made our way back down the Kings Peak trail and into the forest to our waiting cars. Of course there were cold ciders and lagers waiting of to celebrate a fun big day in the alpine. A fantastic route and a beautiful day finishing at 7pm putting over 1800 m elevation gain under our belts over a roughly 14km loop.

King's Peak West Ridge Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

After dropping off the summit of King’s you then traverse the lower sub peak aptly named Queen’s peak

King's Peak West ridge Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Late spring conditions are always fun as temps are warm but snow allows fast easy travel

King's Peak West Ridge Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Headed down the West Ridge with the North Spur striking out in the distant skyline ~ what a fine route!

Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route

Lower Meadow looking back up to the access gully that leads to the West Ridge we just descended

Climbing King's Peak North Spur Route Lower Meadow

Good People , Alpine Beauty and lunch ~ this is what good times are all about.


Successfully Climbing King’s Peak North Spur Route

The many peaks of Strathcona Park reward hikers and climbers of all experience levels and confidence with endless options. I highly recommend climbing King’s Peak north spur route if you have the experience and skills to safely do so.

Research Prepare and the Ten Essentials

Take the time to find one for yourself but please always research the route and understand the risks. Leave an emergency plan with a contact, be prepared with your 10 essentials and lastly ALWAYS practice Leave No Trace wilderness ethics.

Have fun out there and #ExploreBeyondTheUsual

Further Reading from Resources and Alpine Training

Happiest Outdoors Blog ~ Leave No Trace Principles

Phillip Stone’s Kings Peak route card (Please buy his book Island Alpine Select & support his efforts )

Island Alpine Guides – Intro to Mountaineering

Alpine Club of Canada – Vancouver Island Section

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • colleen harrington says:

    Thank you Chris for this storyline and detailed picturesque travel to King’s Peak North Spur Summit. It was this, Kevin Huntington’s last (and fatal) adventure this summer, August 13th, that left me to wondering, how does one go up onto a summit with hopes to spend the night and tragically fall off of it. The detailed pictures here (if being the same summit, which I think may have been) show the limited area of the North spur summit.
    Thank you again, for this appreciated, detailed effort to King’s Peak North Spur summit.

    • Chris Istace says:

      It was a tragic incident and it is with my hopes and wishes that the final moments were quick and the bliss of being in the alpine his last thoughts and feelings. It was indeed this route that the incident took place and I hope to return next year to show my respect to him and his families loss. My best wishes to you and thank-you for your kind words.

  • colleen harrington says:

    good read, great pictures!!

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