Pulpit Rock is an iconic feature in Nelson, British Columbia, and also the most popular hike in the city. Dozens of people a day tackle the three-kilometre trail to the lookout at the top of the bluff to enjoy one of the best views around. However, a lot of people don’t know there are rock climbing routes up the face of Pulpit. “The Date” was the first to be developed there in 2008 and is so named because the first ascensionist, David Lussier, thought it was a great, casual outing for Nelson couples. It’s a three-pitch 5.10a that is described on page 89 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide. Seven years later Nelson local Vince Hempsall developed another three-pitch route on Pulpit to celebrate the engagement to his wife, thus the name “The Engagement.” Dave and Vince then joined forces in 2016 to create “The Fling,” a two-pitch route that requires you to fling your body around an arête to gain a crack system near the mid-point of the second pitch. And last year, Vince again returned to project the show-stopper slab half way up the Pulpit face. Many people have top-roped that section of smooth granite but it didn’t go free until the key hold was unlocked: a mono on a crystal that looks like a diamond poking out of the granite slab. Naturally, the name of the route had to be “The Diamond.” Finally, this year visiting Australian Bokkie Hairsine and Nelson local Craig Stowell set to work to scrub a line on the other side of the gully. The result is the aptly named “Four On The Side” and, for good measure, Bokkie put a new pitch up beside the “The Fling.” Below are descriptions of the routes that have been developed on Pulpit Rock since the establishment of “The Date” in 2008. For full access details, see page 89 in the West Kootenay Rock Guide.
Gear: All routes are sport and a 60m rope and 14 quickdraws are adequate, including two long slings.
Access: See page 89 of the West Kootenay Rock Guide.
The Date 5.10a SPORT
P1: Start up the left hand (south-facing) slab and veer right continuing over blocks to a traverse. Finish below the dark slab at a station. (25m 5.7) P2: To avoid rope drag, use long slings on the first 2 bolts of this pitch. Step right into the dirty gully and then back left onto thearête. After three bolts the route splits – go right for the 5.6 variation or left for the 5.10a. Finish at ta station above a short slab. (25m 5.6 or 5.10a) P: Step left and then back right up to a roof and pull through this using a giant hand hold (crux). Continue to the chains. (26m, 5.10a) (D Lussier, M Terlingen 08)
The Engagement 5.10b SPORT
Starts as for “The Date”. P1: Follow the first four bolts of “The Date” and then at the open-book corner, step left and finesse your way up the slab past 4 bolts to the large ledge and an anchor. (26m 5.10b) P2: Climb towards the roof, step right onto the face and continue up the easy slab to the anchor. (22m 5.10b) P3: Continue up and left, through the two roofs, then veer left to another roof. Step right and follow easy terrain to the final anchors. (26m 5.10b) (V Hempsall 15)
The Fling 5.11a SPORT
From the belay platform at the base of Pulpit Rock start on the right hand (west-facing) wall. P1: Follow the bolts to a bulge and pull the move up and to the left. Finish at the same chains as the first pitch of “The Date.” (22m 5.9) P2: Step left and down from the anchor to a small bush. High step onto a ledge and, using the arête, gently pull onto the slab. (This is the crux move of the pitch, aside from the thin crack. See video above for beta as to how to pull the move.) Follow the arête to a good rest then gently fling your body around the left side of the arête and into a corner. Climb the thin finger crack clipping the bolts on the right then step back right onto the face. Continue up easier terrain to the anchor. (20m 5.11a) P3: Finish on either the third pitch of “The Date” or “The Engagement.” (V Hempsall, D Lussier 16)
The Diamond 5.12a SPORT
This one-pitch climb is located to the right of the second pitch of “The Fling” and on the steepest part of the slab. To access it, climb either the first pitch of “The Date” or “The Fling.” From the anchors, step directly up onto the slab, then balance and finesse past the first two bolts. Trend right past the key crystal (the “diamond”) to a good finger ledge. Continue up to the open book corner and muscle your way to the top of it before stepping left onto easier ground that leads to the anchor up and right. Finish on either the third pitch of “The Engagement” or “The Date.” (V Hempsall 17)
We Met On Vernon Street 5.10a SPORT
This one-pitch climb starts 5 metres right of the platform at the base of “The Fling” at a horn of rock atop a large boulder. (There are bolts for the belayer.) Follow the bolts onto the slab and through a steep corner. (If you’re so inclined, take a .75 cam to protect the move.) Pass 3 more bolts to the anchors atop the first pitch of “The Date.” Continue on “The Fling,” “The Date,” or “The Diamond.” (P “Bokkie” Hairsine 18)
Four On The Side 5.10c SPORT
A four-pitch climb that follows the right side of the gully that splits the Pulpit face. The first two pitches are an example of adventure climbing in the city but the third boasts a spectacular move through an exposed roof. You can access this pitch by traversing right from the first anchors on “The Date,” across the gully, past the ring bolts to the two-bolt anchor below the obvious corner. The access for the bottom pitches of this route are different than the rest on Pulpit as it starts lower on the face. Follow the regular approach onto the talus slop and look for the first rough track on your right. Follow this for 20 metres, past a small, mossy cliff, to the base of the gully and a belay bolt. P1: Traverse up and left through the lichen and dirt. (27m 5.9) P2: Side pull off the belay to reach the large detached flake. Continue up through progressively cleaner rock. Ignore the first ring bolts you see and traverse 5 metres right of them over easy slab to the two-bolt anchor below the corner. (28m 5.10a) P3: As mentioned above, you can skip the first two pitches and access this one by traversing to it from the first anchor of “The Date.” Climb up the corner to the diving board and then through the roof (crux). Continue up the corner and over the low-angle rock to the anchor. (28m 5.10c) P4: Follow the ramps up and right to the roof. Use the finger crack to power through it then continue on easy terrain to the top anchor. (28m 5.10a) (P “Bokkie” Hairsine, C. Stowell 18)
For more written descriptions and updates of other areas in the West Kootenays, download the West Kootenay Rock Guide updates.