Summit Elevation (m): 2484
Elevation Gain (m): 1000
Round Trip Time (hr): 6
Total Trip Distance (km): 17
Quick ‘n Easy Rating: Class 3/4 – You fall you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.
Technical Rating: SC7; YDS (4th)
GPS Track: Download
Map: Google Maps
After scrambling Drywood Mountain I only had 1 Nugara scramble left in the Castle Wilderness, namely Mount Roche, or Spread Eagle Mountain. I couldn’t find any other trip reports of anyone taking Andrew’s ascent route but I thought it sounded fun and would be worth a try. His dire warnings about not being able to down climb it were a bit ominous though. 😉
Spread Eagle – Roche – Mountain
The day started out with a nice drive from my parking / camping area near the Pincher Ridge trailhead. I got a great sunrise photo of Spread Eagle Mountain and Mount Yarrow from the road. I parked where Nugara indicates and followed the cow trail up the east end of Spionkop Ridge where the trees fade out and the hiking is more open. Following Nugara’s directions I came to the scrambling sections soon enough.
The weather was once again gorgeous – no wind and dry rock. Smoky views were once again part of the day but I’ll take it over wind! The scrambling on Spread Eagle is excellent for the most part. There were some moments of consternation where I wondered if I was going to be able to find weaknesses, but if you’re an experienced Rockies scrambler there are weaknesses were Nugara says there are.
I found the crux to be less exposed than I was expecting – I think with dry rock conditions it could be down climbed but you need long legs to do a stem move off the wall in order to do it. I compared it to Hawk Mountain’s (Jasper) crux but unfortunately there’s no obvious bypass on this one. The terrain after the crux was a bit of a surprise since Nugara basically says ” pick your way up” after the crux. I expected pretty tame terrain but it was continuous low-difficult scrambling with route finding all the way to the summit after the crux. Nothing too hard but I wasn’t expecting it. The rock was great and so were the views so I wasn’t complaining.
After reaching the summit I spent some time snacking and taking in the great views – especially west into Waterton and north to Loaf Mountain. When I was ready to continue, I began the traverse over to Mount Yarrow.
Mount Yarrow is an unofficial peak on the southeast end of Spread Eagle (Roche) Mountain. It looked pretty close from the summit of Spread Eagle and I thought maybe 15 minutes would cover the traverse time to its summit. As with most ridge traverses, I underestimated the terrain that’s hidden in its curves. The traverse is pretty easy but there is more elevation loss than appears and more route-finding too. I took just over 30 minutes to make my way from Roche to Yarrow but it was worth every minute due to the excellent views both east and west along it.
There was no cairn or register on either Roche or Yarrow, but that didn’t matter. I thoroughly enjoyed both summits in the perfect late September sunshine.
The descent was quick following Nugara’s description. I found the loose scree section would be awful to ascend – it was bad enough going down it due to rock fall. At least it was quick. The drainage led right to the road and I simply walked out from there. It was funny to meet the gas plant workers who thought I was lost. When I showed them where I’d come from they thought I was completely off my rocker. They couldn’t get over that I was solo – “what about bears”? I told them there was more risk of falling off the cliffs than getting mauled but they didn’t seem convinced.
I highly recommend any of the Castle Management Area scrambles – they are colorful, interesting, bush-free (for the most part) and the rock is generally very good. For the best scrambling experiences on these peaks follow Nugara’s ascent routes if the rock is dry. Although some of them are difficult it’s good fun and with his easy hikes off you don’t have to worry about the down climbing. Unless you’re off route. Then you’re probably not going to have fun. 😉