Red Argillite Peaks (Rainy Traverse)

Summit Elevation (m): 2630
Trip Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Elevation Gain (m): 2200
Round Trip Time (hr): 12
Total Trip Distance (km): 33
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain your wrist or break your leg
Difficulty Notes: Moderate scrambling at most despite appearances – note that this summit is actually west of what Nugara calls “RA” and is more scrambly than his peak. NOTE: This trip was part of a 4 peak traverse resulting in the distance and elevation gains indicated.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
GPS Track: Gaia
MapGoogle Maps

Phil and I weren’t sure where “RA” Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both the west and east “RA” peaks. From the col with Jake Smith Peak, Phil and I regained part of RA Peak’s south ridge before traversing easy SW slopes to the col on smatterings of sheep trails worn into the scree. As we approached the west peak, the summit block looked harder and harder but we assumed from earlier views off of Three Lakes Ridge that the angle would be less concerning up close and continued onward. After dropping the packs again (we were tiring at this point – or at least I was), we continued up to the summit following the east ridge right up obvious slabs to the top. As expected, the terrain wasn’t nearly as fierce as it appeared earlier and was no more than easy to moderate scrambling with some exposure.

Views back to Jake Smith Peak and Scarpe Mountain (R).
Despite being a rather lowly outlier, Red Argillite West was worth the minimal effort it took to tack on with its east summit. Mount Miles at right.

We didn’t spend too much time on the west summit before turning back and descending the east ridge to the west ridge of the slightly higher east summit and the start of our route back down into the Middlepass Creek Valley.

The ascent of the east peak was easy and before long we were topping out and continuing down the ridge heading north towards Three Lakes Ridge where we’d come from hours earlier on our Rainy Traverse towards Jake Smith Peak. Our plan was to take a falling traverse line across the easy angled western slopes of Three Lakes Ridge before bottoming out in the Middlepass Creek Valley below and joining the track running back up to Middle Kootenay Pass.

A great view north (L) east (C) and south (R) includes Middle Kootenay, Haig, Southfork, Three Lakes Ridge, “RA” east, Jake Smith and Scarpe Mountain.

Dropping down to the Middlepass Creek Valley via the west slopes of Three Lakes Ridge wasn’t particularly difficult and we enjoyed a pretty quick descent for the most part. There were a few bushy sections and we got lucky especially towards the end where we managed to drop down between some cliffs coming off the summit of Three Lakes by the skin of our teeth! Gotta be good to get lucky I guess. Towards the bottom of the valley we noticed that we were rapidly losing daylight and we desperately wanted to finish at least the first few km’s of difficult downhill biking before dark so we stepped up the pace a bit. This was a bit frustrating because at valley bottom we also started hitting some thicker bushwhacking, including a short stretch of alders across a stream bed. As darkness really started settling in we finally reached the track ascending to Middle Kootenay Pass from the BC side and set off for our waiting bikes as quickly as we could after a 2200m day.

We arrived at the pass and our waiting bikes just as darkness really settled in. There was nothing to do but don headlamps and make the best of what tiny amount of daylight still existed, so off we went! The bike ride down in the dark was “interesting” to say the least.  Put it this way – I’m really impressed Phil survived it with no injuries. I would not recommend descending this track via bike in the dark with only a tiny headlamp for illumination!

The “Rainy Traverse” was a raging success and I loved almost all of it. On hindsight I do wish we’d left about 2 hours earlier and squeezed in Scarpe Mountain because now we “have” to go a heckuva long ways just to tag that one official summit. I would also recommend camping at the Middlepass Lakes if you can, to allow a great multi-day, multi-peak adventure in the area. Day 1 could be Middle Kootenay Mountain and Rainy Ridge with a camp at the lakes. Day 2 could be Three Lakes Ridge, Red Argillite Peaks, Jake Smith Peak and Scarpe Mountain. Day 3 could be Miles and Krowicki peaks. That would be a pretty fantastic set of peakbagging days! I would also highly recommend doing these mountains in the fall when other peaks further north and west might be snow covered and out of shape.

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