Summit Elevation (m): 2430
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 3 – you fall, you break your leg
Difficulty Notes: The traverse from Rainy Ridge to Three Lakes Ridge is certainly more difficult than the ascent of Rainy Ridge although we didn’t feel it was more than “moderate” via our route. NOTE: This trip was part of a 4 peak traverse resulting in the distance and elevation gains indicated.
Technical Rating: SC6; YDS (3rd)
After approaching the Middlepass Lakes and scrambling up Rainy Ridge it was time to traverse towards the creatively named, “Three Lakes Ridge” – the professional cartographers must have been on holidays when these peaks were monikered. Nugara mentions the traverse between Rainy and Three Lakes Ridge as doable but not highly recommended, especially in the direction we were going to be doing it. How difficult could it be right?
As Nugara mentions, the ridge down to the col from Rainy is pretty easy at first. The whole traverse reminded us of similar traverses in the Castle Wilderness such as Lys and Barnaby Ridge. We quickly came to the first difficulty, a very steep chimney / gully on skier’s right as we ran up against an impossibly steep cliff on the ridge proper. Despite being very steep and quite exposed, the chimney felt no more than moderate thanks to the fact that it is a chimney and we could stem down it. Whatever you do here, do *not* try descending south (left) of the ridge to bypass the cliffs as you’ll end up descending a long way before overcoming them!
After regaining the crest of the ridge we continued along it for a short bit before I asked if maybe we should simply bypass the next set of complications on our left (south) already before even getting to them? Nugara mentions backtracking and finding a route down the south aspect of the ridge anyway, so why not just start side-hilling a bit early in hopes of a more obvious and gentle descent? This plan worked out beautifully. We followed our noses and the terrain down to our left and managed to sneak through and past several lines of cliffs that presumably cause issues higher up on the ridge crest. Before long we could see a pretty easy side-hilling line to the col and followed it, thereby avoiding almost all the difficulties that Nugara mentions and putting the route at a solid “moderate” instead of “difficult”.
From the col we enjoyed sunshine and great views of larch forests on either side of the ridge and lakes on all sides too. Rainy Lakes to our left (south) and Middlepass Lakes to our right and behind us. The east ridge of Three Lakes Ridge was much easier than it appeared from afar, the only detour being around the pinnacle that Nugara mentions. Near the top the terrain steepened and loosened a bit but sticking climber’s left of the crest worked well. Looking back at the exposed step on the ridge from the summit, I can agree with Nugara that this is certainly a difficult route and is likely best avoided since it’s so easy to detour. I’m a big believer in making things as easy and safe as possible rather than difficult just for the sake of it. I figure life throws me enough curve balls, I don’t need to create my own for entertainment purposes. 🙂 I guess that’s also why I’m a scrambler at heart and not a very good climber – I always avoid the hard stuff when I reasonably can.
We popped out on the summit of Three Lakes Ridge just as the sun finally broke free of the stubborn cloud it was hiding behind for most of the day. Our views were very fine as we soaked them in and enjoyed lunch. It had taken us around 1:45 hours to make the traverse from Rainy Ridge and a total of 5.5 hours from the parking lot, which was a bit longer than expected but did include a coffee break or two along the way. After snapping a slew of photos it was time to start our descent and traverse to the highest peak in the area, “Jake Smith” – an unofficial summit along the ridge towards Scarpe Mountain.
We weren’t 100% sure what the route would entail as I didn’t have Nugara’s description on my phone (I usually take photos of the guidebook but didn’t count on JSP and RA for this trip) so we’d be winging it.