Summit Elevation (m): 2665
Trip Date: Friday, July 03, 2020
Elevation Gain (m): 1900m
Round Trip Time (hr): 9.5
Total Trip Distance (km): 26
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3 – you fall, you break something
Difficulty Notes: No difficulties to Mist Ridge. Some moderate scrambling to the highest summit via the west ridge.
Technical Rating: SC6 YDS (Class III)
Map: Google Maps
As Friday July 3rd approached, it looked like once again the weather gods were smiling on those of us with an extra long weekend planned. (As long as we didn’t have outdoor plans for Saturday again that is.) Wietse and I have long planned an ascent of Gibraltar Mountain via Mist Ridge as per Andrew and Jose and this plan finally bubbled to the top of our list and became the first pair of objectives for July 2020. After 3 hours of brisk hiking and gaining over 1000 meters of height we found ourselves on the north summit of Mist Ridge with excellent views to Gibraltar Mountain. Actually we’d been looking over at Gibraltar for almost 2 hours already – it’s hard not to notice it from the ridge!
The couple who were at the summit of Mist Ridge when we arrived were a bit surprised when we told them that “our approach was done” and told them we were traversing over and up Gibraltar Mountain. At their pace I’m sure they could have added it too, but they were much smarter than us, choosing to slow down and enjoy the rest of their day with an easy hike back to the parking lot. The descent to the col was fairly easy, steep hiking at most. We avoided a few small cliffs on the way and endured some brief bushwhacking before taking a nice break in warm sunshine at the col. I was surprised how big, snowy and distant Mount Burns was looking from here. That’s another peak that’s been on my list for many years now. Eventually we finished our lunch and slowly started ascending the low shrub and scree slopes up towards the west ridge of Gibraltar.
The lower west slopes of Gibraltar from the col were a mix of low shrubs, wildflowers and scree. It worked fairly good for a quick ascent and soon we were grinding our way up to the west ridge. Once at the ridge things got fun again. The ridge started out as stacked boulders and rocks but soon became fun slab with great views down into the Sheep River far below. The scrambling stayed fairly easy to the false summit which was clearly lower than the more distant and tougher looking higher one to the east.
The traverse to the highest summit was mostly moderate scrambling on the ridge proper with some options to make things easier or harder. We were a bit cautious with the traverse based on Jose’s and Andrew’s reports of a stiff downclimb avoided on the south (right) side of the ridge crest. We took a bypass route just below the summit before grovelling back up along a rocky rib on scree. The final steps to the summit were along the ridge proper again and we summitted to awesome views just over 5 hours after leaving the parking lot.
After enjoying the wonderful summit views it was time to decide on an exit route. The obvious way was back the way we came. If it took 5 hours to approach there was almost no way egress would take more than that. But then there was Jose’s report of an “excellent goat track” along the east side of Mist Ridge leading all the way through the valley to under the south peak of Mist Ridge. To be honest I think we were both very dubious about this reported “trail” or at the very least that we’d find it, but for some reason we decided to go offroading and do some honest-to-goodness explor8ion in the Cliff Creek valley far below us to the south. The initial part of the descent down scree slopes directly south of the summit was easy and fast. We noticed pretty early on that we were losing more height than the col to Mist Ridge, somewhat negating any advantage. But we were committed now…
As we descended to Cliff Creek we continued to debate how best to proceed from there. We were alarmingly low down now – way beneath the Gibraltar / Mist Ridge col and seriously debating our choice. There really wasn’t an option. Given the vagueness of Jose’s report we crossed Cliff Creek and started bushwhacking up a smaller feeder creek running parallel with Mist Ridge.
Honestly the alternate route was pretty in places but mostly sucked. Neither Wietse nor I would recommend it for any other reason than the one Jose had for taking it – namely a serious thunderstorm. Sure! We found amazing goat trails but they all petered out quickly. We found beautiful wildflowers but nothing like the ones on Mist Ridge. We even saw two huge mountain goats which was very cool, but mostly we struggled through tight trees, endless gullies coming off Mist Ridge and never quite knowing where we should go. Eventually we finally worked our way back to the Mist Ridge trail below the south end and whooped aloud that “we’ll never have to repeat that crap!”.
With the relief of being done the side hill bushwhack we got an energy burst and continued quickly down the Mist Ridge Trail to the Mist Creek junction. From there we walked back through the swampy section and out across highway 40 to the Mist Creek parking lot.
Combining Mist Ridge and Gibraltar Mountain worked out really well for us. With a total trip time under 10 hours it wasn’t even that long of a day – much shorter than we expected given other reports. I recommend this outing for fit parties who like to keep moving and can handle some moderate to upper moderate scrambling and route finding. I would also recommend returning over Mist Ridge and perhaps down to Rickert’s Pass and exiting via the Mist Creek trail just to avoid some of the undulations on the ridge at the end of a long day.