Monday, September 21, 2009

Red Rock Rim Traverse (Galwey - Dungarvan - Cloudy Ridge)

Length: ~18km
View-o-meter: 4/5
Scrambling Difficulty: Difficult
Total Trip Difficulty: Difficult
Best Feature: Ridge running on the edge of the prairie
Worst Part: A bit of sidehilling north of Galwey

The East Rim of the Red Rock Canyon parkway is a scrambler's dream. The terrain has lots of accessible, moderate, and relatively non-committing scrambling for a long ridge run. The overall distance of this trip isn't too bad. While you only gain three (or two) named peaks, you cut across three (or four) more unnamed ones.

Route Description
There are a couple of ways to start things out
  1. Bellevue Ridge - This adds a couple of km (and hours) to the trip. It also cuts out some of the difficulties on other ascent ridges, however it doesn't change overall technical difficulties.
  2. Galwey - You get to ascend via a pretty good trail, but have to make up for this with an extra bit of distance of sidehilling shale above some ledges
  3. West ridge of the unnamed peak north of Galwey - You get some very nice scrambling, but miss out on Galwey's peak.

Since most scramblers will have done Galwey, and since you have to do some rather unpleasant sidehilling if you ascend this way, I would recommend heading up the West ridge of the unnamed peak north of Galwey.

Start at the Coppermine Creek parking lot. Walk back down to the main road and walk up the pavement for a few hundred meters. This will avoid a bit of thorny bushes you otherwise have to wade through if you head straight across the creek.

The ridgeline is open and easy to ascend. It is similar to many of the other ridges in this area - minus any annoying deadfall.

The lower ridge line which leads from Red Rock to the unamed peak just north of Galwey

Beautiful scrambling leading up to the unamed peak just north of Galwey. Another shot

As the ridge steepens, you'll hit a 20m headwall. There is a 4th class chimney you can head up, however, I suspect most people will traverse over a few hundred meters to get to some 3rd class terrain. A few more sections of 3rd class ledges exist before the unamed summit pyramid.

South West ridge of the unamed peak just north of Galwey

3rd class scrambling leading to the unamed peak just north of Galwey

The summit pyramid has some very nice, solid fossil algae. The scrambling is 4th class and quite fun.

The summit pyramid of the unamed peak just north of Galwey as seen from the north (easy 4th class)

This unnamed peak has excellent views back down to Galwey. Getting to the saddle before Dungarvan requires either heading up to the ridge line where you eventually run through a few ledges, or doing a long side hill on an intermittent sheep trail. The saddle itself has a nice little meadow.

A rather imposing band of fossil algae appears to bar progress up to Dungarvan. However, as you get to the base of this band, a couple of 3rd -maybe easy 4th class gullies appear.

3rd class gullies through the fossil algae band protecting Dungarvan's south-east ridge
Continue heading up the red shale bands leading to Dungarvan. The further left you traverse on Dungarvan's peak, the easier the scrambling is. The early chimmneys range from 5th to 4th class. The easiest route is on a ramp that is mainly 3rd class with perhaps one move of 4th class. However, the terrain on the east side of the pyramid is very exposed, so, while things are 3rd class, most people will take things very gently.

Dungarvan. The suggested traverse goes from right to left.
From Dungarvan's peak, continue heading down the ridge to the north on mostly 2nd class terrain. At the next saddle you will have to expend a bit of energy cutting left to avoid the difficulties on the arete. You can cut things down to 3rd class, so watch out you don't get suckered into things that are harder than you want.

It is possible to avoid this unnamed peak by traversing along a goat trail partway up. This takes off on the right side of the ridge about half-way up.

Cloudy ridge on the right and the unamed peak on the left from which the descent ridge leaves

The rest of the way over to Cloudy Ridge is similar to a lot of other terrain already covered. At the saddle before Cloudy Ridge you will have to do one or two semi-exposed 3rd class steps.

From Cloudy Ridge's peak, go back down to the last unnamed summit and descend its southwest ridge. Surprisingly, there is no real scrambling anywhere on the descent. As you get to the grassy terrain, stick to the nose. You should be able to make it within a 100m of the creek bed without any deadfall. Near the bottom, but right. The left (south) fork of Red Rock canyon has a 20m-30m waterfall that, while extremely picturesque could hang you up.

Descending to Red Rock canyon via the south west ridge of Cloudy Ridge

Heading out Red Rock canyon is extremely easy and picturesque. Recent floods have filled the river bottom with nice gravel. The steep canyon walls are reminiscent of Utah slot canyons. Just before you get to the upper Red Rock canyon bridge, you hit a huge log jam. Drop down a fun little cave to make it out to the parking lot.

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