Climbing Ross Peak
Gary's Account

In 2006, I attempted to climb Ross Peak (9,004’) with Kendal and her boyfriend. We turned back due to a lack of proper equipment – namely, good shoes and rock helmets. Every time I drove up and down the upper reaches of Bridger Canyon, this craggy peak drew my attention and caused me to think about climbing it. Seeing it over the ridge whenever we entered Bridger Bowl added to the temptation.

Ross Peak from the Southeast, 28 December 2008
The lack of snow implies steepness, hence potential for climbing difficulty.
The route goes up the middle of the sunlit face.

I could not find anyone to accompany me and the season was getting late, so I decided to solo the easiest route on October 7. Ross Peak is not a walk-up; many routes are highly technical and the easiest route (Grade I, Class 3) up the south face is not for those with a fear of heights. To compensate for the lack of a companion, I carried a canvas rucksack left over from my days as a serious climber and loaded it with a 50 meter kernmantle rope (in case I needed to rappell on the return), my MSR rock helmet, 2 liters of water, a hearty lunch, a first aid kit, a GPS, spare warm clothing and a space blanket. Total weight: 35 pounds. As added security, I kept in touch with Arthur using our GMRS radios. He was on a ridge about 3 miles away helping count raptors.

The eastern approach to Ross Peak is by a long dirt road and degenerates into a dirt bike trail about 2 miles from the mountain. As I drove up, ominous clouds hung around the mountain. Overcoming doubts, I left the truck and hiked to Ross Pass (7,600’) to find the wind blowing so hard I had to be careful not to be knocked over by gusts. I donned the rock helmet over my hat so the hat would not blow away. The wind chill was probably close to freezing, but Arthur reported things were calm and pleasant where he was. The topography must focus wind into the pass, explaining why nothing more than 2" high grows there.

The strong wind again gave me doubts about continuing. However, the "easy" route up the south side goes via gullies that provide protection, so I continued. The main difficulty with the route is loose rock – one must be careful not to trust hand and foot holds without testing them. Climbing alone has the advantage no-one below will be hit by rocks one knocks off! I kept Arthur posted on my progress in case there was any problem. Arriving at the east end of the summit ridge after about an hour of scrambling, I climbed several prominences, each time to spy a higher point further west. Keeping to the east and north of the prominences gave protection from the wind, but passing through the gaps between them required care. Finally on the summit, I radioed Arthur and waved my arms to make it easier for him to spot me with his binoculars, then signed the register and retreated to a protected spot for lunch.

We continued the check-ins on the descent. I missed a turn and wound up going down the wrong gully. This gully was easier to go down than the way I came up, as it was possible to do a standing glissade in the scree. But the scree made it difficult to go back up, so I continued down after realizing the mistake. The bad news is the mistake put me somewhat east of and lower than the place I started up, so I had to traverse scree for about 300 yards to get back to the trail to return to the truck. Traversing scree is even harder than going up it — especially with a heavy day pack!

Two days later, the weather turned bad and the approach road was impassable.

Thoughts for those who want to try the same approach and route:
  1. Don't bother with the rope; take surveyor's tape and mark the critical points you need to find to make a safe return. Be a good citizen and collect the bits of tape on the return.
  2. The road quickly becomes impassable by 4WD cars and trucks if wet and it gets worse every year; late July through early October are the best months. Gates close off the road during wet and Winter seasons, presumably to limit damage to the road.
  3. Consider taking mountain bikes to reduce the amount of hiking needed to get to and from the pass.
  4. Wear snug-fitting gloves – this rock dries out your hands. Besides, you're liable to slip in the scree and gloves help prevent abrasions.
  5. Wear a rock helmet!