Spread Eagle Mountain and the West Peak
This would have been a good trip had we only summited Spread Eagle Mountain, but by traversing west along the ridge to climb a high point it became a great one! Traversing an airy ridge with pinnacles capped our trip nicely.
When Dinah and I attempted Spread Eagle four years ago via the northeast ridge, we turned back because of snow and wet conditions. Andrew Nugara would later use this route to tag the summit. But the long, arduous route held little interest for us when we realized we could save time (and avoid the worrisome crux) by using his descent route. Moreover, the time saved would allow us to try the high point: I'll call it the West Peak.
The trip began about a half a kilometre drive up the road from the bridge crossing Spionkop Creek. We turned left and parked at a gated road.
We hiked 4.2 km down the road to where it crosses Spionkop Creek. After walking over the culvert, we dropped down the left side and found a trail that led to a creekbed. We tramped up the creekbed to a scree slope. At the top of the scree slope, we found an animal trail and followed it to the hanging valley. When we came to a break in a cliff band on our left, we scrambled up it. After that, we plodded up a grassy slope to the ridge to see Spread Eagle Mountain ahead. The way to the summit was obvious.
Throughout our climb we kept eyeing the West Peak and its steep sides. We debated even trying it, but settled on at least to take a closer look.
After bagging Spread Eagle Mountain, we traversed back along the ridge. As we drew closer, to our surprise, not only could the summit block be ascended but it was merely a steep hike!
The summit block turned out to be a short ridge that held an unexpected surprise: a jaw-dropping north cliff face interrupted by pinnacles. Fortunately, a shelf behind the pinnacles allowed Sonny and I to scramble up a chimney.
While Dinah stayed at the east end of the block/ridge, Sonny and I ambled to the summit. Although 50 m lower than Spread Eagle, the views were finer.
After a lengthy stay on the ridge, we started back down. Where the slopes held snow or good scree, we made good time. When we got to the road, time seemed to slow but a glance back at Spread Eagle Mountain and the West Peak reminded us of the great time we had.
Castle Wilderness, where the buffalo roam
Spread Eagle Mountain (left) and the West Peak (right)
After hiking up the creek, we ascended the scree slope to reach the hanging valley (mouse
over to see our route)
Coming up the creek bed, East End of Loaf Mountain behind
We head to the scree slope
We leave the creekbed far below as we ascend the scree slope
The vegetation on our right is impossibly dense so we skirt left around it
Sonny passes some unusual rock formations
Jones columbine wildflowers were everywhere
Another variety of columbine
We leave the animal trail and head to a weakness in the cliff band
The West Peak appears formidable
When we reach the crest, we see the summit
Sonny never declines to climb an obstacle even when it can be easily avoided
Sonny on a small pinnacle
Loaf Mountain in the background
Dinah led the way to the top
Behind, the ridge winds its way to the West Peak
On Spread Eagle Mountain
After a mild squall passes, the sun comes out as we head back
Spread Eagle in bright sunlight
Heading to the west peak
Cloudy Ridge on the left
Impressive south face of the west peak
The ridge leading to the summit
Looking for a way up
Sonny at the top of the chimney
Sonny looks over the edge while Dinah hangs back at the end ridge
After the crux, the summit is quickly and easily reached
Sonny and I on top of the West Peak
Panorama from the West Peak
Heading back from the summit
Sonny makes room for me so we can pose on a pinnacle (mouse over)
Sonny boot-skies down a snow patch
Cascade below the West Peak
82/G1 Sage Creek
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