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  • Writer's pictureAlana Chapko

Frigid Air Buttress to NE Arete of Bridge Mountain

The namesake bridge

This link up has been on my mind for a long time. It's something everyone talks about doing, but I’ve never actually heard of anyone doing it. After a quick online search we were only able to find one very very brief trip report. The report basically said they went up the ridge from frigid air then traversed to the arete on bridge and got cliffed out a few times. We decided to give it a go accepting that we’d have to rely on our own route finding. It felt like quite the adventure, with a lot of 2nd and 3rd class rambling, with the occasional awkward mantle, to get between the two routes. It is probably the most indirect way you could possibly use to get to Bridge Mountain. I will preface it with saying that there is possibly a more direct way between the two routes. With the daylight we had we didn’t want to risk getting cliffed out. We tended to steer towards the longer distance on obviously easy terrain over checking out terrain that might be more direct but require a rope or require back tracking.

We started from the car at 8:40 am and started up Frigid Air just after 9am. We got stuck behind a slow party and elected to finish on Middle Earth. Which I encourage anyone who has already climbed Frigid Air to do, it was really fun and you get to got through a tunnel. To do this, instead of the OW pitch of Frigid Air (pitch 4) take the SWEET left slanting crack (starts as .5s ends in 3s, 5.8) to it’s top and traverse left to a gully and large ledge. You can go up the 5.9++ ow of the left or ramble up the 5.7 chimney on the right and then traverse back left into the gully/hole at the top. We chose the 5.7 and would recommend it over the heinous looking OW. The next pitch is the reason you did this, climb up the tunnel on the honey comb face and get birthed from the tunnel/chimney (5.8), there is just enough pro to keep it safe. One more rambling 5.easy pitch gets you to the top of the route, which is one terrace down from the top of Frigid Air. You can walk back a ways to the chimney rappel people often use to get down from Frigid Air and reverse it (the chimney is 5.0, we soloed it, but it would protect very well). Now you are at the top of Frigid Air. We topped out at 11am.

From here we have a track, see screen shot, and feel free to message for the file. We picked our way to the top of the continuation of the Frigid Air Ridge. Cal Topo calls this summit “Ice Box Peak”. Accept that you will probably have to back track once or twice to find the easiest way. In general staying close to the ridge proper is the best route. Just before reaching the summit we started to see cairns. These cairns are for a sneak approach to the canyoneering route “The Maze”. The sneak approach starts from Ice Box and dips into the maze canyon half way (See You want to follow these cairns around the south side of Ice Box peak and down and west along a big terrace. They take you into the canyon/creek bed at a very gentle angle. Note that from near the summit of Ice Box peak you want to visualized your general path to the base of the NE Arete, because large features and cliffs will be very hard to see once you are over there, you may even want to take a photo. Below is a photo including our rough path. This is where you might be able to find a more direct way, everything just looked like it might not be passable or would require 5th class climbing from afar so we kept it safe.

Track getting from the top of Frigid Air to the Top of Bridge Mountain the black line is the Maze, the blue line is our track.

Our route to the base of the NE Arete (taken from Ice Cube peak)

Cross the creek bed and start hiking up the other side of the canyon (maybe a few hundred feet) and contouring south around the base of Bridge. Once you are on the south side start hiking up toward the ridge that connects the East and West peaks of Bridge Mountain. (Cal topo calls the East peak “Bridge Point”. This is where you meet up with one of the other standard approaches to the NE Arete (option 2 on mountain project) and you should start seeing cairns again. The cairns lead you back North/West towards the start of the route.

We climbed the NE Arete in 3 200ft long pitches and topped out at 3:50pm, the entire route probably took us 30min.

Me leading our 2nd pitch on the NE Arete. So splitter!

From there Cal Topo shows the hiking trail down from the summit. We found it to be spot on. Be prepared for about 700ft of elevation loss scrambling down to a saddle (you get to go through the sweet bridge on the way) and then 700ft of scrambling back up the other side, plus a bit more elevation gain once you reach the trail. I thought it was all downhill from the summit, HA! If you didn’t park a car shuttle at the top of rocky gap road, (we didn’t) there is a faint trail that meets the road at 2.4 miles (instead of 4+) miles from willow springs and saves you about 2 miles of walking. This is the normal approach trail to the canyoneering “The Maze.” It is a bit hard to follow at first but gets more distinct and well cairned. It roughly follows the line where the sandstone and limestone meet, and again there is a trail marked on Cal Topo and a screenshot below. It’s about 2 miles on the trail before you reach the road.

This is a more zoomed out view. The black line is the Maze approach and decent. We reversed the approach from the lower (south most) way point as our decent to cut off 2 mile of road walking. Our route between fridge and bridge is in blue.

We were back at our car at the Ice Box canyon parking at 7:30pm. It was quite an alpine feeling day, with a lot of quick moving and rambling on 2nd-3rd class terrain. The link up is an exploratory adventure and everyone should do it once. It was a really cool way to see the back side of Red Rock and terrain most people never see. If I was going to do Bridge a second time I'd probably go for one of the other approaches. Would be rad to link into doing the Maze as a canyoneering route which pops you right back at the Ice Box TH, but that would required a bit warmer weather, looked pretty frigid down there.

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