Red Argillite Peaks (Rainy Traverse)

Interesting Facts: 

In his scrambling book, Andrew Nugara makes passing mention of an "RA" peak sitting on the ridge traverse between Three Lakes Ridge and Jake Smith Peak. The "RA" stands for the Red Argillite that a large part of this general area of the Rockies consists of, giving the peaks here a unique red appearance. Phil and I didn't have Nugara's description along with us (I forgot to photograph it before leaving the truck) so we assumed he must have named the distinctive outlier rather than the boring "bump" along the ridge. We were wrong, as it turns out, but we tagged both the outlier and RA so I'm including both in this write up and calling them "Red Argillite Peaks".

Trip Category: 
SC - Scrambling
Technical Difficulty Level: 
Endurance Level: 
YDS Class: 
3rd Class
Mountain Range: 
Mountain Subrange: 
Attained Summit?: 
Trip Date: 
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

As indicated in the "Interesting Facts" above regarding this peak, Phil and I weren't sure where "RA" Peak actually was! After returning from the summit of Jake Smith Peak, I was feeling a bit more energy than before the short scramble and we decided that since we were in the area, we might as well tag both the west and east "RA" peaks. 


[This is the view of Red Argillite Peaks from Three Lakes Ridge to the north. ++]

[The west peak looks fierce from the south ridge of Three Lakes Ridge but it's not as intense up close. We scrambled directly up the slabby ridge to the summit from the col at lower left.]


From the col with Jake Smith Peak, Phil and I regained part of RA Peak's south ridge before traversing easy SW slopes to the col on smatterings of sheep trails worn into the scree. As we approached the west peak, the summit block looked harder and harder but we assumed from earlier views off of Three Lakes Ridge that the angle would be less concerning up close and continued onward. After dropping the packs again (we were tiring at this point - or at least I was), we continued up to the summit following the east ridge right up obvious slabs to the top. As expected, the terrain wasn't nearly as fierce as it appeared earlier and was no more than easy to moderate scrambling with some exposure.


[The west summit at center as we traverse SW around the east summit which is out of sight at upper right here.]

[Helmets on for the first time today! The summit block wasn't as difficult as it appeared.]

[Heading up the east ridge to the summit.]

[Despite being a rather lowly outlier, Red Argillite West was worth the minimal effort it took to tack on with its east summit. Mount Miles at right.]

[Phil finishes up the slightly exposed slabs to the summit of the west "RA" peak.]

[Views down the Middlepass Creek Valley towards the much wider Flathead River valley in the distance. Peaks along the ridge to the west include Mount Gerry Andrews and Trackyte Peak.]

[A wider view includes Jake Smith and Scarpe Mountain at left showing how hard it is to access Scarpe Mountain even from the Middlepass Creek Valley at lower right. ++]

[Looking back at the east summit of Red Argillite with Jake Smith Peak rising above with fresh snow.]

[A great view north (L) east (C) and south (R) includes Middle Kootenay, Haig, Southfork, Three Lakes Ridge, "RA" east, Jake Smith and Scarpe Mountain. Our descent to the Middlepass Creek Valley at lower left will be via easy west slopes of Three Lakes Ridge visible left of center here. ++]

[Phil descends towards the east peak of RA as the sun continues to cast longer and longer shadows.]


We didn't spend too much time on the west summit before turning back and descending the east ridge to the west ridge of the slightly higher east summit and the start of our route back down into the Middlepass Creek Valley. The ascent of the east peak was easy and before long we were topping out and continuing down the ridge heading north towards Three Lakes Ridge where we'd come from hours earlier on our Rainy Traverse towards Jake Smith Peak. Our plan was to take a falling traverse line across the easy angled western slopes of Three Lakes Ridge before bottoming out in the Middlepass Creek Valley below and joining the track running back up to Middle Kootenay Pass.


[Looking back at Phil as we regain the eastern summit of Red Argillite. Mount Krowicki in the distance at right.]

[Scarpe Mountain from the summit of the east peak of Red Argillite.]

[Our traverse line off the ridge is obvious to the north, looking towards the south ridge of Three Lakes Ridge. We'll follow the slopes down and around to the valley bottom.]

[The two peaks of Red Argillite at left with Krowicki and Miles at right distance.]

[Phil starts the traverse and descent of the western slopes of Three Lakes Ridge to valley bottom far below us at this point. Tombstone and Middle Kootenay visible in the distance.]


Dropping down to the Middlepass Creek Valley via the west slopes of Three Lakes Ridge wasn't particularly difficult and we enjoyed a pretty quick descent for the most part. There were a few bushy sections and we got lucky especially towards the end where we managed to drop down between some cliffs coming off the summit of Three Lakes by the skin of our teeth! Gotta be good to get lucky I guess. Towards the bottom of the valley we noticed that we were rapidly losing daylight and we desperately wanted to finish at least the first few km's of difficult downhill biking before dark so we stepped up the pace a bit. This was a bit frustrating because at valley bottom we also started hitting some thicker bushwhacking, including a short stretch of alders across a streambed. As darkness really started settling in we finally reached the track ascending to Middle Kootenay Pass from the BC side and set off for our waiting bikes as quickly as we could after a 2200m day.


[There's a reason it's called, "Red Argillite". Looking back from the start of our traverse.]

[Some pretty interesting landscapes on our traverse.]

[Looking up one of the steep gullies coming off Three Lakes Ridge.]

[Talk about timing! We managed to arrive at this nice bench between two cliff bands and simply kept walking the traverse! Nice when that happens. Note the obvious track running up the opposite side of the valley - this is where we want to end up eventually. It's already much darker than this photo implies.]

[Looking up towards the Middlepass Lakes with Three Lakes Ridge at upper right. Again - it's much darker than this photo shows.]

[Finally on the dirt track heading back up to the pass, looking back down Middlepass Creek with Mount Krowicki rising at right.]

[It's even darker than this and we're still not up at the pass and our waiting bikes.]

[Looking back at Red Argillite West from near the pass as it gets too dark for photos.]


We arrived at the pass and our waiting bikes just as darkness really settled in. There was nothing to do but don headlamps and make the best of what tiny amount of daylight still existed, so off we went! The bike ride down in the dark was "interesting" to say the least. surprise Put it this way - I'm really impressed Phil survived it with no injuries. I would not recommend descending this track via bike in the dark with only a tiny headlamp for illumination!


[The entire route for the day. Note how close we were to Scarpe Mountain. ++]


Overall the "Rainy Traverse" was a raging success and I loved almost all of it. On hindsight I do wish we'd left about 2 hours earlier and squeezed in Scarpe Mountain because now we "have" to go a heckuva long ways just to tag that one official summit. I would also recommend camping at the Middlepass Lakes if you can, to allow a great multi-day, multi-peak adventure in the area. Day 1 could be Middle Kootenay Mountain and Rainy Ridge with a camp at the lakes. Day 2 could be Three Lakes Ridge, Red Argillite Peaks, Jake Smith Peak and Scarpe Mountain. Day 3 could be Miles and Krowicki peaks. That would be a pretty fantastic set of peakbagging days! I would also highly recommend doing these mountains in the fall when other peaks further north and west might be snow covered and out of shape.

Summit Elevation (m): 
Elevation Gain (m): 
Round Trip Time: 
Total Distance (km): 
Quick 'n Easy Rating: 
Class 2 : you fall, you sprain your wrist
Difficulty Notes: 

Moderate scrambling at most despite appearances - note that this summit is actually west of what Nugara calls "RA" and is more scrambly than his peak.