Kev Papke was getting close to his year-long, 50 peak fundraising effort and was in need of 4 peaks in 4 weekends in order to fill the 50 peak 'order'. The weekend of February 23/24 wasn't looking great for anything too aggressive and since Kev could only go on the 23rd our options became even more limited. I don't do ski mountaineering if avalanche likelihood is either 'considerable' or 'high', so any ski trips were pretty much out of favor.
I broke down and did a snowshoe trip... :) I even have to admit that it was rather enjoyable! I still stand firmly by my motto of skiing anything that's remotely skiable rather than 'wasting' it on snowshoes but for our objective I don't think skis are ever appropriate. Red Ridge has been on my radar for a while and this was the perfect weekend to try it.
A posting on Clubtread proved invaluable for finding an old track from the parking area and this made a potential SLOG into a very enjoyable winter hike / scramble.
[The correct parking spot is a couple of hundred meters south of the Sparrowhawk day use area, basically look for a clearing on your right after going past the day use area and park there. The other vehicle was ice fishing.]
As we drove by the parking area mentioned on ClubTread we could see a very faint snowshoe track going into the forest from the road. This proved very fortunate and we managed to follow a great track with firm base all the way to tree line. Instead of a 2+ hour thrash in knee-deep sugar we got a 1 hour uphill hike.
[Kev hikes up the ridge. Make sure you don't stray too far left or you'll end up in the creek or on Read's Tower!]
[We hit tree line. The wind and winter conditions really picked up once we broke through the trees.]
Once we hit the ridge we lost the trail. We soon discovered why. WIND... Being a ridge in K Country means it catches a lot of wind and this particular day was no different than most. We stuck to the snow as much as possible until maybe half way up the ridge from tree line to summit where we finally dropped the 'shoes. Make sure you don't drop them too early or you'll be wallowing in waist deep snow.
[Kev pops up on the ridge.]
[The route is obvious now! Sparrowhawk is in the clouds to the left.]
[It was tempting to drop the snow shoes early on the ridge, but we didn't and were glad for that decision!]
[Looking back at Spray Lakes and Nestor and Old Goat. ++]
[Looking over Mount Fortune and the south end of Spray Lakes.]
[Shortly after this section we dumped the 'shoes.]
[Looking back at the first major down climb on the ridge.]
Make sure you're prepared for the elevation roller coaster on Red Ridge! I wasn't fully prepared for the ups and downs and it got old after the 3rd or 4th one. There's at least 4 major elevation loss / gains on the way up to the summit. On hindsight they're not THAT major, but with cold wind and snow they felt like it after a while...
[Great views to the south - they were much better than the forecast said they'd be!]
[Another panorama on ascent. ++]
[We got a bit off route at one point and ended up on a pretty narrow and corniced ridge. It was fun though!]
[The summit is just to Kev's right. I was worried that it was the peak on center-right but that's Red Peak. There is a mountain sheep in this photo but you'll have a hard time picking him out from here!]
[There! Now the sheep is more obvious...]
[Kev works his way up wind blasted slopes to the peak of Red Ridge.]
[One of my favorite shots from the summit of Red Ridge - this is Mount Bogart. I have good memories of my solo trip up this peak a number of years ago from the other side via the Kane route.]
[Pano looking at Mount Bogart on the right. ++]
[Pano looking north and west. Sparrowhawk has great memories for me (upper right), as does Read's Tower. ++]
[Looking west and south. This view includes Mount Nestor and Old Goat. I hope to climb Old Goat soon and Nestor holds some sweet solo-ascent memories for me. ++]
[Looking south at the west ridge of Bogart and towards Mount Buller. ++]
[Sparrowhawk on the far left. This mountain seemed so big the first time I did it! It was one of my first Kane scrambles and it took me 3 tries to finally bag it.]
[Vern on the summit of Red Ridge - Bogart in the background.]
[Kev leaves the summit - as you can see, it wasn't exactly a warm, spring day... ;)]
[This sheep is determined to find something to eat on this god-forsaken slope!]
[The crux'ish section we had to climb on the way back. There's a perfect lunch spot about 2/3 of the way up - this is where the sheep spent the night.]
[Looking south towards Buller from the crux section.]
[Kev approaches the crux.]
[Kev puts the 'shoes back on.]
[Kev comes down the section where we dumped our 'shoes about half way up. This is the first significant up-climb on the ridge after tree line and where you do the first small drop on ascent.]
[A great descent.]
[Just before dropping back into the trees.]
Red Ridge is easy enough to do in winter and probably safe enough to do solo if you're comfortable with solo outings in the winter. I would highly recommend AGAINST trying to ski this peak - you'll spend way too much time wallowing in sugary, unsupportive snow and then you'll be in ski boots on the ridge for over 2 hours of ascent. This is a prime example of why snowshoes were invented for winter scrambles...