By: Rich Henke
The first time I saw Bridge Mountain, I was on the high ridge to the west, looking across a huge canyon that had to be crossed to reach the summit. I was certain I was looking at a vertical cliff that would require technical rock climbing. But amazingly enough, the route turned out to be straightforward 3~d class.
But there are other routes on the mountain. My friend Howard Booth, who lives in Boulder City near Las Vegas, told me that he had climbed Bridge from the East 25 years ago without using a rope. He remembered some low 5th class moves on a red rock band but he did not recall any big problems. In Feb 2003, Ron Bartell, Christine Mitchell, Rena Tishman, and I tried the route. We started at the Icebox Canyon turnoff at about 8 am and made our way up the Northeast Ridge of Bridge Mountain. We negotiated 20 feet of low 5th class at a red rock band and found ducks both before and after this point. Just after an exposed traverse along the ridge top, we came to a 200-foot cliff with no obvious ascent route. Ron and I explored one gully that from the process of elimination appeared to be the only possible way to go. We could see some potential routes at the top of this gully but they appeared to be 5th class requiring much more gear than we had with us.
Later, in April 2003, Ron and I stopped at Red Rocks while returning from a Utah trip and decided to try again. We carried a rope, a small climbing rack and rock shoes at the bottom of my pack. I used sticky rubber approach shoes for the hike while Ron wore his standard hiking boots. We got an earlier start, 6:45 am and in 2 hours were below the cliff that stopped us before. We climbed to our February highpoint. With Ron belaying, I climbed a low 5th class gully with very loose rock. Over the next 3 hours, we slowly climbed 5 pitches and reached the top of the cliff. The final pitch was a 150-foot lead but the others were very short. One was a 30-foot down-climb. We saw no further ducks after this point. We continued south, negotiating a 4th class friction slope en route. We reached the crest again as it headed west, directly toward the Bridge Mountain summit. We were close to a bump in the ridge called "Bridge Point". Our next obstacle was a difficult looking cliff band but by down climbing to the right, we discovered a 2~ class gully, which led to our final obstacle - a steep headwall directly below the summit. We scouted this area very carefully. It was very steep at first and although it looked easier further up, we could not tell for sure. It was imposing enough that I put on my rock shoes. The actual climbing of the face was anticlimatic. After 20 feet of maybe 5.4 friction, which led to a ledge, the remainder of the route was quite easy, involving climbing up some 4th class gullies until the angle lessened. The climbing ended at a small lake. From there, we walked to the summit on terrain similar to the standard west side route. We reached the summit a few minutes after 3 pm, 8.5 hours after we started.
We descended the regular route to the west, reaching the Rocky Road Summit at 5:30 pm. Our car was still 5 miles away at Icebox Canyon. Ron, who goes downhill much faster than I, went ahead, hoping to reach the car quickly and then to drive back to pick me up. But halfway down, we both got a ride from a local. We were back at the Icebox Canyon turnout and our car at 6:45 pm, a total of 12 hours.
We were very impressed that Howard had done this route with no rope. The 200-foot cliff that took 3 hours to climb would have been much scarier. With a rope, we felt confident that we could repell down if the route did not go. The possibility still exists that we missed an easier route through this area, but the alternatives that Ron and I scouted appeared much harder.
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