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Northeast Arete

5.5, Trad, 800 ft (242 m), 5 pitches,  Avg: 3.3 from 42 votes
FA: Richard Harrison and Sal Mamusia many moons ago
Nevada > Southern Nevada > Red Rocks > (09) Icebox Canyon > Bridge Mountain
Warning Access Issue: Red Rock RAIN AND WET ROCK: The sandstone is fragile and is very easily damaged when wet. DetailsDrop down


Here is a route with an approach that will take you longer than doing the route itself! If this turns you off, no need to read farther. This route looks intriguing from the loop road, but it is a huge effort to get to the base and the route is shorter than it looks (only 5 pitches). It is best to take a very small rack as the climb is not that hard. This route is the Snake Dike of Red Rocks, but that perhaps is too big a compliment. Still, I highly recommend this route if you are up for an adventurous day of mostly hiking.

Approaches (from hardest to easiest): (1) Climb the Frigid Air Buttress, then wander up through the maze in front of the summit to the base of the climb. In my photo this approach goes directly towards the summit dome from below. Be warned that the easiest routes on the Frigid Air Buttress are considerably harder than 5.6, and could be up to 9 pitches long! I don't know anyone who has done it this way, although I'm sure some parties have done it.

(2) Hike up the broad ridge south (left) of the entrance to Refrigerator Canyon. This is the way we went, marked by the black line in the photo. Most of this route appears to be easy, and indeed almost all of it is scrambling. At one point there is a 200' high cliff (visible in the sun on the ridge before cutting back right), we couldn't find any way to scramble around it. So we did 2 pitches up grungy rock with some 5.8 to climb the wall directly. 6 hours to the base of the route! We marveled at the climbing ability of some bighorn sheep on this approach.

(3) Take the trail up Bridge Mountain (requiring a long hike from Willow Springs or 4WD to get to the trailhead). Before reaching the summit, you will see the arch the peak is named after and beyond that the "hidden forest" in a pocket of soil in the slickrock. Head NE down a slot and traverse east to the base of the route, I believe this approach is the red line I have marked in the photo although I have not done it. See Swain's guide for more info.

The climb itself follows cracks on a blunt arete and goes quickly. The setting feels surprisingly remote.

Descent: I suppose one could go back down using the descent on approach (3) and then down the east side using (1) or (2), but this sounds like an epic. The usual descent is to go down the trail. Beware that this route follows bare rock at the start and is not that easy to locate. You can try hitchhiking back from the trailhead but no SUV's passed us and we ended up walking along the road all the way back to our car at Willow Springs, a distance of 8-10 miles from the summit.


Light rack to 2". You might want a larger piece if 5.6 is your limit.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

The bridge
[Hide Photo] The bridge
For added adventure we approached through Pine Creek the afternoon before and bivied about 300 yards west of the start of the route on a ledge with a stunning view. Somebody wasn't all the excited to see 5:00 a.m. roll around!
[Hide Photo] For added adventure we approached through Pine Creek the afternoon before and bivied about 300 yards west of the start of the route on a ledge with a stunning view. Somebody wasn't all the excited…
Approach as seen from flight.  Follows the bridge of rock, up the crack in the slab, then to the arch by the two big pools. After this over to hidden forest and down to the left through a smallish slot canyon to the base.
[Hide Photo] Approach as seen from flight. Follows the bridge of rock, up the crack in the slab, then to the arch by the two big pools. After this over to hidden forest and down to the left through a smallish…
Bridge Mt. NE Arete
[Hide Photo] Bridge Mt. NE Arete
Rocky Gap 4x4 Road from Willow Springs on the bottom left to Bridge Mtn Trailhead near about where the road goes out of view. Bridge Mtn can be seen as the white formation in front of the Rainbow Wall and Mt. Wilson from this view.
[Hide Photo] Rocky Gap 4x4 Road from Willow Springs on the bottom left to Bridge Mtn Trailhead near about where the road goes out of view. Bridge Mtn can be seen as the white formation in front of the Rainbow W…
Looking down the first pitch just as the sun comes up. Nowhere in the world we'd rather be. The Maze is in the shadowed canyon below the route--looks like a place orcs would live.
[Hide Photo] Looking down the first pitch just as the sun comes up. Nowhere in the world we'd rather be. The Maze is in the shadowed canyon below the route--looks like a place orcs would live.
The bridge on our decent!
[Hide Photo] The bridge on our decent!
Bridge Mountain from the loop road showing some possible approaches. Photo taken by Jeff McCoy.
[Hide Photo] Bridge Mountain from the loop road showing some possible approaches. Photo taken by Jeff McCoy.
Bridge Mountain NE Arete
[Hide Photo] Bridge Mountain NE Arete
Bridge Mountain from the Rocky Gap approach.  The Hidden Forest lies in the gap on the north side of the peak.
[Hide Photo] Bridge Mountain from the Rocky Gap approach. The Hidden Forest lies in the gap on the north side of the peak.
Willow Springs to Bridge Mtn and Back
[Hide Photo] Willow Springs to Bridge Mtn and Back
Composite image taken from near the top of the Frigid Air Buttress, showing "The Maze" and Bridge Mountain on the skyline.
[Hide Photo] Composite image taken from near the top of the Frigid Air Buttress, showing "The Maze" and Bridge Mountain on the skyline.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] George: You truly are an adventuresome soul. Not many people would endeavor to put in the effort to explore the further reaches of Red Rock Canyons. Subsequently, not many others would discover the secret treasures like arches and hidden forests. There is so much to discover out there once you get away from the scenic loop road. My hat's off to you. I have not yet, but have long wanted to do a route on Bridge Mountain as it is such a strikingly beautiful swath of stone. Thanks for posting so many good routes and concise information. Philop.s. Your digi-pic of Wilson is awesome you should think about posting it. Mar 4, 2004
George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Thanks for the comments, Philo! Regarding this route, you probably do not want to take a skeletal rack if you use approaches 1 or 2, as they both involve climbing of at least 5.8. The shortest route up the Refrigerator Buttress is "Burlesque (5.9)", for which you need some big cams, I believe. Bummer to have to haul all those heavy cams over the summit. Mar 4, 2004
[Hide Comment] This is a full day event packed with an interesting and beautiful hike. The climb proper is easy and fun-icing on the cake. A light rack is preffered considering the long hike, but some may want a few #3 cams to "sew-up" the chimney pitches. A storm had brought snow down to 5,000 feet and some snow remained in the chimneys after 5 days of 70+ temperatures.
Rocky Gap Road is SERIOUS off roading-do not underestimate the difficulty. It took an 1.5 hours to get to the summit of Rocky Gap Road in a stock Chevy Trailblazer, which barely made it. You will want something with even more clearance.
All said and done, this is a great adventure worth doing. Apr 13, 2006
J. Thompson
denver, co
[Hide Comment] I really enjoyed this's kind of like the snake dike of Red rock. Except the hike is more fun. Some of the best views and fun hiking(is there such a thing?).
The climbing itself is very good at the 5.6 level...lot's of fun. The approach really wasn't to bad...pretty cool exploring! I approached from the Rocky Gap road.

Have fun!

josh Mar 17, 2009
[Hide Comment] I can usually get to the trailhead at Red Rock Summit from Willow Springs in about 45 minutes or less in my 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4x4. There are some big rocks in the wash you have to negoitiate around. Having a narrow wheel base makes this easier. I have never had a problem, but apparently many vehicles have gotten stuck, and needed to be towed out...Parking before the big wash-out will cut a couple of miles of the approach from Willow Springs, but is probably not advisable if you do not have a 4x4 with a high wheel base........I am dying to do this route, and hope to lure someone into it sometime soon. Jun 19, 2009
[Hide Comment] So much fun. Brought wires, single set cams .4-3, and large hexes. Never placed a wire, 2 pieces per pitch felt fine. The only 5.6, if there was any, was in the first ten feet. Approach notes are most needed-

From the car on Rocky Gap, head up to the limestone ridge, hang a right at the sign for Bridge/North Peak, and follow the ridge for a few minutes til the well-worn trail dumps you down towards the red-pink sandstone. From here, some "REAL GENIUS" has painted black arrows and parallel lines, which, until they get removed (hint hint), supplement the cairns to help you find your way to the base of the 3rd class crack that leads up to the arch. Walk under the arch, head over to the Hidden Forest (obvious), then head down from the left side of the Forest, following a drainage system (pretty) down until an obvious stopping point (steep) with a ledge system that's home to a beat up tree that's lying down on the right. Walk this ledge a few feet to the starting point of the route (cairn).

The route is easily protected, follows a continuous crack system for its entire length, and needs no topo or route description. A chopped 60 would work fine, the last "4th class" pitch is 3 5.2 moves to walking. Four real pitches, easy to simul and/or pick ledges based on what gear you have left. Mostly finger and hand cracks, hexes worked great. Do this route!! [and take a wire brush up to help erase the spray paint arrows-shameful horseshit, needs to go] Nov 17, 2011
J. Thompson
denver, co
[Hide Comment] I'm pretty sure those arrows were painted there by the BLM as trail markers. This is a BLM built trail.
You might want to make sure before erasing them.

josh Nov 24, 2011
[Hide Comment] even more reason to erase them.. Oct 31, 2012
Jim R
[Hide Comment] Hiked in from Pine Creek with Nick H. following cairns up the slope 30 minutes past Dark Shadows. The approach passes below the false south face of Bridge Mt before passing through a notch where you can see the route. Beautiful day, but a bit of ice and snow added some spice.

Have to agree that the crux is off the ground. Did it in 2+ long pitches, 70m exactly to the small pine, another 70m to a comfortable ledge (there's a better ledge 10m lower) and then continued up to the top. We were in the shade but sheltered from the wind; nice with temps in the 40's at best.

The ramp back to the base was pretty icy, so we took a chance and walked down past the forest, through the arch and down the saddle. I won't describe the descent since it involved some sketchy down climbing, exposed ramps, a short rappel and a ton of backtracking. It's doable if you take your time, but not much fun. Got back into Pine Creek at dusk, but had a big moon, so didn't need our headlamps.

All in all a great day in the canyons and a fun little route! Dec 21, 2012
[Hide Comment] Maybe they could just pave the approach, or put in a via ferrata all the way up Rocky Gap Road.... Dec 22, 2012
[Hide Comment] Not steep enough. Tourists wouldn't go for it. Plus, that would take away the only possibility for manly driving in the vegas area. Pretty sure arrows not fed work. the trail and sign from Rocky Gap are not technically official, yet. I'm sure some wire-brush work or a little discrete use of a proper solvent would be sufficient to restore this little bit of wilderness character. Dec 25, 2012
J. Thompson
denver, co
[Hide Comment] Interesting Scott.
The sign at the trailhead is exactly the same type of sign the BLM uses at all of their other trailheads and they list it on their website as a reccomended hike. There are also BlM like signs marking a fork in the trail a mile or so in. Wouldn't surprise me to much though, it's not like the BLM has ever really been on top of things. You'd know better then most of us though! (sidenote; Dude! we still need to get out. You are right up the road these days.)

In regards to the spray painted arrows.
This type of trail "building" is utilised throughout both our National park(and BLM and forest service)and trail systems worldwide.Ever walk off the top of the Chief in Squamish? Primarily it's used for trails that go over terrain where other methods of trail marking(like digging, water barring, rock walls etc.) aren't feasible.
I'd personally rather see some painted arrows then chains, concrete and handrails, Angels landing trail anyone?
I've found the arrows that are painted on this trail to be just enough to keep me on the trail. Which is better than having me and hundreds of other visitors trapising around creating social trails in an area that has alot less impact than other parts of RRNCA.

They really aren't that big of a deal.

josh Dec 25, 2012
[Hide Comment] Yeah, personally they never bothered me. There are a few notable exceptions of trails that are officially promoted/signed, but not officially "designated" as of yet - fire ecology trail being the first one that comes to mind. Straight shooter tr. was in a state park in-holding when it was constructed. Since then it's been incorporated into the NCA, but the People in Charge of Such Things didn't seem to notice there was a trail there. So as a social trail, it's not designated and can't receive official volunteer maintenance work, which it could use in places... Ah well, letters have been written and it's in the Man's Inbox. (Yeah, we should get out sometime) Dec 29, 2012
[Hide Comment] Six hundred feet of perfect finger to hand crack in a low-angle stemming corner; what's not to like? After an awkward move or two right off the starting ledge, it's pretty much cruiser alpine-low-fifth the whole way. We took a minimal rack and a single 60m X 8.5mm rope (tying in with bowlines-on-coils to eliminate harnesses), and climbed in approach shoes, all of which seemed pretty appropriate for the level of difficulty.

We approached via the north fork of Pine Creek Canyon, following the hiking directions to Bridge Point on That worked fine until we got over the Bridge Mountain-Bridge Point saddle. Frustratingly, we could clearly see the traverse ledge out to the climb, but it took us forever to get to it -- there's a confusing mess of cairns, some leading too high and some leading too low. We elected not to return that way, instead taking the hiking trail back to Rocky Gap Road, which was probably more of an adventure than the climb itself. Apr 14, 2014
[Hide Comment] Anyone have any beta on the length (miles) of the hike up the bridge mountain trail to the base of the route? Also, anyone know the condition of the road to the trailhead? Dec 13, 2017
Jason Schmidt
Ghent, MN
[Hide Comment] Yeah, I got about 8.3 miles to the base from Willow Springs. I'll post a beta photo. Dec 31, 2017
Dustin Wilson
Las Vegas, NV
[Hide Comment] Climbed this route on 20180325 in two parties and it was amazing. I highly recommend spending the full day of hiking and climbing. We approached from rocky gap road and it took us about 3 hours to get to the route. It is pretty straight forward following the cairns and arrows. Ended up leaving a rap sling near the end of the approach because the down climb had running water and was not exactly the safest. So we ended up slinging a tree and leaving two carabiners and a locking biner behind for others to use as well. As for the climb it was absolutely amazing Perfect hand cracks with a lot of stemming or chimney moves. I would suggest a doubles .75-3 camalots as well as a single rack to .5. our first party found themselves using the 2 and 3 for an anchor and needing them for the following anchor. Hexes would work great as well. My partner ended up placing a few instead of a 3 and a 1 to save the for the anchor since we left the other party our second 2 and 3. The climbing is pretty straight forward following the crack up to the summit with the exception of the last super easy pitch where you go left at the roof and up some easy climbing/scrambling to walking. Be careful of lost rock. Some of the flakes I touched felt like they would go if I used them for more than balance while placing gear. And this route doesn't seem to be climbed to often so it is not fully cleaned up of all the loose rock that could potentially be there. Overall an extremely fun and adventurous day out with a great climb and amazing view from the summit! Mar 26, 2018
David Schwartz
Las Vegas, NV
[Hide Comment] Link to our footage of the route:…

Did the hike in/out and climbed it in one day from Rocky Gap. Enjoyable cruiser route with great views. It’s basically 800 ft of stemming an easily protectable crack. We brought a single rack .1-3 Camalots plus 9,10 and 11 hexes and a set of nuts. Used the hexes quite a bit actually and was glad I brought them instead of hauling my big cams. Another great adventure in Red Rock! Apr 22, 2019
Jeff Sigho
Earth, Planet Earth
[Hide Comment] I thought that photo looked familiar, George. I got pointed at this route by Jim Olsen, the great Tetons guide. Jim soloed the route and paraglided off the summit. I climbed it with Inez "Gnar Gnar" Drixelius by the marked line. I think Jim told me the FA was Richard Harrison, PVB and another partner. The approach from the east is amazing once you've endured the grind to the red band. The traverse in the shadowed middle portion of the photo is surreal.

Inez and I were cold on the upper mountain so after P1 we simued the easier parts above. I'd done the west side route in advance because I thought it might be too complex to try to decipher on-sight and I'm glad I did. The west side is a phenomenal route on its own. May 25, 2019
[Hide Comment] Finally did the link up of Frigid Air Buttress to the NE Arete. I wrote a blog post here if anyone is interested in more beta:…

Go get it! Mar 3, 2022
Peter Lewis
Bridgton, ME
[Hide Comment] Wonderful adventure. We approached through Pine Creek Canyon and it was straightforward and, well, really long. But totally worth it. If you nail the slabs below the south face of Bridge Mountain there is less than 50 feet of shrub-whacking. Thence up through a little notch and then traverse east and then back west around easily to the base of the route. We bivvied on a great ledge overlooking Icebox Canyon for added spice. Mar 22, 2022
[Hide Comment] Fun day and enjoyable climbing, would probably be a popular route if it wasn't for the approach. In order to help someone else avoid my mini epic on the approach, here is what I learned. I started at Willow Springs and did the Rocky Gap approach to the Bridge Mountain trailhead (I included a current picture but the parking lot is fairly obvious). From there, the path is very obvious (follow the signs) until it dumps you out on the sandstone. This is a bit of a maze but well cairned, so if you find yourself lost (I did a few times) just look around til you see a cairn. This part also requires a bit of scrambling. This will dump you on a land bridge that leads to the 3rd class portion of the approach. I misinterpreted some of the approach beta and starting heading around Northeast just before the first 3rd class pitch. You will be on a rock terrace that has some cairns and at the end, a piton with a bunch of tat and a man made pedestal to down climb a ledge. Don't be fooled, this not the correct path! Can you still get to the climb? Yes. But do you want to go this way? NO!!!! Head back and do the first 3rd class section which ends with the Bridge formation. Go through the bridge, scramble up and hook around right until you end up at the hidden forrest. From here, follow previous comments to the start of the climb. I included a picture with two red arrows identifying the bridge and hidden forrest for reference. While this added about 1.5 hours to my day (and had some sketchy down climbing), it was still a fun day. The only 5.6 move is right off the deck, otherwise, its cruiser to the top. Pay attention to the cairns leading down from the summit, it is also easy to get lost coming down as the traverse back to the bridge is higher than you think. Definitely adds a bit of challenge to your day if this is your first time up to Bridge Mountain (It was mine) but is definitely still doable! May 30, 2022
Ellen S
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] edit: Someone replied: "It is something else. Namely, begin halfway between the two but join with green up high"

Hi, regarding the pine creek approach, could anyone clarify whether it's the green line or red line on this photo, or something else? Thanks in advance!… Apr 17, 2023
Jon Prescott
Caliente, NV
[Hide Comment] Christine and I linked FAB to NE Arete on 10/14-15/2023 following the general guidance from others in the community and the trip report from Lani Chapko. Bivied in The Maze above Ice Cube Canyon and filtered water from the creek. Despite our initial thoughts, we found the most exposed and improbable route finding to be the descent off the summit to the main limestone trail--neither of us had hiked out there before so navigating the route onsight and backward proved more difficult than expected. The NE Arete itself is super mellow but is fun and has the most stunning views I've seen in RR. All in all the whole experience was truly amazing and an incredible way to get deep into the heart of the NCA. Oct 16, 2023
sa s
Las Vegas, NV
[Hide Comment] Like Jon, I also did FAB to NE Arete and used Lanis beta. She has a GPS track to share which we found unnecessary but nice to have. The photos from her trip report were probably the most valuable. We did it is a (big) day, approx 13-14hrs but would've been nice to do an overnight. There are some nice spots to bivy very close to the base of the NE Arete with fantastic views and water available to filter 5-10mins before that that surprising didn't look nasty.
You could call the climbing 5.5 and I would agree with it, it felt chill. Great day in the Red Rock. Nov 24, 2023