Distance: About 4 1/3 miles to the summit Elevation Gain: About 3,600 feet The West Flank Route is probably the easiest route on the mountain without the scree slog of the East Ridge and without the amount of scrambling and route finding on the Northwest Ridge. There is a small amount of Class 3 near the bottom of the route, but most of the route is straight forward Class 2 with perhaps the odd bit of Class 3 higher up which is for the most part optional. This route is also included in Discover The Rocky Mountain Front A Hiking Guide by Tom Kotynski. This book is a valuable asset to anyone planning to spend much time in the Rocky Mountain Front.
See the main page for directions to the trailhead for Trail 165 to Headquarters Pass. Hike to the pass on good trail – about 2.8 miles and 1950 feet of elevation gain. Looking south from the pass, you will note an obvious saddle between Rocky Mountain and Peak 8752. This is your first goal in accessing the West Flank. Descend the trail to where it looks easiest to begin the climb to the saddle. We went to about the 7640 foot level where some vegetation among the rocks creates better footing than the pure talus. (a loss of about 100 feet of elevation from the pass). From the trail to the saddle is an elevation gain of about 800 feet.
From the saddle study the West Flank. To the right of the obvious couloir above the saddle are several ramps leading upward (right to left) onto the more gentle slopes above the initial cliffs and steep couloir. You want to access the ramps and follow them onto the more gentle slope above the couloir. The climbing is not difficult and we are sure that this can be accomplished any number of ways. It is on this lower part of the route where most of the Class 3 climbing is encountered – connecting the ramps. As you walk up the saddle toward the base of the cliffs, you should find a trail leading to the easiest point to get started – it is a gully just to the right of the photo. In 2008, the starting gully was marked by a cairn. Once on the easier ground above the ramps, follow the line of least resistance more or less straight up. You should come out nearly at the summit – probably on the south ridge just a hundred feet or so from the top.
Normal day supplies for a Class 3 scrambling route. Most people would not want a rope on this route, but the very inexperienced might. In early season with snow, an ice ax and crampons would probably be needed.
It would be easy to descend this route, but we used and recommend the East Ridge Route in descent. It is easy to find from the top and the descent of the scree slopes is easy and fast.