ApproachFrom the Cliff Lake trailhead, follow the trail up a short and gentle ridge to a small and beautiful (in the spring) bench filled with Glacier Lillies, little rivelettes and miniature waterfalls. This area is extremely fragile so please take care to stay on the used path. At just less than a mile, you'll reach rocky slabs at Milwaukee Pass. Chicago Peak is directly to the west of the pass and Copper Lake is below and to the north. Continue along slabs at the same elevation towards the east and reach the short rocky slope above Cliff Lake at 1 mile from the trailhead (6,700 feet). Follow the faint path around the south side of the lake (counter clockwise) and up over a short hill at its east end. Maintaining about 6,800 feet in elevation, traverse the grassy and rocky southeast slope of Saint Paul Peak until you reach the obvious west ridge of Rock Peak at approximately 2 miles from the trailhead (6,590 feet). Climb the west ridge from here or rappel off the north side and traverse east on scree for about 1 mile to Saint Paul Pass and climb the north ridge route. The rappel can be made from several spots along the lowest point in the west ridge. Some spots will require two raps with easy anchors. Rappel gear can be retrieved after descending from the west ridge. If you need to retreat, the ridge can be climbed at various points on good rock and pro ranging from low 5th class to 5.8.
Route DescriptionFrom the top of the scree slope near St. Paul Pass, ascend the slope to the south which eventually turns into 4th class scrambling over loose rock piles. The granite on the majority of the ridge is of low quality and contains horizontal and vertical fractures that make for nervous climbing in spots. Even so, there are some good placement to be had if you pick the right line and look hard. Most vertical sections can be bypassed by finding 4th class ledges to either the west or east. The upper section of the ridge has several pitches of good rock with great pro. Other than 4 or 5 pitches ranging from 5.2 to 5.7, the entire ridge can be simulclimbed. Several smaller (20-40') gendarmes (visible in the route pictures) can be climbed directly or by traversing ledges to the right.
Descend the summit via the west ridge. Scramble the ridge top where it's open or traverse the south side on goat trails. It's possible to descend via class 3 if you can figure that puzzle out. Otherwise expect to run into a few class 4 or low 5 moves with good holds on rock or veggies.
Until about mid route, retreat to the basin that seperates the north and west ridges is possble but loose rock abounds on that side of the ridge. The rock on the east side is of good quality and can be descended using one or two raps. Be aware that the east side contains much snow till late in the season which can complicate a retreat. Follow the snow or rock down till you can gain the scree slope back at the beginning of the route.