ApproachSee the main page for notes on the route to Crown Creek and the Kings Canyon NP boundary.
There are two primary cross-county routes used to reach the start of the North Ridge. One involves taking the Blue Canyon Trail across Crown Creek up to the 8600 foot level (the highpoint of this section of trail), and then following the top of Kettle Ridge more or less south directly to the dome. Most parties favor a traversing cross country route that saves time, distance, and elevation gain.
For the traverse, leave the Blue Canyon trail at 7800 feet, where it nears the saddle with point 7877. This location should not be difficult to identify even surrounded by forest. As you traverse, it is much easier to drop down to around 7600 feet before the first creek crossing to avoid any bushwacking and the steeper slopes above- stay too high and the side hilling is more effort than the modest amount of elevation loss and gain. As you continue, maintain about 7600 feet elevation until you approach point 7719 where you rejoin Kettle Ridge north of Tehipite Dome.
At the beginning of the climb there is a flat sandy area where you can check out the terrain. There are a few class 3-4 options. The easiest two options with the least exposure are indicated in the photos here. Keep just to the left of the ridge, stepping through and over the manzanita where it meets the rock. As the manzanita peters out you reach a large boulder which must be circumnavigated. The simplest route is to continue straight on a fairly level course around the left side of the boulder, then climbing up as indicated in orange in the photos. Alternatively you can turn right (shown in blue), crawling under the thick limb of the twisted tree closest to the boulder blocking your path. As soon as you pass the boulder, climb straight up onto the top of the ridge where you rejoin the other route. Neither of these options is difficult or very exposed so far, having not ventured very far out onto the ledges, and few would want to use a rope to this point.
Once you pass this boulder you stand on top of the ridge to the right of a tallish, slender tree which makes a good landmark. You need to downclimb a few feet, then take a big step up and on the sloping, flat boulder that straddles the ridge (this part of the route shown in red). Some parties may prefer a short rope here due to the big step and exposure on both sides of the sloping boulder. The exposure is not really as great as it seems, about 10+ feet immediately next to the boulder though on both sides it is much greater a short distance away. If you use a rope have a sling, the previously mentioned landmark tree on your left can be used as an anchor. Going solo I did not find my rope (which I tied into using a prusik) to be very helpful going up, it could have been more effective if I had bothered to take the time to lasso the top of the sloping boulder with the middle of the rope. I got more use out of it on the return, since at this point it was looped around the boulder, with the opposite end anchored to the tree below me, and it secured me from above as I took the big step down and off the rock.
Once you reach the top of the sloping boulder, the path is simple and obvious, just class 1-2 up to the summit.