The North Ridge of Round Top provides a direct and very scenic route to the summit. You will have uninterrupted views of the summit in front and to the right of you, the long imposing East Ridge on your left, and Lake Winnemucca under your feet if you care to look behind. This route is best climbed on firm snow in late winter or spring. In 2013, a low snow year, conditions were perfect mid- to late April. Aim to be at the base of the ridge just before sunrise for best scenery and optimal snow conditions. Once the snow is off, this route is probably nothing but rubble.
Follow standard approach from Carson Pass trailhead to Winnemucca Lake. North Ridge is on climber's left from the summit, and is very obvious from the approach - as you stand above the lake, you are looking straight up the ridgeline.
Getting on the ridge from climber's left is easiest and most scenic
Looking back at the North Ridge from the top
The route is indicated by red and green dots in the accompanying images. In good conditions, you will see an unmistakable knife-edge snow ridge. This is the most aesthetic part of the climb - you'll want to walk the whole thing, so get on it as low as you can. You can attack the slope leading up to the bottom of the ridge head-on if you wish, it's about 35-40 degrees. However, circling to climber's left keeps the slopes mellower and gives you a beautiful close-up view of the serrated East Ridge and the cliffs under it. Once on the knife-edge, just walk up and enjoy the scenery (make sure wind doesn't knock you off the ridge). This is the highlight of the route. All too soon, you run into a rock band. From here, you have two options: stay close to the ridgeline (green variation), or traverse to your right and climb the snow slope back to the ridge (red route in the pictures). The left (green) line has shallower snow and several rock outcrops so it offers some mixed climbing. The right (red) line has deeper snow and no rock. Neither exceeds 50 degrees. Both variations end on top of the East buttress. From there, walk the summit ridge to the main (East) summit of Round Top. Descend the West Ridge. In firm snow conditions, the whole trip should take 4-5 hours car-to-car.
Ice axe and crampons essential in firm conditions. Many people will be comfortable soloing this route. If you want to rope up for the upper section, take the right variation and place some pickets. One pitch will take you from the top of the knife-edge to the top of East Buttress.
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--J. Bartlett Brebner