OverviewA long Cascade adventure climb with a full array of mountaineering challenges including bushwhacking, complex routefinding, runout and loose rock climbing, moderate alpine ice, and extensive glacier travel.
There are two realistic approach options to the base of the Northwest Arete.
For both begin by parking at the lower White Salmon lodge and following a dirt road up the White Salmon drainage for less than a mile. For the first option, my recomendation, head downhill off-trail across White Salmon Creek and up to the ridgecrest directly opposite the ski area. Follow the ridgecrest to the base of the North side of the mountain.
The second option is to continue following the road upstream as far as it goes and head off-trail up the valley from there until open slopes allow you to travel to the lower White Salmon Glacier.
Where you camp depends on your chosen route back to where you left your vehicle. The most realistic descent off the peak that will bring one back to the White Salmon drainage is down the upper White Salmon Glacier depositing you on the lower White Salmon Glacier. So a camp that lies somewhere between the lower White Salmon Glacier and your chosen cross-country route to your car would be most suitable. Running water is easily found from May - October in many places on this side of the mountain.
Another alternative is to carry-over the route and descend by either the Fischer Chimneys which would neccesitate a short car shuttle or a few miles of road walking, or the Sulphide Glacier which would require a long car shuttle.
Route DescriptionTravel to the bottom of the arete which lies climber's left, North, of the Hanging Glacier, and climber's right, south, of the Northwest Couloir. The arete is not sharply defined for most of the route so find the most logical way over low fifth and fourth class terrain for some ~1500 feet. Be sure to hit the crest as much as possible to see the big exposure of the arete as it overhangs the trench of the impressive Hanging Glacier. The most solid, steep rock climbing, we found up to 5.7, is generally found in the lowest section of the Northwest Arete.
Up to this point the Northwest Couloir makes an accessible retreat option, but after the first ~1500 feet one must do more steep, loose, and sometimes mixed climbing to get past a short headwall at this point of the arete. At the base of this headwall you may encounter a large array of gear that you will continue to see until you gain the Hanging Glacier. This seems to be the remains of a large rescue and recovery operation in 1991 after a climber lost his life to serac fall on the Hanging Glacier. Internalize this as you continue up.
After the headwall it is time to look for reasonable access to the Hanging Glacier and get there. In August 2006 this was found by climbing two more generally sound rope lengths along the arete and then descending a shallow gully to the moat along the edge of the glacier.
Surmount the moat to gain the glacier, 20 m of AI 2+ in August 2006, and then to avoid heavily-crevassed terrain climb directly up a moderate AI 2 ice slope to gain the upper flat section of the Hanging Glacier. From here one can reach the summit by ascending the Labor Day route directly ahead or by circling around to the southside of the summit pinnacle via the Crystal Glacier by going climber's left, East, and finishing as per the North Face, or by going climber's right, South, to the Upper Curtis Glacier and finishing the route as per the Fisher Chimneys.
DescentFrom the summit pinnacle descend to the south and gain the upper Sulphide Glacier. See the Fisher Chimneys and Sulphide Glacier route descriptions for those descents, but follow the Fisher Chimneys descent down Hell's Highway all the way to Winnie's Slide to get down the White Salmon Glacier.
From Winnie's Slide descend as directly as crevasses allow to the lower White Salmon Glacier. After July some scrambling on wet rock will be neccesary to bridge the upper and lower glaciers. From the lower White Salmon Glacier either ascend back up to the ridge crest flanking the north side of White Salmon Creek and follow that downstream and back across the creek to the lower lodge, or descend past the snout of the lower glacier and head downstream through brush on the south side of the drainage to the same place.