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Northwest Ridge

Northwest Ridge

Northwest Ridge

Page Type: Route

Location: California, United States, North America

Object Title: Northwest Ridge

Route Type: Trad Climbing

Season: Summer, Fall

Time Required: Most of a day

Rock Difficulty: Class 4

Route Quality: 
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Page By: haishan

Created/Edited: Sep 10, 2013 / Sep 24, 2013

Object ID: 866264

Hits: 941 

Page Score: 71.06%  - 1 Votes 

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This route is lauded in Roper and Secor guidebooks, and has a coveted place in Moynier and Fiddler's Sierra Classics.  There is some confusion over which arete is the "classic" route.  This page describes the easier, right-hand ridge.  The photo and description in Moynier's guide seems to indicate the wilder, left-hand ridge.  Would like to hear from folks who have climbed this route!

In recent years, it seems most ascents of this arete are made en route during the Evolution Traverse.  The route is of high quality, but limited technical climbing is encountered relative to the long approach.  Confident climbers may choose the Haeckel Col approach (below) and increase the amount of interesting climbing encountered.


From Lake Sabrina trailhead, follow trails towards Hungry Packer Lake.  As the trail departs the Midnight Lake drainage towards Hungry Packer, break off trail and ascend the broad ridge between the two drainages.  Some class 3 and a few short descents may be encountered along the ridge.  When the ridge ends in a steep headwall, countour around left above two small tarns and past a larger tarn around 11,900'.  Follow talus up to lake 12,345'.

From here, Secor recommends climbing steep snow and/or loose scree to the prominent notch at the left end of the broad saddle between Haeckel and Peak 12,996'.  In a low snow year, this approach looks ghastly.

An alternate approach turns lake 12,345' on the right, ascending stable and pleasant talus towards Haeckel Col.  Cut up and left and follow one of several class 3/4 steps up to the ridge.  As Secor warns, this approach involves traversing a knife edge along the ridge.  There is legitimate 5th class climbing here, but the rock quality is excellent and offers some of the best climbing on the route.  While the short downclimb back to Secor's notch involves some loose rock, no rappels are necessary.

Route Description

From the notch, gain the right-hand ridge (tricky class 4, several options) and follow it to the summit.  Better climbing is found directly on the crest of the arete. Most of the upper ridge is pleasant class 3, with some opportunities for interesting climbing on headwalls near the summit.

Alternatively, a class 2/3 slog can be achieved in the gully to the left.  The dramatically jagged arete further left has been climbed with apparently much higher difficulty.

To descend, either retrace your steps, or follow the East Ridge route back into the approach basin north of the peak.  Some ghastly steep and unstable scree may be encountered along the way.  From the ridgeline separating Midnight and Hungry Packer Lakes, a slightly more direct descent back to trails may be made by dropping early towards Midnight Lake, but many short cliffs must be negotiated along the way.

Essential Gear

The route may be soloed, with almost continuous opportunities to bail into the easier gully to the left.  The traverse from Haeckel Col (alternative approach noted above) involves some mandatory, exposed 5th class and some parties may prefer a rope if choosing this option.  If taking the standard Secor approach, ice axe and crampons may be necessary (although in August 2013 this approach looked mostly dry - and awful).

Additions and Corrections

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haishanWhich route?


Hasn't voted

I've titled this route page "Northwest Ridge", though all guidebooks refer to it at "Northwest Arete". After climbing the route and observing the neighboring arete to the left, I believe this page describes the NW Arete as described in Secor. However, based on Moynier's photo and route description ("exposed arete... involves traversing knife-edges and gendarmes"), I believe the left-hand route is what he refers to as NW Arete. So, preserving the "NW Arete" name for a page on that route.
Posted Sep 11, 2013 12:01 am

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Knife-edgePicture PeakNorth side of Mt HaeckelMt Haeckel NW Arete