Climb: Ruth Mountain
Date: July 12, 2004
Elevation: 7115 ft
Location: North Cascades (Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest), east of Mt. Baker
Distance: 12 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: Roughly 4000 ft
Route: Ruth Glacier (west side traverse)
Mike and I reached Hannegan Trailhead (elevation 3100 ft) on Sunday night (July 11) around 11 pm. We decided on leaving at 4 am as we both had to be home early on Monday afternoon. We slept in the back of Mike’s truck (in the open) gazing up at many stars that filled the sky.
Up at 3:30 am and out at 4:00 as scheduled. The approach starts by hiking 4 miles onHannegan Pass Trail. It’s a very nice trail and well maintained. The first 2 miles have you gaining 1000 ft and last 2 miles another 1000 ft until you reach Hannegan Pass (elevation 5100 ft). Initial views of Ruth Mountain looked invitingly close. From the pass, we turned south and after a short "up" and "down" on the trail, reached the base of the subsidiary rock peak (and the start of the steep, nasty climber’s trail). The main page of Ruth Mountain on SP says head south towards this subsidiary peak before reaching Hannegan Pass. I suppose there’s multiple ways to get there.
We climbed up this steep climber’s trail and traversed around the subsidiary peak to its east, reaching the only intervening ridge point on the east side. This traverse is moderately steep and has a short runout to an abrupt drop off. I could see why the book says to cross this traverse with care. Now, the imposingNorth Face of Mt. Shuksan could be seen. What a stunning view! I climbed Shuksan in 2001 via Sulphide Glacier route (on the south side of the mountain) but I had never seen the north side of Shuksan until now! One of the major reasons I wanted to climb Ruth Mountain was to see Shuksan from the north and it was everything I expected and more!
After reaching the top of this ridge, the scenery "opened up". We could see the entire route now. What anawesome view. I can see Ruth Mountain in front with Shuksan and Baker to the west, Hannegan Peak, Tomyhoi Peak, Goat Mountain, Mt. Larrabee behind (north), and Mt. Challenger and Challenger Glacier amongst others to the east. Travelling mostly on snow, we made quick work of the broad ridge and were at the edge of the glacier in less than 30 minutes. Here we took a short break and "powered up" for the quick ascent on the glacier.
We didn’t see any crevasses but to be on the safe side, we roped up. Its recommended in the climbing book so what the hell. There were two options from here. 1) head directly up the glacier towards "Rest Rock", a big black rock outcrop near the summit. Or 2) traverse to the west to the saddle"notch" dividing Ruth and its subsidiary peak (not the same subsidiary peak mentioned previously) and short climb up to the summit. We chose the latter but this ended up being a mistake. The traverse ended up being much longer and really not necessary. The glacier is only 20 – 25 degrees and heading straight up would have saved us little more time.
Be as it may, the glacier travel was very easy. No crevasses to negotiate and the slope was very gentle. I also like the fact that there are no false summits. We were standing on thesummit at 8:15 am. It took us only 4 hrs and 15 minutes. Again, fantastic views. Now I can see the craggy peaks to the south (there’s so many I can’t begin to identify them!). Icy Peak (7070 feet) just south of Ruth looked mighty inviting and perhaps next year, I’ll do the Ruth, Icy Peak traverse over a weekend. We spent about 40 minutes on the summit and headed down (un-roped this time). The hike out was just as nice with all the wildflowers down low. We made it back to our car at 12:05pm and back home in time for dinner.
Fantastic one day climb! Beautiful weather and great views…..what more can you ask for?
So far, this year has been a great climbing year! Next up is Baker and Rainier! Man, I love living in Washington and there’s no shortage of mountains to climb.