Kitling Peak is one of the major summits of Ragged Ridge in North Cascades National Park. Located one mile northwest of Easy Pass, Kitling Peak commands some of the most spectacular views anywhere in the Northwest. Directly to the west is "The Fang" (literal translation) of Mesahchie Peak and the other peaks of Ragged Ridge such as Cub Peak, Katsuk Peak, Kimtah Peak, and Cosho Peak. Farther to the west, the Cascade Pass peaks such as Eldorado and Forbidden Peaks dominated the far western horizon. To the south are Black Peak, Graybeard, Fisher, and Arriva Peaks. And for viewing Mount Logan, one of the largest non-volcanic peaks in the state, Kitling is the best vantage point bar none.
The entire subrange of Ragged Ridge is high enough to support major glaciers on its northern flank. There is a serious alpine feel to an ascent of any of these peaks. Even though Kitling is just northwest of Easy Pass (one of the busiest trailheads in the North Cascades), it is likely climbed fairly seldomly. This is owing to its very rugged nature, and the fact that any traverse to Kitling takes place over very unstable scree slopes and is extremely tedious.
Kitling is a major objective by any standard. A long, hard traverse coupled with very loose rock on the summit pyramid make for a challenging climb. Even though it is only a 10 mile round-trip, be sure to allow plenty of time. Start out by 9:00 A.M. at the latest.
Drive the North Cascades Highway (SR-20) east from Burlington through the towns of Marblemount and Newhalem, and past the series of dams at Diablo. Continue past mile-marker 150 to the Easy Pass trailhead (elevation 3800 feet) and park here.
Cross Granite Creek on a very well-built log bridge, and then start climbing. The trail to Easy Pass is 3.5 miles long and gains 2,700 feet, but it is well-graded and a good trail. Approximate hiking time to Easy Pass(6500 feet) is about 2 hours. Easy Pass is a beautiful parkland with lovely larch trees and grassy meadows.
From Easy Pass, climb grassy slopes to the northwest, gaining 700 feet to about 7200 feet. At this point, you have two options. One is to climb directly along the ridge. This option has the disadvantage of many ups and downs and forcing an unnecessary ascent of Honeymoon Hump, but the rock will be fairly stable. The other option is to traverse the west slope of Ragged Ridge to the northwest. If following the second option, be sure not to traverse below 7300 feet. There is a series of cliffy ravines which cut through the western slopes of Ragged Ridge and make a traverse very slow and tedious. Furthermore, this is one of the most difficult slopes I have ever traversed. Practically nothing will keep put when you put your foot on it.
Traverse roughly one mile until the you reach the base of the summit pyramid of Kitling, 7500 feet. Here you have two options. Traverse the base of the peak past 2 gullies (a tree marks the bottom of the right gully), and find the reddish colored initial gully that will take you to the Southeast Ridge of Kitling Peak. This route has the advantage of having more stable rock, but it is also more difficult technically (mostly Class 3 with some Class 4 scrambling thrown in). Follow the ridge all the way to the summit. The other option is to keep traversing two more gullies west from that initial gully. There you will find a very broad gully which will take you directly to the summit. This gully is Class 2 with some occasional Class 3, but the rock is very loose. Which ever way you go, be sure to bring a helmet.
Trip Stats: 10 miles round-trip, Elevation gain, 5000 feet (with ups and downs), Difficulty (Class 2, 3, or 4), depending on which route is chosen.
Mesahchie Peak and the Rest of Ragged Ridge from the Summit of Kitling
Eldorado from Kitling
A Northwest Trailhead Parking Pass ($5/daily, $30/year) is required to park at the Easy Pass trailhead. You can also purchase an Interagency Pass ($80/year) which is good at any Forest Service trailhead, or for entry into any US National Park.
There is no camping allowed at the Easy Pass trailhead or at Easy Pass itself. Easy Pass is the boundary for North Cascades National Park. The only permissible camping in the area is in Fisher Creek Basin, about 1300 feet below and 2 miles from Easy Pass. The Park Service keeps a very tight rein on those wishing to camp in this area. Don't be surprised to find rangers lurking about who will give you a citation if you don't camp at the Fisher Creek camp and camp elsewhere in the area. You have been warned!
Black Peak from above Easy Pass
Mount Hardy from Easy Pass Trail
The North Cascades Highway is closed with the first major snowfall until the late spring. Normal operating dates are late April to early November. Be sure to check with the Washington Department of Transportation.
Also, webcams are available from the Washington State Department of Transportation at: WSDOT Webcams
For camping or other information from the National Park, you can access the Park Service website: North Cascades National Park
To contact the Ranger Station directly, write or call:
North Cascades National Park
7280 Ranger Station Road
Marblemount, WA 98267-9755