Description and directions
At 7063 feet, Mt Howard is the tallest of the Nason Ridge peaks and nestles itself between Rock Mt and Mt Mastiff. It can be approached either from the Rock mt trailhead , about 9 miles east of Stevens pass, or the Merritt Lake trailhead which is another 3 miles further east. I chose to use the Merritt Lake approach which is a little over a mile off the Hwy and starts at about 3000 feet.
Approaching and climbing
The Merritt Lake trail gains elevation quickly with moderate switchbacks to about 5000 feet. At 2 1/2 miles you come to a junction with the Nason Ridge trail on your left. Go left here and go about 3 more miles to reach Crescent Lake at over 5450 feet. At this basin one needs to walk around the lake's right side and start picking your way up the slopes of Mt Howard. There is rumor of a climbers path somewhere but I didn't find one. Instead I blazed my own trail using creek beds and boulder fields whenever possible to avoid brush bashing all the way up. Closer to the top the brush clears out for Heather meadows, trickling streams and finally to rock and snow. I didn't encounter anything over class 2 on this approach.
After a quick break and a peak at the summit register I took a look at Mastiff, cinched up my pack straps and scrambled down onto the saddle ridge. There is about an 800 foot drop from the Howard summit to the low point of the saddle before heading back upward toward Mastiff's summit. Find the path of least resistance through the brush and boulders for 500 vertical feet to the top. It took me about 40 minutes from peak to peak.
From the top of Mastiff I followed it's SE ridge until cliffing out and then dropped downslope towards Royal Creek and the Nason Ridge trail. From this point I followed the trail back to the trailhead
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