The North face of Graybeard offers about 2400' of just stellar alpine terrain. Steep snow of all forms, thick and thin ice, mixed climbing, cornices - it has it all. Other than the great climbing it offers and it's classic aesthetic concave face, resembling a little Eiger, part of the attraction to this climb is the quick approach from the road once the North Cascades Highway (SR 20) opens.
Being close to the road, from the trailhead you are given an excellent vantage point to look directly at the face, assess conditions, and pick out your line of ascent - bring your binoculars!
The first ascent was done by Carl and Gordon (Gordy) Skoog in May 9, 1983. First solo ascent by Colin Haley in May 19, 2002.
Follow the directions here
to the bottom of the North face.
The beauty of this face is that it offers many variations and you might have to find other ways around obstacles depending on conditions or your appetite.
The start of the face at the top of the snow apron in lean conditions.
The lower part of the route that tends to be repeated starts up the main ice gully centered on the first rock band, which puts you on the big snow apron underneath the main face. After a few hundred feet on the snow, start ascending the main face via an ice flow running down the middle or one that trends left. From the top of this ice flow continue straight up on moderate terrain to the base of a second obvious ice line disappearing above. At the top of this flow is a short (2 body lengths) vertical ice step that puts you finally onto the last third of the face. Most ascents have usually climbed this same line on the initial sections. From here on up there have been many variations that all seem to deliver great climbing - choose your poison and go up!
Also note that the Eastern and Western ridges tend to be very corniced. The line you pick might avoid them or might have to involve some tunneling.
There are two known options:
1)Southwest Gully and Easy Pass: From the summit start heading S until you downclimb a short step to an obvious snow gully heading S. Follow this gully all the way out until the terrain opens up. Traverse NW towards Easy Pass and from there descend towards the bottom of Graybeard's North face. This option is easier but is longer.
2)NE ridge: Traverse high on the NE ridge until able to climb down easier terrain away E from the ridge. Follow the E side of the ridge North until you are at the base of the North face. This option might contain more technical sections but it is shorter in length.
SW gully descent
Expect to see WI, AI, firm snow, loose snow, solid rock, loose rock. Full length ice and snow pitches, short rock steps, mixed gear belay anchors.
Your rack should contain:
-Ice screws (~6)
-Rock gear (small assortment of nuts and cams)
-Snow pickets (2-4)
Most ascents have used all of their mixed rack. Feel free to add or subtract from each depending on comfort level, conditions, and line chosen.
These trip reports should give an idea of lines to take:
TR: New line to the NE ridge
TR: Direct line up the center
TR: Line more to the right after the first ice step
A TR of a climb that did not go so well:
TR: Avalanched off North Face