Northwest Ridge, II, 5.6

Northwest Ridge, II, 5.6

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 50.72640°N / 115.0723°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Summer
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: 5.6 (YDS)
Additional Information Grade: II
Sign the Climber's Log


Follow the King Creek Ridge trail through King Canyon. You will notice markings on the wall relative to the sport ice climbing routes formed by seepage into the canyon from above. You will cross back and forth through King Creek as you work your way east to a fork at the opposite end of the Canyon, less than a 30 minute hike. Turn left and follow a faint trail on the east side of this portion of King Creek. Proceed up to the third major gulley on your right and start your ascent aiming for a large flake that hides the col between Mount Brock on your left and Mount Blane on your right. The northwest ridge comes into full view (left to right) as you start up the grassy slope.
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Route Description

As you ascend, it appears at times that your route will be blocked by a steep blade looking feature in the middle (the flake). But continue straight up until you top out at the steep wall and then traverse a short distance left into a narrow gully with steep walls. Ascend this gully, keeping right to avoid objectionable hazard. After ascending a few water worn sections, the gully starts to open up to the ridge. We ascended climbers right on better ground to gain a western ridge that tied into the northwest ridge, requiring a 5th class move or two to gain it. Once on the northwest ridge, it immediately provides for a scenic grassy spot (if not windy) to take a break and enjoy the views at about 8400’.

To complete this route, I recommend sticking to the ridge for the majority of the climb. The first several hundred feet were nothing overly remarkable. There was some flake edge climbing with exposure, but decent rock (as this ridge goes). There is one early section here that can be bypassed on the left. On ascent we did that, on descent I down climbed it. So you could stick to ridge here without much difficulty. Eventually you come to a significant corner/crack slightly to the left of the ridge. There is a rappel station at the top of this feature. We broke out the climbing shoes and soloed to the top. On descent this was our only rappel of the climb. This rappel station is really nothing more than a large boulder with a few slings. There are very few if any dependable cracks to place gear. I placed none the entire day, relying on natural formations the few times we roped up. This solid feature would be the last good rock on the entire ridge.

We continued moving efficiently along the ridge until we came to a thinly exposed section. The exposure on the west side was dramatic, the east side was not a huge improvement. There is a small cairn here and a flat chariot like hole that makes for a good belay station. Thus, we broke out the rope and pitched this section of the ridge for about 45 meters. Keep the rope on the west side and your feet on the east side. Eventually you ascend over a feature and descend into a good stance area. This is a solid spot to belay the second. We packed the rope for a distance and eventually pitched out a similar section for about 30 meters. Then we put the rope away for good. There is one problem that is bypassed via the east. It is short. Do not get drawn onto the eastern ledges. Stick to the ridge. Plenty of short-exposed 5th class lay ahead, but nothing daunting for an experienced climber.

As you break out on the final summit ridge itself, it will become apparent that the summit is no more solid than most of the ridge. It is mostly made up of large segregated blocks of limestone. We made it to the col in 2.5 hours and it took us another 2.5 hours to make it to the summit. We moved fairly efficiently. I heard of someone having to bivy on Mount Blane and was a little dumbfounded about that. But if you pitch much of it out, it could take quite a while to complete. There are a few intermittent pitons.

The views from the summit to the west were mostly dominated by the big three, Mount Sir Douglas, Mount Joffre and Mount Assiniboine as well as the Royal Group. Mount Blane is squarely situated for viewing these larger objectives. You can practically reach out to Tombstone Mountain to the south and Mount Rae’s northern glacier sticks out as well. The front range mountains are also easy to spot from this vantage point, Mount Remus, Mount Romulus, Mount Fullerton, Mount Cornwall and Mount Glasgow to name a few. There was no summit register and it appears Mount Blane sees limited traffic.

The descent took us 4 hours moving steady. This ridge is no easier to descend obviously then it is to ascend and unlike Mount Brock, there is not an optional descent. You will find several rappel stations, although I found none of them to be time saving options. We chose to solo downclimb the entire ridge including the sections we pitched out before with the exception of that long corner/crack feature more than halfway down the ridge. Once back to where we hooked into the northwest ridge, I found a route that was easier to downclimb (narrow chimney gully) than where we ascended, just a few meters south. Traverse over scree back to the west ridge and descend back down into the canyon-gully system you ascended. Stay close to avoid perilous rock fall. Remember to traverse back left towards the bottom and back onto the grassy slopes for descent.

Essential Gear

60 Meter Rope, Harness, Several Runners and Biners and a few pieces of Medium Pro, Helmet, Bear Spray, Alpine Ax and Gaiters if Snow is Prevalent