It's only 12 miles r/t
I describe myself as a reluctant mountaineer. I love getting outdoors, seeing the wild landscapes, and the feeling of contentment that comes from success on a trip. However, I hate feeling exhausted. I don't get runners high. I don't enjoy the hard work like others do. Be that as it may, hiking and climbing are a drug I can't seem to quit. And so, thinking that I found a "nice" climb in Mt Ruth, I set up a trip with some friends and aimed to do this "morale building" climb.
We set off from the trail head at 5:30am. The first four miles really are a breeze, and the hike to Hannegan Pass has better views along the way than most of the I-90 day hikes do at the summit. After reaching the pass we saw the first hint of snow that would be our constant footing the remainder of the climb.
Since I'm new to mountaineering we decided to get our crampons on early to avoid having to do so on a more exposed section. And with that we set off up the worst section of the climb; the dreaded rooty, rocky, steep heather gully. It wasn't all that bad, but there is definitely nothing satisfying about it. The payoff was excellent though, as it finally landed us on some snow.
The Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 rule, states that for many events, 80% of the effects result from 20% of the causes. For me, on Ruth Mountain, this related to the fact that 80% of my misery came from roughly 20% of the climb. After leaving Hannegan Pass and climbing the rooty section everyone hates, we found snow. Good. I thought. Well, it was
good, until we crossed the long traverse that brings Ruth Mountain's summit into view. From here, we had to kick steps for 1000 vertical feet in fresh snow. I regularly sank in up to my knees and Rest Rock seemed so very distant. I try to do this numbers game in my head while on dificult climbs, where I count a certain number of steps before I'm allowed to look up or check my watch. For Ruth Mountain, at this point, I chose 100 steps. Imagine how horrified I was each time I hit 100 and Rest Rock grew no closer. I felt like I was on a steep, snow covered treadmill. it was about this time that I got my first leg cramp. My left quad, then my right seized up. I climbed through it for a while but eventually needed to break for a drink of water and rest. In retrospect, if I'd know that after reaching that impossibly far away rock that the climb was basically over I probably wouldn't have gotten so disheartened.
Summit Push and Success
After 6.5 hours we reached Rest Rock.
At Rest Rock there is a strange optical illusion I want to mention. The three of us looked up at the summit and thought it would be at least another hour of climbing. In fact, we event entertained the idea of just turning back. But, after consulting the GPS we were delighted to find out we only had another couple hundred feet of climbing to go. Armed with dangerous optimism we set off again. Of course, my legs cramped up a few more times on the way, but I was able to hike through all but the worst of them. At 12;30, 7 hours after leaving the car, we finally attained the summit.
The views? My camera, although not that bad, just does NOT do justice to what you will find on the summit of this morale building climb. Baker, Shuksan, Pickets, and who knows what else surround this peak in icy magnificence. Will I ever do this climb again? Maybe. But only if there is no fresh snow, and I camp out at Hannegan Pass. I know I'm not the fittest climber out there, but don't let the mileage and elevation gain on this climb deceive you. This is NOT a walk in the park when there is fresh snow.
Return to car
The decent was uneventful. Two of us put crampon spikes through our gators in the thick snow, and by the time we returned to Hannegan Pass we were all pretty much over this climb. The last 4 miles back to the car seems to take much longer than it should, but given the grade is relatively level it's not that surprising. We saw a couple pulling horses up the trail on our way down. Lot of horse poop left behind on the trail for us to hop over. They must have been short on blue bags :|
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