During the week you could find me in an open concept classroom with over 50 third graders screaming, "Mr. Kilcup, Xyrell took my pencil and I'm going to cry if he don't give it back," or maybe, "Mr. Kilcup, Hamdi told me I was ugly and I think it might be true!" It's a funny job, being a teacher, and it wears down on you after a while (especially while student teaching). But I consider myself lucky because I have an escape... the mountains.
Saturday... like always
It's 5:00 in the morning and I'm up, but it's saturday so I'm not up to be a teacher, I'm up escape the chaos of the world. I've decided I want to take a stroll up Ruth Mountain and traverse over to Icy Peak. I bring an Ice axe, crampons, a few jackets, helmet and water and food. The weather is supposed to be party sunny so I'm hoping glacier navigation won't be a problem (the glaciers in the area are more like small snow patches anyway).
I jump in my car and take off with stars shining all around me. After passing through Bellingham I head toward the Baker ski area. About halfway between Bellingham and the ski are the sun pops up over the top of Baker.
Sunrise over baker
And pretty soon I'm staring Shuksan in the face as I turn off the road to get to the Hannegan Pass trailhead.
Sunrise over baker
At the trailhead I find a few cars and a party of people having a huge breakfast party including beer, beer and more beer. Now I'm not one to refuse a beer after a long day but at 8:30 in the morning when it's 30 degrees outside? But hey, whatever works for you! I say hi and start up the trail at a rapid pace. I have 6 miles to the top of Ruth and at least one more if I want to get to Icy. Rounding a corner I get my first glimpse of Ruth and the snow line was MUCH lower than I was expecting... good thing I brought the gaiters just in case.
Sunrise over baker
The trail to Hannegan Pass was uneventful and I only saw two people slowly making their way to the pass. At the pass I continues for about a quarter of a mile until I reached the (what normally muddy and slippery) gully scramble. Today it was one foot under then snow and ice. I definitely didn't expect to put on crampons this early but on they went! At the top of this scramble, you have to make your way around a small peak that is the end of the ridge. As I went around the peak, the sun come fully out and lit up EVERYTHING!
making my way around the small peak
Quickly I was on the ridge that extends to Ruth Mountain.
Ridge to Ruth
It was here that I passed a group of three toting overnight gear and ropes and whatnot. They were very friendly and I would later spend some time chatting with them on the summit. After passing them and the ridge, I started my way up the Ruth Glacier. There were a few open crevasses but were easy to steer away from. Rest rock grew bigger and bigger!
Above rest rock the snow ridge relaxes in angle and it is just a walk to right below the top. Because I was breaking tail and kicking steps, as soon as I got to the lesser angled section, I began to sink in up to my knees. This was extremely annoying because the slop has almost no angle and the summit is so close.
this is where I was sinking in
But I eventually made it to the last 20' of steep snow to the summit. It was much windier than I had expected on the summit. After taking my watch off and letting it sit on my backpack for a few minutes, the thermometer read 29 degrees F. Add windchill on top of that and it was cold for a sunny early fall day.
As I looked around the views were wonderful. It was as if it was the middle of winter. Since a storm had just blown through for a few weeks, all the mountains were completely plastered with snow.
The pickets looked amazing as ever and Redoubt was a massive mound of white (I have pictures but they just don't do justice). I didn't want to linger on the summit too long because it was so cold but I had a decision to make... was I going to traverse over to Icy? I ended up calling it a day and heading out. WIth the deep snow covering wobbly talus, the going would have been slow and tiring and I wasn't mentally ready to spend a night out in the mountains. After chatting with the team of three and naming every peak in sight, I began the quick descent down the Mountain and back to the ridge.
When I got back to the icy scramble section I found that swinging from tree to tree was much more efficient that carefully picking my way though the icy mess. At the bottom of the gully I was treated to wonderful views of SHuksan and the Nooksack Tower.
Shuksan and the Nooksack Tower
From there out it as just trail, trail and more trail. The closer I got to the trailhead the more clouds began to fill the sky. I got one last picture of Ruth and focused on getting back to the car.
Further down the trail I looked back and noticed the clouds were beginning to completely cover the top of the mountain. It was a good thing I had decided not to continue on my adventure, it would have been a much bigger adventure had I decided otherwise. It never rained or even looked like it was going to rain, but I was still glad to make it back to my car and drive home.
All in all it was a great saturday spent in a beautiful area. Icy will just have to wait until I get back out there agian!