This is the coolest route on the mountain. And by coolest I mean heat-wise and aesthetics-wise. The route goes up the shaded north side. So if it's going to be a hot day you may be thankful for this. Also, it allows you to take in wonderous Silver Lake that the SW Ridge Route does not afford except for the reduced view of it from the summit. The route goes up the Silver Glacier (North Glacier) and has some steep sections. It is therefore more technical and should only be attempted by those with moderate alpine experience. Furthermore, some Class 4 rock climbing on the final ridge will be necessary.
One can choose to approach via Silver Creek for a camp at Silver Lake or via Depot Creek for a camp at Ouzel Lake. The latter approach to camp is easier than the former. However, the route to the summit is slightly longer and requires more elevation gain from Ouzel Lake. For a description on how to get to those respective camps, see the approaches on the Main Page.
Routes to the Glacier
If camped at 6,763-ft Silver Lake you should be able to see at least the lower part of the glacier. The upper part will be obscured somewhat by Pt. 8824. Hike around the north side of the lake to it far (SW) end. The map shows ice all the way down to the shore. This is not the case. The ice is much reduced. Once you get to the southwest end of the lake you should be able to see the entirety of the glacier (unless it's socked in). From the end of the lake, hike south across morainal debris then snow avoiding a small buttress of Pt. 8824 en route. The toe of the glacier starts at about 7,400 ft. Give yourself about 1.0-1.5 hours to get to the toe.
If camped at 5,700-ft Ouzel Lake, climb northeast from its north side up the obvious wide gully that leads to the 7,380-ft Custer-Spickard Saddle. From this saddle the glacier's lower extremities should be visible (unless it's socked in). The west end of the glacier toe comes fairly close to the saddle. Later in the year this part can be icy.
Glacier to Summit
The left (east) side of the glacier is the easiest in terms of crevassing but there is an exposed section of loose rock. We experienced some rockfall while climbing through there. The right side is steeper and tends to get icier and more crevassed. With aluminum crampons a oblique traverse leftward across the glacier should be possible. Or it might be possible to curl around the right edge near the NW Ridge to bypass the lower steep section. Higher up, the right side heads to a rock wall with schrunds below, so you will definitely eventually want to cross to the left side eventually.
At about 8,300 ft on the left side the glacier begins to flatten out. There are some large crevasses up here so be wary. To the left will be a prominent notch at 8,500 ft. To the right is the steep upper lobe of the glacier criss-crossed by two schrunds.
If you feel more comfortable climbing up steep snow with zero run-out, then go to the right. If you feel more comfortable with Class 4 rock, then aim for the notch.
You can try to traverse under the upper schrund to gain the final Northwest Ridge. We didn't go that way but the rock spur on that side will be either Class 3 or Class 4 until you reach the small notch just below the summit. It also may be possible to climb through the schrund--particularly on its right end. The last stretch of rock to the summit looks fairly simple.
I believe the standard route for this completion goes up and left to gain a rock turret on the Northeast Ridge. This turret is about even with the upper shrund. Keep in mind that you will be traversing to the turret directly above a large crevasse.
Exit the glacier at the 8,500-ft notch. It should be easy to get onto rock (follow a snow swale crest to it). Continue toward the summit as best as possible. At times you may be forced left into gullies (above East Face). At other times you can climb along the ridge crest. We found the climbing to be quite enjoyable Class 3/4. We free-climbed the ridge (and the glacier) but others may wish to belay it. However, there may be difficulty locating suitable anchors. The rock gullies (at least the ones we were in) were mostly clean. The ridges between were loose, though, and tended to be infested with lichen. From the notch it took us about 30 minutes to make the summit.
From Silver Lake camp:
3-4 hours; Distance =
~2.2 miles; Gain =
From Ouzel Lake camp:
4-5 hours; Distance =
~2.0 miles; Gain =
If you came up from Silver Lake, descend the way you came. Some rappeling will probably be necessary to get back down to the glacier. If you came up from Ouzel Lake, you can descend the glacier route but probably the better way would be to go down the SW Ridge Route. Besides, doing the latter will allow you to see more sides of the mountain--a loop trip.
Crampons (lightweight probably suitable), ice axe, rope, harness, helmet.
Depending on your comfort level, you may be able to climb the glacier and final Northeast Ridge unroped. But if you decide to descend the glacier route, you will want a rope to rappel off the ridge.
For the rock climbing part, take a small rack and some runners.
If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.