Begin just west of Montgomery Reservoir and head west on a VERY wide jeep road. This road is littered with mud bogs and permanent ponds due to heavy erosion. There are usually trails that navigate the pools on one side or the other. Right before the jeep road heads steeply up, I recommend leaving the road and heading straight NW to the lake. The jeep road from this point is comprised of softball sized rocks all waiting to blow out your ankle. In heavy runoff season it is easiest to cross the large stream and falls coming out of Wheeler Lake higher up so stay on the east side of the creek till you get to the lake.
THIS IS NOT THE NORMAL ROUTE!!! Rock quality on this route is variable and Class 3 to 4 scrambling is necessary.
Start at beautiful Wheeler Lake and head to the west side traversing underneath a cascading wall and passing a rusted old 20’s or 30’s auto skeleton (the engine is still there!). From this point head up the drainage, picking whatever way seems best. There is a faint trail on the west side of the creek, but it is hard to see. From the south end of the upper lake head straight east and catch the long sloping ridge (I’m lovingly calling it the Southern Spur) and start up the gentle slopes.
The ridge eventually leads you to a large menacing headwall. The headwall looks like it might go at Class 4, but we chose to traverse to the east (right) and found a wonderful series of ledges that lets you avoid the headwall. The ledges end at a small mining cave and from here it is a short loose scramble back up to the ridge. Continue up the ridge to its crest and begin your descent towards the North Star/Wheeler saddle.
Just before the saddle you will find yourself hopelessly cliffed out. After much deliberation we found a spot about 50 to 100’ east of the cliff and descended to loose, gravelly ledges on the south of the ridge. This is the crux of the route and depending on snow conditions could be quite icy! The descent from the spot where the South Spur meets the East Ridge to the saddle has the worst quality rock, make sure to test your holds! Once to the saddle, the enjoyable scrambling begins in earnest. For the most part staying on the ridgeline is the most fun and any obstacle has a decent path around it. There were a number of spots where route-finding was less than obvious and there are no trails or cairns to follow. Eventually the ridge will lead you to a spot about 200 to 300 feet south of the true summit. Do yourself a favor and stick to the crest of the ridge to the summit. Remarkable position and exposure make this a perfect cap to an excellent ridge.
The summit is a secluded wonderful place. Enjoy the views and when you’re done head back via the south ridge (normal route).
Depending on time of year, this scramble could be extremely technical. Ice and snow would make many of the crux ledges slippery/dangerous. An ice axe and a helmet would likely be good tools for early season (into July) ascents by this route. After the snow melts out, a helmet is recommended due to the large amount of loose rock.
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