Climbing Ruth Mountain
DATE HIKED: 6/9/19
TOTAL DISTANCE/ASCENT: 15 MILES AND 5,000 FT
HIGHEST POINT: 7,115 FT
DIFFICULTY: VERY DIFFICULT/ TECHNICAL SKILLS REQUIRED
REQUIRED PERMIT: NO
DOG FRIENDLY: NO
LOCATION: NORTH CASCADES
RECREATION PASS: NORTHWEST FOREST PASS
I first saw Ruth Mountain on the way to and from doing Copper Ridge last summer. I felt the snowfield and and beautiful peak call to me and said I wanted to climb that mountain. Went home researched it and saw that it was a technical climb, meaning it required mountaineering and glacier skills. Well over the winter I acquired those skills and on a Saturday night at 7:00 PM we decided we would go for Ruth the next morning. This meant I quickly gathered all my normal hiking supplies with the addition of an ice axe, crampons, and glacier travel supplies. I went to bed early with a 3:00 AM wake up call to leave Seattle at 4 AM. We made it to the trailhead at 7:30 AM. Sleeping at the trailhead, camping at Hannegan camp or camping on Ruth arm would’ve made this a much more enjoyable experience, but we did with the time we had.
The road is washed out and adds a 3 minute walk to the real trailhead. We signed in on the register and hit the trail. The valley hiking in is beautiful with peaks, waterfalls and a river. It is a long one though with 4.5 miles of hiking before you get to Hannegan camp.
We made it to Hannegan Camp quickly- about 2 hours. We filtered water as we carried little to move faster. There is lots of water in this valley. Ate lunch, suncreened up and then prepared to start climbing up higher. In less than 20 minutes we than made it to Hannegan Pass. To the left brings you to Hannegan Peak, straight on the trail continues to Copper Ridge, and right is the cut off for Ruth Mountain. We hiked on and got to our first great view point of Shuksan. This was also right below the steepest pitch of the day. I was proud of how much progress I’ve made feeling comfortable on steep snow. I am still slow with using crampons and feeling secure in my footing. This will get easier over time I’m sure. We used crampons and ice axe from here till the summit.
After the steep pitch we traversed around a small peak and then traversed towards Ruth again. This is when the views really opened up and I was filled with awe and amazement of the landscape unfolding in front of me.
We continued hiking on and started up the ridge to the summit. On a rock pile below the summit we took a snack break and took out the glacier gear. I really bonked at this point (ran out of energy from not eating enough). I tried to stomach what I could, but really felt not great. I wanted to stay on those rocks and nap and let them continue on. I was 1,000 feet below the summit and wasn’t going to quit this close though. I put on my harness, prussiked to the rope, and our group of three was ready to travel on the glacier. 50% of the people we saw this day looked like they had the gear for a glacier climb, we also saw others only in trail runners. This route does go over a glacier and even though there were no crevasses showing, it is good to be prepared for anything.
This was my first time traveling on a glacier, on a rope and it was quite the experience. It’s hard traveling on your own for so long with no one close to talk to, managing the tension of the rope, paying attention to your crampons and ice axe, minding the environment and any crevasses/ rockfall. Mountaineering takes up a whole lot more mental energy than just hiking.
I started to feel a little bit better at this point and was excited to make it to the summit.
There was a false summit before the real summit and then an awesome curve/cat walk to the real summit. I was overcome with joy once we stepped on the summit. I was also overcome with exhaustion and the reality we had to make it all the way down to the car today as well. It took us about 6.5 hours to get from car to summit.
The views from this summit are probably one of my favorites. Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, the Pickets, Rainier far off, and all of the North Cascades as far as the eye can see. It was stunning. The summit was large with plenty of room for walking around. Nikki got to painting, I took photos and ate snacks and we enjoyed it up there for about an hour. We were the only ones up there and the last group of the day. It was getting cold and windy so we packed up and discussed wether to rope up or not for the way down. We saw no signs of any open crevasses and decided the speed of being unroped would benefit us. Even a week later recent trip reports say crevasses are opening up. Late summer photos show a field of large crevasses. Come prepared for anything.
Going down was considerably faster. I was beyond pure exhaustion at this point and wanted to be off the mountain. So many miles in mountaineering boots and my feet felt it. Coming down the steepest pitch again I took my time plunge stepping and really got good practice with that. Another skill that will take time to perfect.
I was so excited when we got off the snow and hit the trail for the last 5 miles out. We cruised down the trail and made it back to the car at 7:00 PM. It was an 11.5 hour day. The combo of little sleep, big miles/ gain, and so much time on my feet had me cursing mountaineering and wondering if this intense sport is for me. A week later I can say I’m happy I made this summit and it was worth the pain. If you can sleep on Ruth Arm, that would be the most magical experience with climbing Ruth for sunrise.
Here’s to the start of my mountaineering career.