Summit to ourselves? Check. Panoramic views of the North Cascades? Check. Meadows, ridges, and easy terrain? Check, check, annnnd check.
A+ would do again.
Mary had been talking about Ruth for months. So, looking for a moderate late season climb we decided to do Ruth in a day. We left Eastgate at around 1:45 and promptly ran into northbound traffic. Based on the amount of cars I saw carrying full loads of outdoor gear we avoided rush hour to run smack into everyone doing exactly what we were doing. No matter, we made it to Bellingham around 5. One quick stop at Panda Express later and we were on 542 to continue our pilgrimage to the north. Only one wrong-turn later we found ourselves exploring the Silver Fir campground to find it completely, 100% full. Consoling ourselves with the thought that everyone looked super settled in already, we switched to our backup plans: Hannegan camp. We knew there was camping at the trailhead and we hoped we wouldn’t be too late to snag a spot there. Our worry was for naught: all but two of the camp sites were open and we took our choosing. Nice and flat, close to the bathrooms (maybe too close), and enough room for camp chairs. Ah, camp chairs, the luxury of car camping.
Saturday we started down the trail at 4:15 on our way to Hannegan pass. Walking under the stars is magical. All the usual subjects were out: the dippers, Orion’s belt, the Milky Way, and so on. (man, I’ve gotta learn more constellations…). Trail miles passed by quickly in the dark, and we found ourselves at Hannegan pass around 6:15 to watch the sunrise.
An easy 15 minute break later we started up the bootpack toward pt. 5930. Up and over a a little hill and we found ourselves staring at what looked like a vertical tree-covered slope. I saw a trail, and saw it disappear into what looked like a drainage. “Surely the boot path doesn’t go straight up this thing?” I asked. Turns out it did. Loose rocks, steep dirt, crappy roots. Thankfully we weren’t carry overnight packs as that would have been a real mother… All things come to and end and we rejoined the world of easy walking. We traversed around pt. 5930 on a boot path in the scree and got our first really good look at the ridge and the rest of the route to the summit.
Our images of misery were quickly replaced with tremendous views of Shuksan, Mt. Baker, the North Cascades National Park, a heather-filled ridge, and a route all to ourselves. We descended to the saddle and walked on the rock ridge until about 6100′ where we decided to rope up and enter the glacier. We took a leisurely break and futzed about getting our gear on. Chris led, I was in the middle, and Mary in the back.
We quickly found ourselves side-hilling on decently hard snow. We didn’t have far to go and quickly ended found ourselves at the scree-covered summit pyramid. Approaching the ridge on climber’s left we found a spot with no moat concerns, unroped, took our crampons off, and hopped on up to the summit.
We were rewarded with 360 degree views of AWESOME. Shuksan and Baker were within throwing distance. The border peaks, Goat Mountain, Mount Larabee, Copper Ridge, Pass creek, Glacier, Rainier, Puget Sound and the straits, and on and on and on. Just amazing. And and and we had the summit all to ourselves. We lost ourselves in our lunch, taking photos, and just lazing around. An hour or so later we resigned to our descent and started making our way down.
On the way down we decided to go check out the notable crevasse at 6500′. This was Chris’ first crevasse encounter. We placed a picket (Chris’ first glacier pro!) and hung out for a bit. That aside over we descended the rest of the glacier to meet our first other people for the day: a group of two gearing up to ascend up the glacier and to the summit.
After packing up our gear, we started to mosey back down. The ridges and views were still amazing. We ran into a Mountaineers group who were heading up to Ruth and then were going to traverse over to Icy the next day. Overnight packs are for suckers, but don’t remind me of that the next time I sleep in the alpine. (By the way, there were tons of nice bivy spots along the ridge and at the summit. Just need to find water …).
Descending the steep, crappy slope was our only obstacle on the way out. We ran into a few other groups coming up and none of us managed to hurt each other with rock fall. That taken care of, we crested the knoll and ended up back at Hannegan pass.
I was out of water (3L down) and Chris & Mary were low as well, so we filtered at Hannegan camp (the stream near the bottom of the steep section up to the pass). Sweet, glorious water. From there it was the usual slog out to the trailhead. We arrived back at camp, took our boots off, let the foot-throbbing die down, packed up, and expedited our departure to get food. Our first choice was the beer shrine past Glacier. We had high hopes right up until we realized we’d be #9 on the waitlist. The pizzas looked good but I’ll just have to save that for another time. We ended up at Boomer’s in Bellingham. Too much food later we were back on our way home.