Three years ago we hiked up Ruth Mountain in the fog and ever since we swore that we would come back to get the legendary view.
We left the Seattle area just as the light was creeping across the horizon of the Cascades and it looked like it would be a great day . We were able to drive all the way to the Hannegan trailhead (3100 ft) with no problem. There were already 8 other cars there. After consider packing and repacking, debates about snowshoes and crampons (we decided to take both – for “training” purposes if nothing else), and general putzing around we finally hit the trail at 7:30.
As an earlier report had indicated we quickly ran into some tangles of trees in avalanche debris that provided early morning stretching of our limbs and vocabulary . The first mile of trail is mostly snowfree, but once it begins to climb many snowfields are crossed – riddled with moats that we thought would be fun to cross in the afternoon sun on our descent .
We passed by Hannegan camp and went straight up the snow to Hannegan Pass for a nice break and views down into the Chilliwack valley. There were excellent steps already kicked into the slope SE of the pass and we quickly climbed up and rounded Point 5963 on the east. The steep traverse was easy with solid, though increasingly slushy, footsteps in the snow. We used crampons that generally helped us to feel extra secure, but they were not really necessary.
Around the point we traversed to the 5600 ft saddle on the north ridge of Ruth, where a group of skiers coming straight up from Ruth Creek appeared. We had thought about going that way but opted for the Hannegan Pass route on the way up as the steps we were following were so inviting. We followed the skiers up the last 1400 ft of the ridge to the summit (7115 ft) and finally got to enjoy the great views of the North Cascades . We used our crampons all the way up – they helped some of our group to feel secure in the steps, but again, we could have very easily done without them. The snowshoes were only useful as training weights on our packs (and later for slowing down our glissades as they accumulated snow while hanging from the pack ). No crevasses were visible on the upper glacier at this point.
After almost two hours on top we decided to follow the skiers back down directly into Ruth Creek. The boys were clamoring for the 2500 foot glissade that had been reported from the previous week . It was lots of fun, navigating mysterious drop-offs , weaving around (and occasionally over) bergschrunds with yelps of surprise and riding accumulating layers of slush (while debating whether the technical term was “slushalanche” or “mushalanche”). The only downside to the glissading was the 300 foot climb back up to the trail further down the valley .
We got back to the car in beautiful evening light. All said, this is one of the more beautiful mountain scrambles we’ve done in a while and is in good shape presently. 10 miles RT and about 4600 ft elevation.
We were roped for comfort / safety for the kids. The slope you traverse above Hannegan Pass is pretty exposed and a little steep - with a cliffy runout. It is not the kind of thing you'd want to build up any momentum on (let alone slip in the first place). They can self arrest but they haven't had enough experience yet for us (as worried parents). For experienced climbers confident in your footing on snow traverses and handling of an ice axe, the traverse would probably not require a rope (though we've seen others use one there). The last 1400 feet of elevation goes up the Ruth Glacier. At this time of the year there were no crevasses opened up, but I have seen some later in the season. I've rarely seen anyone else rope up on that glacier, but we tend to be conservative (esp when climbing with the kids).
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