Ruth Mountain

June 26, 2007 / Grade II, 25° snow (steeper in early season), minor glacier

Ruth mountain makes a good ski tour or conditioning climb. The main reason to come here though are the astonishing views of the North side of its better known neighbour: Mt Shuksan.

The day we head up there, the weather is gorgeous, particularly in the early morning. The trail is mostly dry up to the Hannigan Camps (just below Hannigan Pass), where snow cover abruptly begins. We continue a little higher along the trail (old tracks), then traverse right toward the rocky knob. The slope up that knob is steep (35 degrees or so) and still covered in snow. Good neve. We're using the crampons. We get to a shoulder, and into the sun, and the snow gets much softer. Crampons off. The traverse around the knob is a bit exposed, and ends at a col with a cool bergshrund and cornice.

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Ruth Mountain from Hannegan Pass.
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Going up the snow slopes above the pass...
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...with Mt Shuksan and the Nooksack towers in the background.
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Traversing around the rocky knob, just below a small bergshrund.
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Cool looking cornice.

From there, another slightly rising traverse along the other side of the knob leads to the main col, and the base of the long mellow snow ridge to the top. This mountain looks like a cream puff. Beautiful! Just before starting up the knob, we started getting unbelievable views of Shuksan and Baker. We take tons of pictures. Those North faces are awesome. The ascent to the top is uneventful; we're making new tracks in fairly soft snow (even some unconsolidated new snow in the last 500 feet, apparently from last weekend's storm). Since we're carrying glacier gear (this is supposed to be a glacier...), we are wearing the harnesses, just in case things get interesting, but the ridge looks so gentle and without any visible cracks that we don't rope up. We stay close to the ridge line proper and things feel perfectly safe.

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The mellow snow ridge leading to the top of Ruth Mountain (seen from the col)
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Going up the gentle snow ridge...
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...with more amazing views of Shuksan and Baker.
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Just below the false summit.
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Summit shot...

From the top, the views of the NF of Shuksan, the Price Glacier, and the Nooksack Towers and Cirque are beyond belief. Some of the most impressive views we've seen in the mountains so far! We sit out of the wind, rest, eat, drink, and mostly soak up the views and take a million pics. By the time we're almost ready to go, a group of 3 skiers shows up. They carried their skis on their packs, following our tracks. We say hi and head down. Two more groups are coming up. The sky is starting to veil with high altitude clouds.

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...and summit marker.
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Eric looking at the North side of Suksan.
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Summit views.
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Great summit views of Shuksan and Baker.
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Mesmerized by the Price Glacier.

Based on our view from the top, and after overhearing the skiers talk about how great it was that they came up that way, we decide to try and take a shortcut by dropping off the west side of the knob, instead of retracing the traverse all the way around the east side. Big mistake! We find ourselves looking down exposed, narrow and rocky, 45 degree snow gullies that look pretty spicy to go down. We traverse back some distance to the south and pick a slightly less steep gully. Slow going. Once at the bottom of that, we have to traverse back north forever, across slippery, mossy slopes and thin snow patches, and finally make it back to Hannegan Camps. We take a break, refill our water bottles, and watch the skiers make some turns, before heading down the trail back to the car. Great day!

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Another shot of one of the most iconic peaks in the Cascades.
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Coming down the gentle slopes of Ruth Glacier.
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Looking back at Ruth Mountain from the saddle.
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Hiking back to the car.
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Crossing of one the many streams.
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The well-maintained trail to Hannegan Pass.
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Lots of vegetation and...
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...pretty flowers.
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Ditto.
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Mt Shuksan (Hanging Glacier and North Face from Hannegan Pass Road, FR 402).