Ruth Mountain - Ruth Glacier, February 2003
I was in need of some good quality snow, better than that encountered on my recent descent from The Castle. I was to be pleasantly surprized. The snow was probably the best that I've ridden this season, and that home-made splitboard of mine really does work well. Like the previous outing on The Castle, Paul and I also welcomed the idea of visiting a corner of the Cascades where we had not yet ventured. For Jerry, on the other hand, this would be his fourth trip to Ruth Mountain. Thankfully, the weather proved to be remarkably sunny and calm and the views promised to be nothing short of spectacular. Be sure to bring lots of film, batteries, or a high capacity memory card when climbing Ruth Mountain!
We were able to drive within less than half a mile from the Hannegan Pass trailhead in a VW Golf--a testament to the unusual absence of snow in the lower elevations, courtesy of El Nino. Paul started out the approach on AT gear he had borrowed from me, while Jerry after some struggling with his Silvretta bindings, managed to damage them beyond repair and had to then resort to using snowshoes (which he never ended up wearing). Later, Paul generously offered the skis to Jerry as the absence of snow on the trail, particularly in the trees, made for tedious travel.
Jerry and I would take our skis on and off countless times to pass through bare spots in the trail. I eventually just carried mine by hand until I couldn't hold them any longer. We finally reached the open glades below Hannegan Pass where travel on skis was finally possible. At the pass, Paul took the snowshoes that Jerry had been carrying on his pack up until this point and decided that he would not continue with us to the summit of Ruth Mountain. The snow had become quite deep and travel without skis would be strenuous and time consuming. Instead, Paul opted to climb up to neighboring Hannegan Peak while Jerry and I began skinning up the steep slope above Hannegan Pass towards Ruth Mountain.
Jerry and I reached a saddle to the left of a craggy hump in the ridge extending from the Ruth Glacier. A short, sun-bathed descent took us to another saddle directly below the North Face of Ruth Mountain. Jerry shot ahead of me and made short work of the ascent of Ruth Glacier. Flailing some distance behind, I finally reached the a notch below the summit, put on my jacket and assembled my splitboard for the descent. I was snapping off photos at the notch, when Jerry skied back down to where I was and encouraged me to make the final steps to the summit. How could I refuse? Together, we postholed up the summit ridge to the true summit a short distance beyond.
The ride back down from the notch to the saddle was magic. After a short traverse back to the lower saddle, Jerry and I were rewarded with another nice descent to Hannegan Pass. Jerry and I re-joined Paul back at Hannegan Pass and together we hiked the remaining four or five miles back to the trailhead. We easily found our way back to the car by moonlight, spirits refreshed by wicked good turns and first-class summit views. I'll be back for sure.
Mouse-over thumbnails below for a description and click to enlarge.
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