This year I decided to see if I could get up to the Pass and bivy near the summit of 7100' Ruth Mountain. This is a very doable trip in the summer, but much more difficult and dangerous in the off-season. The view from the summit of Ruth -- looking at the East face of Mt. Shuksan and across the Nooksack Cirque -- is one of the finest in the North Cascades.
When I called to check on conditions, the NPS rangers told me I would probably be the first party back there this year, and asked if I would please note the trail and road conditions, reporting back to their office in the town of Glacier.
First, I shoveled out a section of FS road 32 on my way in.
|Brute force solution|
|Some nut tried to drive over this|
The signs at the trailhead were crushed to bits by a fallen tree.
At the end of May, this valley is only starting to melt out. These photos look really dark ... but ... it really looks like this!
At this time of year, the hike up the valley crosses a series of steep, exposed snowfields. You need an ice axe and great care to cross them safely, or risk sliding several hundred feet to the valley floor.
As the snowfields melt-out, they rot out from underneath and become even more dangerous. I have fallen through them before, into a roaring, hidden creek below, and it is no fun. But not on this trip.
My first good glimpse of Ruth Mountain. Her glacier is a shimmering cloak of immaculate whiteness.
|Bobcat print in the snow|
|Accept no substitutes|
I followed the route pretty well and only got into trouble once on a dicey snowfield, which was dangerously melted out from underneath. When I got to the meadow below the Pass, I knew I was all alone up here.
Was another party just here? These tracks look fresh.
It's a big kitty! Looks like I'm not alone after all. He just came over the Pass, and is probably watching me right now.
I don't think I can make the summit of Ruth today, but I still need to sleep back here, and now I don't want to be anywhere near the Pass. But the snow conditions above me are very dangerous, heavy loose snow slides everywhere, so I need to be careful where I go. I ascend the steep slope immediately south of the Pass, to camp in the snow around 5800'.
Home for the night -- my bivy sack in a hole I dug. I made dinner and relaxed with a flask of single-malt scotch, looking out at Bear Mountain and over toward Whatcom Pass.
Here's a look back down the valley I came up today. These are the North Cascades in May.
|Ruth Creek Valley|
When I returned home, I checked Fred Beckey's classic Cascade Alpine Guide for this region and found a specific warning about slide conditions in this valley in the spring. I was pleased to know that I recognized these same conditions and did not put myself at risk trying to push it up to Ruth. The crux of the approach has a large cornice that can be dangerous even in the summertime.
Certainly, there would be no one around to help me out if I got into any trouble, well, except for that hungry cougar. An excellent trip!