I was asked to join a group of Mountaineers on a private trip for the Ruth Icy Traverse. Mount Ruth and it’s neigbour Icy Peak are in the Mount Baker area of the North Cascades, accessed by the Hannegan Pass Trailhead. Views from the traverse and the ridge campsite are meant to be spectacular with close views of Mount Shuksan and it’s glaciers.
North Cascades National Park
drive time from Seattle
Glacier Travel Gear,
Rock protection for Icy
NW Forest Pass,
We wanted to get an early start for day 1 from the trailhead so we planned to camp out at the Hannegan Pass trailhead the night before. This worked pretty well, there are a few campsites for this use. The road has been washed out right before the old parking lot so you have to walk past that to get to the bathrooms. We picked up our permit from the Backcountry Office in Glacier and by 9:30 am we were hiking towards Hannegan Pass.
The trail to Hannegan pass was currently being worked on by WTA so was in fantastic shape, lots of water along the way and switchbacks at the end leading to the pass. The last of these switchbacks are through a clearing which provides perfect views up to Mount Ruth. Unfortunately, the day was getting cloudier as we went with clouds forming over the summit of Ruth as we approached. We had lunch at Hannegan Pass before leaving the nice maintained trail and joining the climber’s boot path leading up to Mount Ruth. The boot path shoots up the ridge from the pass using a view eroded, steep, rocky/root exposed, slippery trail. We were all glad it wasn’t raining to go up it and thankful it didn’t last too long.
Thankful to have the worse of the boot path out of the way we traverse around a small knoll on the ridge and continues aiming for the summit of Ruth. Now well above the tree line, the wind was cooling as we climbed. The clouds continued to roll in and when we got to the start of the glacier at 6200′ we decided to wait for a bit to see if the weather would clear before preceding. Speaking to climbers on the way down they turned around shy of the summit, likening the white out to ‘being inside a pingpong ball’. We later nicknamed the spot we waited ‘The Rocks of Indecision’ because the weather blew in and out and we didn’t know if the clouds were coming or going. We ended up being joined by 2 other parties and this prompted us to continue in our efforts.
The glacier climb itself was fine, there were no large crevasses so we were able to climb straight up to the summit. As we did the clouds even cleared up a little and we all got pretty hot making our way to the summit. I was surprised at how quickly we got there. We spent some time at the summit taking photos, signing the register and waiting for the cloud to clear enough to see the way we had to go to descend to camp.
The camp we were aiming for was on the ridge towards Icy where we could camp on rock and get views of the ridge scramble we’d have to do the next day to get to Icy. Just before we reached camp a thick cloud rolled in which made the last few hundred meters a little tricky. We all managed to find camp spots on rocks and avoid sleeping on the snow. As we were melting snow for water and getting our dinner we did get a few views over at Shuksan and towards Icy. Unfortunately, we never got the panorama that was promised by this location. As soon as the sun set we were in bed with our alarms set for an early start.
4:15 am came too soon but with the alarm also came rain. None of us was too keen to head out in those conditions so we decided to snooze for another hour. Another hour came and we were still extremely socked in so we decided to sleep until 7:30. The weather didn’t seem to be improving and we were losing time so we decided to call off the traverse to Icy and just pack up camp and head back. Given the visibility, we went back over the summit of Ruth as we weren’t sure we could navigate traversing across the glacier.
We had no trouble following our path from the day before to get back to the ‘Rocks of Indecision’ where we could unrope. As we got lower on the mountain we got below the clouds and could see further than the day before! We all pushed through the descent wanting to get back to the cars. The steep boot path was tricky on the descent with the recent rain but we took it slow enough and all made it down without any serious slips. Just our luck once we’d reached Hannegan Pass the summit of Ruth was clear. The trail back to the car felt like forever and by the end, my feet were pretty sore. We reached the cars at 4pm.