Graybeard Peak/North Face

A rarely climbed and difficult alpine ice and mixed climb near Easy Pass, Grade IV, WI 2-3, 5.2. It is generally only climbable for two to three weeks after North Cascades Highway opens, Cold conditions, spindrift and icefall make this a route to be taken seriously.

Getting There

Drive the SR 20, the North Cascades Highway, to the Easy Pass Trailhead (3,700 ft), 6.2 miles west of Rainy Pass. This is only accessible once the North Cascades Highway opens in the spring. Check WSDOT for conditions and expected opening date.


Set out on foot, snowshoes, or skis from the trailhead, following the Easy Pass trail which will be under snow. One of the most difficult aspects is likely to be crossing Granite Creek. There should be a good log, though some parties report there is now a bridge. It is best to scout in daylight, even the day ahead of time, if possible.

The route switchbacks up through timber to the right.  After about 2 miles, the trail breaks out of the woods into a basin at about 4,400 ft.  At that point, continue ascending to the south towards the North Face of Graybeard Peak, assessing the route as you climb.  The peak is unlabeled on most maps but is the prominent peak southeast of Easy Pass, and is easily visible from the highway.

Ascent Route

At the base of the face, the route begins in a moderate snow gully. It's about a half pitch and up to to 45° with potentially some  water ice in the center. The continue ascending a large snowfield for a few hundred feet.

From there, harder technical climbing begins, and is marked by a steep ice gully, 65° or more, which Nelson describes as being just left of center, for one full pitch.  Beckey and others describe another option that stays more to the center here. Colin Haley, who had the second ascent, describes ice bulges to 80°, as do many trip reports. 

After this ice gully, another pitch of 45° leads to the crux, a steep, nearly featureless rock band 15-20 feet high which Beckey describes as 5.2 that likely involves mixed climbing, poorly consolidated snow, and poor protection. 

From above the rock band, continue either up a center gully or climb rightwards to a snow groove, and follow either to the summit ridge.  Beckey reports that the center gully has the best potential for good ice, though the first ascent party (1984) did not take this line due to a cornice blocking access to the ridge. 

Nearly all parties report extensive spindrift and ice fall, mostly annoying, but potentially dangerous. Cold conditions appear to be paramount.  This is not a route to be taking lightly.


Nelson describes heading south and descend a south-facing gully for several hundred feet until one can begin a descending, westward traverse to Easy Pass.  Other parties (following Colin Haley) report instead descending the northeast ridge, then hiking around to the east. 


Two ropes to facilitate bailing which is common on this route. Two ice tools, ice screws, and pickets. Some rock pro—nuts, cams, tricams, pitons—have all been reported as useful.

  • Suitable Activities: Climbing
  • Climbing Category: Intermediate Alpine
  • Seasons: April, May
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Intermediate Ice Climb
  • Length: 6.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 4,300 ft
  • 7,996 ft
  • USGS Mt Arriva
  • Trails Illustrated North Cascades National Park
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