Trip Report    

Johannesburg Mountain/East Ridge

A climb of the East Ridge of Johannesburg via Doug's Direct.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Between Cascade Pass and the glacier below Mix-up Peak the trail goes through a steep, sandy gully that probably crosses on snow earlier in the year: currently the best route descends down the gully about 100 vertical feet before switchbacking up the other side.

    Doug's Direct goes through a notch over the northern ridge of Mix-Up peak. There are several notches to choose from and we may not have picked the best one but we made it work. There wasn't an obvious better choice. On the way back the descent from the notch was notably sketchy, especially after a full day of climbing.

    We could see that there were only small patches of snow above the C-J Col so we left our crampons and ice axes there. There are many rappel stations scattered around; some need improvement before use.

Johannesburg Mountain stands out. Although its 8200 ft height is relatively modest, it looms above the Cascade Pass area and draws your attention from everywhere nearby. It is visually imposing with a craggy summit and steep and rugged flanks. None of the climbing routes are easy and, compared to some of the other area peaks, it is infrequently climbed.

Our party of four (Pete Erickson, Leigh Ann Wolfe, Rob Busack, and myself) decided to climb the East Ridge, which starts at C-J Col between Cascade Peak and Johannesburg. Just getting to the col is a serious bit of work. There are several options and we chose Doug's Direct, which was named after the late Doug Walker, who conceived the route. John Porter climbed this route in 2019 and his trip report provided valuable beta. This climb is probably best done as a 3-day trip but work commitments led us to plan for two days, with a very long summit day.

We left the Cascade Pass trailhead at 9:00 a.m. The route starts out like the Ptarmigan Traverse but once on the glacier below Mix-up Peak we turned northwest and climbed up over a notch in the ridge.

After a long sidehill traverse below The Triplets and Cascade Peak we set up camp in a beautiful meadow below the C-J Col around 6200 ft. We arrived around 4:00 p.m. Camping on the south side of the col meant that we were outside of the North Cascades National Park and did not need a wilderness permit.


In the morning we left camp at 5:30 a.m. and headed to the C-J Col where we waited for enough light to start climbing. From camp and from the col we studied the face, trying to pick out the route. It was intimidating from a distance; it was intimidating up close. Finally we started up around 6:30 a.m.

We wore harnesses in case we wanted to belay anywhere but we managed to scramble the entire route unroped. The route finding was somewhat complicated, both macro (where do we go) and micro (how do we get there). There was lots of exposure. There was loose rock everywhere. It was stressful and required a lot of focus. It was nice to be in a group where we could spread some of that around.

2022-09-19 07.59.08.jpg

Photo: Rob Busack

From below what appears to be the the top is a false summit. Once on top we could see the long ridge to the actual summit. We dropped down to the south and made a long traverse dipping in and out of gullies. We reached the actual summit around 10:00 a.m.

2022-09-19 09.44.06.jpg

Photo: Rob Busack

The weather was perfect: warm, sunny, a light breeze, and only a little wildfire haze. There were terrific views in every direction but especially to the north. We could also see our car parked at the trailhead.


We relaxed for a while and enjoyed ourselves. We paged through the summit register and saw familiar and famous names. Since it was full we started another notebook.

2022-09-19 10.22.22.jpg

Photo: Rob Busack

We reluctantly headed down knowing that we had a tricky descent to get back to camp, and then we needed to reverse our approach that took most of the previous day. After we traversed the summit ridge back to the false summit we interspersed three rappels with lots of down-climbing, We rebuilt each of the rappel stations we used, removing the worst-looking material and adding fresh cord.


There was a big sense of relief when we reached the C-J Col. We got back to camp around 3:00 p.m. We packed up and headed out, retracing the approach. We were able to get over the notch and down across the glacier while it was still light. From there on we hiked out by headlamp, reaching the trailhead at 11:00 p.m.

Johannesburg is a serious climb. That it went well is a testament to the skills and experience of all of the team members. The climb was especially for satisfying for me after I was chewed up and spit out in a failed attempt in 2015.

Gear: We used crampons and ice axes on the approach and up to the C-J Col. We used a 60 m rope for rappels. We carried a rack of protection that we didn't use.