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Trip Report    

Ruth Mountain & Icy Peak Traverse

We climbed August 9-10, with near perfect weather and snow conditions, and amazingly almost no bugs. The plan was for a group of 9 but due to last-minute cancellations we had 8, so we made two rope teams of 4 using 40m glacier ropes. The driving directions in both the Seattle and Everett route descriptions are incorrect in that they tell you to turn left onto Nooksack River Road; this road is now called Hannegan Pass Road. We started at 9:30am after getting the camping permit at the ranger station, and reached Hannegan Pass at 12:25pm. We then headed up the climbers trail toward Ruth and ran into the maze of trails below point 5930. We took the recommended nasty gully which was only muddy for the top half. There is a cairn at top and a good-looking trail that leads off to climber's right, so when going down the next day make sure you don't miss that turn off.

We missed getting water before Hannegan Pass but were able to get some from a melting patch of snow above the gully. We started the snow climb of Ruth at 2:20pm. I wanted to follow the "John Bell variation" (see the older trip reports) and go straight up over the Ruth summit rather than traversing, which I hate. This worked out very well. There was some resistance to gaining the extra elevation on the way out, so we tried the traverse going back down the next day--some preferred the traverse while others (including me) wished we'd gone over the summit again. Snow conditions were superb (there were several people skiing down both days) and we reached the summit at 3:20pm. The south ridge descent toward Icy looked sketchy so we went down the west ridge which was straightforward with a good climber's trail through the scree, and we reached camp at 4:20pm. We had the camp to ourselves and saw no one past the Ruth summit both days. At first we couldn't find running water near camp but spotted a nice small creek flowing from the snow down to the west a 10 minute walk away. This was a very pleasant spot to visit, but we did find a bit of flowing water near camp later and used that afterwards.

We wanted to do the descent down to the saddle in the light (recommended) and so didn't start until 5:30am, although with the super moon we could have potentially started earlier. We had a strong group and the students were able to descend the rather unpleasant loose 3rd class section at the start with no hand line. The traverse over to Icy was straightforward, and although from a distance it looked like it would be problematic to transition from the final rock section to the glacier it turned out to be very easy, with a nice flat section just before the snow to rope up. We started up the glacier at 7:55am. The Icy glacier was perhaps the easiest glacier I've ever climbed. We did cross above a couple large crevasses but the climb is a low-angle gradual traverse that doesn't not even require switching hands on the ice ax. It was rather hot on Sunday but the snow conditions were still excellent going up and down (we used crampons on both Ruth and Icy both going up and down although they perhaps weren't essential in the afternoons).

Once at the col on the west ridge of Icy (arrival at 8:50am) it was all rock so we left our ropes and snow equipment there and continued up the ridge. There's a decent climber's path which is well worth following. The final gully didn't look too bad so I ended up scrambling up trailing one of the ropes to set as a hand line. I should have trailed both ropes as it's hard to throw a rope down the low-angle gully and it took some time on the rappel to straighten it out. The gully was not as loose as advertised, at least along the route I followed--I found only one large loose rock and I think only one student knocked down any rocks on rappel. Climbing was mostly 3rd class with just a couple isolated 4th class moves. I set up the hand line and a couple students used prusiks but most scrambled up, taking turns with the others out of the fall line. We were all on the summit by 9:50am.

We all rappelled down taking turns and staying out of the fall line. I had the students descend one by one back to the glacier which helped with efficiency. We arrived back at camp at 1:20pm and headed out at 2:20pm, arriving at Hannegan Pass at 4:45pm and the trailhead at 7:45pm for a 14:15 day.

All in all this is one of the very best Basic climbs with unsurpassed scenery and tremendously varied and enjoyable climbing.