Ruth Mountain, North Cascades National Park, May 18, 2003

(all pictures are high res, for low res click here)

After a great climb last year, Chris, Diane and myself decided to climb Ruth Mountain again, however this time the weather was a little schizophrenic .  Just like before, we awoke at 3 am, and began driving at 4 such that we could reach the trailhead by 7 am. Unfortunately, the road was washed out, so we had to park 2 miles from the start of the trail. .

As we began our approach to Hannegan Pass, it was apparent that it had recently snowed as the trees all appeared to have powdered sugar on them.   As you can see the weather was overcast and it was not sure whether or not to stay cloudy. The approach to Hannegan Pass is roughly 5 miles (not including the additional 2 from the washout), and it is all along the side of a ridge. The snow was hard to push thru, and I ended up breaking trail for the first 2.5 miles, and then Diane took over as I was really tired. Once we reached Hannegan campground (4700 ft), we decided it was Chris's turn to break trail for the final 400ft directly up to Hannegan Pass. Finally, we reached Hannegan Pass after 4+ hours of trudging thru the snow. I was tired, but happy, so I took a picture of my climbing buds while they ate lunch. Chris asked me if I always time my pictures such that the subjects are making stupid faces. I said 'Yes', and I took a closeup of him . It was harder to get a close up of Diane making a funny face. . Chris wanted a shot behind the camera, so he tried (unsuccessfully) to get me making a silly face . Chris surprised me just before our attempt for the summit, as he mentioned that he never wore crampons before! Doh! Here's a picture of him learning how to put his crampons on. As I mentioned before, the weather was weird today, just before our summit attempt the sky was still cloudy, but the sun was really trying to push out. So we began our final push for the summit, and I began breaking trail in waist deep snow. As we approached the snow steps to the first ridge, I found myself breaking trail in chest deep snow, such that I was using my fists and ice axe to break trail. After breaking trail for over an hour (and only 400 vertical feet) I reached the top of the snow steps, the snow level was dropping and I noticed a second layer under the top soft layer of snow. This was not a good sign, as it pointed to possible avalanche danger - however, the sun was staying behind the clouds so I figured we'd be in OK shape. In fact, the clouds got worse, and full scale whiteout was upon us. This was a welcome site as we were able to continue. We crossed the ledge at the top of the snow steps, where we noticed a snow boulder that was roughly the size of a small car. At this point, I had a bad feeling about the conditions, and we all decided to head back down.

As we reached Hannegan Pass again, the sun came out, and the snow began to melt rapidly. Snow that was stable before the clouds parted, had given away to avalanches . It was now obvious that we made the right choice. The snow was so sticky, that it would melt off of a tree and create these snow wagonwheels as they rolled down the mountain. .

Though we were disappointed with the lack of a summit, we were happy to get off the mountain without getting caught in an avalanche. The workout was great and the views were spectacular. We will definitely give Ruth a second chance later in the year.