Added by Devin K
Ruth Mountain and Icy Peak offer fun scrambling outstanding views of Nooksack Cirque and Shuksan. This adventure provides easy access from Bellingham, WA and Vancouver, BC.
This is a great introductory glacial climb in the North Cascades with moderate glacial slopes and 4th class scrambling. The reward is outstanding views of the Picket Range, Mt Shuksan and the dramatic Nooksack Cirque. Even though this climb is easy it can be demanding and requires individuals to be in peak shape. Trip time can range from 15-20 hours depending on weather, fitness, and whether or not you rope up on the glaciers. This trip can be broken into two days and there are bivy sites located on Icy Peak's south ridge.
To begin, drive up Mt Baker Hwy from Bellingham, WA to Hannegan Pass Rd, which takes about 50 minutes. Once on Hannegan Pass Rd it takes about another 20 minutes to arrive at the end of the road and the Hannegan Pass Trailhead, your starting point. We chose to do this climb on a whim in mid-August and arrived at the trailhead at midnight and began hiking immediately. There is camping at the trailhead if you choose to not go for the alpine start.
Our biggest mistake was opting out of taking our running shoes for the Hannegan Pass Trail portion and I would highly recommend anyone else planning to do this trip to bring running shoes for this portion. From the trailhead to Hannegan Pass is about 4 miles and shouldn't take too much time due to the quality trail and low elevation gain, about 1.5 hours. Once at the top of the pass, 5000', turn right on a faint trail that passes through campsites to a point where the trail goes straight up through shrubs. This is a good point to leave the trail runners behind because the trail from this point on can be extremely wet and muddy and will soon be snow.
The steep climb up through the shrubs was extremely eroded and was a flowing stream when we went up in August. The only time of year this may be avoided would be earlier in the season when it is still covered in snow. After the climb through the shrubs the trail turns east and traverses around a point at 5700'. Snow can be encountered at this point and if there is enough snow this portion of trail can expose you to steep chutes and cliffs, so depending on season make sure to take extra caution here. When you reach the south side of the point you will be on the north ridge of Ruth Mountain. After you hike along the ridge for a .5 mile the ridge will begin to increase in slope and this is roughly where the glacier begins. Here is a could time to put on crampons and rope up if you plan to.
From here travel up the ridge and to the right of a rock outcropping sticking above the glacier and continue straight until you have reached the summit. Hannegan Pass to Ruth's summit at around 7000' should take around 2 hours. There are a few crevasses along this route that open up late summer some years. Ruth Mountain is at 48°85'97"N and 121°53'25"W. Take off your crampons and unrope if you chose to once you're on the summit, you will not need them again until Icy Peak. The summit is nice and flat and is a great place to take a rest if the weather and wind are cooperating. We chose to take a few hours here to nap.
Once you're ready, head down the west ridge to the saddle and turn south traversing the mountain on a flat bench. Depending on snow level there may be a visible trail taking off from the west ridge. When you reach the slot next to the south ridge there will be faint trails leading down a steep and sometimes exposed ramp on the right side of the gully. Make sure not to go right because the gully will soon cliff-out on you. Continue down until you reach the ridge line between Icy Peak and Ruth Mountain. The lowest spot on the ridge is at 5700'. This is also where the glacier on Icy Peak connects with the ridge and where you will leave the ridge and begin to climb Icy Peak. Here is where you will want to rope up again.
Depending on the time of year, there may be multiple crevasses to navigate around. When we climbed Icy, hugging the left side next to the north ridge line was the best option. There will be a long horizontal crevasse towards the top of the glacier just below the Icy Peak towers and this is where you will want to head southwest towards a notch on the southwest ridgeline at 6600'. This is where there are bivy spots built up on the east side of the ridgeline and where you will turn left up towards the summit towers. Take off crampons and unrope here. There is a distinct trail that heads north toward the left tower, which is the tallest. When you get to the base of the towers there will be a gully up through the middle of them. This is an unexposed low 4th class section with solid rock. At the top of the gully head left to the summit at around 6900'. The summit has plenty of room and good views all around. Icy Peak is at 48°83'65"N and 121°52'83"W. Time from Ruth Mountain to Icy Peak should take 3-6 hours.
There is a great boulder to rap off at the top of the gully, which had new slings and rings when we were up there. Bring extra webbing and rings just incase. We used a 30m rope to rap off, which got us past the main difficult portion. The route back retraces your previous steps. Instead of summiting Ruth twice we chose to traverse around on the glacier from the west ridge notch to the north ridge. Once down to Hannegan Pass you will be incredibly happy you brought your running shoes to finish the last 4 miles of the trail back to the car. On the way back to town or wherever you're heading to, make sure to stop by North Fork Brewery for some pizza and beer!
If you enjoy getting out in the Cascades, but don't have a full weekend for adventure, this is a perfect option! Enjoy the climbs!
- mountaineering boots
- ice axe
- harness (optional)
- rope: 30m or + (optional)
- basic glacier gear (optional)
- first aid kit
- puffy jacket
- rain jacket
- trail runners (optional, but highly recommended)
- USGS topo map for
- descending rings
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