… or at least attempting it.
I flew out to Seattle to meet up with BJ to try the North Ridge, which is described in the guidebook as
"One of the best of the technical snow-and-ice climbs on a Cascade volcano" - Selected Climbs in the Cascades
Sounds like something worth trying more than once even. We started out Saturday morning with a hike and sunny weather complete with a good forecast till Tuesday.
However, by the time we got above the tree line, it clouded over and started to drizzle. Once we got up where we intended to camp at the edge of the snowfields/glacier to started to really rain. We opted to throw up the tent and wait it out. We got soaked in the process.
Eventually it stopped raining at 4pm, and we figured it was worth staying and waiting with the hope that it would clear off. The weather stayed pretty variable, both some sunshine and more rain. Things did not look promising. (see the videos below)
At 1am, we found no clouds, the moon and stars, and a flat barometer. Time to go.
We made it across the glacier in good time and wound our way up and over to the base of the north ridge. There are two access points to the ridge off the Coleman Glacier: one higher and steeper and more prone to rockfall hazard, and a safer one that takes a broad lower slope up onto the ridge. Based on seeing the rockfall path and a large bergschrund from camp, we planned on taking the lower option. We stuck to the plan.
However, instead of this broad snow slope, we found icefall, moats, and rockfall paths.
After trying unsuccessfully to find a good way through the icefall, we turned around because it was getting too late in the morning to safely continue up. Once back around, we could see that our intended route had melted out and that the more direct way was the only passable option. In hindsight, it could have been better to try to move fast through the section of potential rockfall and then we would likely have gotten up the route and summited. But you never know, and it seems like you live longer when you minimize the objective hazards like flying rocks.
This was a great trip and I’d gladly go back and try again. It was both inspiring and humbling to stand under a mountain like this.
Maybe next time.