Ruth Mountain is a glaciated summit in the North Cascades (2169m), with a stunning view of Mount Shuksan from the summit and an awesome 800m ski descent down the north face. It’s a modest objective, only 9km and 1200m from the car. By May last year, most of my friends had given up on skiing for the season (since February?) but the conditions were perfectly setup for some spring corn. Some of my best skiing last winter was towards the end of the season with some early spring snowfall and stable weather and conditions.
The freezing levels were forecasted for 3000m that day so a early start was required. Spring corn doesn’t wait around. Bram and I left Vancouver at 5am, for the two hour drive, across the border, to Glacier, and then up the Hannegan Road 32,, which branches off from the main road up to the Mount Baker ski area. The bumpy gravel road continues to climb for another 8km to a large parking lot, with a good trail beyond. With virtually no snow at low elevations last winter, it was key to find trips that didn’t involve a major bushwhack, either high drivable roads or well-maintained trails for easy walking with running shoes. The road is not plowed, and the trail crosses multiple large avalanche pathes, so spring time is the best time for easy access.
We hiked for 1.5 hours to snow line, at 4800′ just before the trail branches left and climbs up to Hannegan Pass. You can either go to Hannegan Pass and then around the east side of the bump at 5930′ and then south along the divide. In stable conditions, the most direct route is to continue traversing along the east side of Ruth Creek and then ascend steeper slopes on the southeast side of the basin to gain the ridge. This involves crossing avalanche paths and should only be done in stable conditions. The weak overnight freeze at low elevations left us tediously post-holing up the steep snow.
The final climb is on the receding glacier on the north face of Mount Ruth, starting at 6000′ up to the summit at 7115′. It’s a straightforward ascent up, and the only thing slowing us down were the views all the way into the heart of the North Cascades. Incredible views up here for only a little bit of effort. It was already starting to warm up, and I could feel the east facing slopes soften.
The north facing slopes stayed firm and icy, but not for long. We were on the summit at 10:50am, and descending by 11:20am. The first few turns were icy, and I wondered if we were descending too early. But a few turns later, the snow transitioned into that hero corn stuff, and I was able to make smooth effortless turns down this wide open slope. The bigger central gully was covered in avalanche debris, something that we scoped out while hiking along the trail. We went skiers right, which lead us into another large gully/bowl down into Ruth Creek. The bottom part was just getting soft enough that small sluffs were starting to release with every turn. I wouldn’t have wanted to ski it any later. Fifteen minutes after having stood on the summit, we were down at 4400′, skiing along the east side of Ruth Creek. There was a short bushwhack through the forest to get back up onto the trail, mostly old growth but some slide alder too. I don’t think it can be a proper ski trip unless there is some of this!
We climbed up and out of the alder/forest mess, only twenty minutes of bushwhacking, and then slogged back along the now very slushy snow in the meadows beyond the trail turnoff. It was only 1pm, so we stopped for a nap in the cool air next to the creek. We slogged back down to the car, arriving at 2:30pm. A nice and short ski day with one good ski descent. Check it out next spring!
Dropping down into the valley bottom. We skied down to the edge of snow to the right of the creek, and then bushwhacked back up through the trees past the slide path to the snowy meadows above to regain the trail.