Ruth Mountain

Strange but true: Last Friday, three moms managed to free up their work schedules, arrange childcare, agree on a fun mountain objective, AND get good weather all on the same day!
On Friday, Lindsay, Jenni and I headed up Ruth Mountain. (Jenni owns Baker Mountain Guides with her husband John, but this wasn’t a guided trip… not that you could tell by the number of peaks we asked her to name along the way. Poor Jenni. Being a literal walking guidebook of the North Cascades must get old.)

We met at Hannegan Trailhead at 5 am on Friday morning. I’d spent the night in my van at the trailhead, and was feeling pretty damn good with almost 7 hrs of sleep under my belt. Meanwhile Jenni and Lindsay had each slept at their own homes in Bellingham, betting that they’d get more sleep in their own beds, only to be woken by kiddos at various hours of the night. Mom life.

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Moonrise over Baker (on my way to camp at the trailhead)
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Moonrise over Shuksan (on my way to camp at the trailhead)

After sorting through gear and playing a quick game of take-it-or-leave-it, we were on the trail by 530 am. It was a gorgeous morning, clear and cool. The bugs were bad at the trailhead but left us alone once we started moving. As we hiked up to Hannegan Pass, we were treated to views of the sun rising on Mount Sefrit, as well as our first glimpses of Ruth Mountain. The Hannegan Pass trail is in excellent if brushy condition, with just one slightly tricky part involving a collapsed snowbridge.

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Sunrise on Sefrit
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Another shot of Sefrit
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First glimpse of Ruth – the snowy one on the right
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Close-up of Ruth

By the time we reached Hannegan Pass, the sun was up and the day was warming quickly. Jenni is still nursing, so she stopped to pump while Lindsay and I ate snacks and listened to the chirping of the birds and the whirring of Jenni’s pump. It made me simultaneously miss nursing my kiddo (such an awesome bonding experience), while feeling grateful that I never have to pump again.

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Time to pump! Yay?

One thing I learned is that Jenni is fast at all mountain transitions, including the pumping-to-hiking transition. Before we knew it she had her shirt back on and was ready to roll. We threw on our packs and headed up the ridge towards Ruth. After you leave the Hannegan Pass trail, you cross a few low-angle snow-covered slopes and then reach an awkward steep section that is a combination of rotten snow, rocky roots, and slick heather.  We finally cleared tree line and stopped to put on crampons and helmets. Next up was a traverse of the steep snowy slopes below point 5930, and a quick detour around a small lingering cornice.

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View from above treeline: switchbacks up Hannegan Peak in the foreground, Granite Mountain on the left, and craggy Slesse Mtn (?) way in the back.
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Keep on moving, nothing to see here

From there, it was essentially a walk up Ruth’s Northeast ridge line, parts of which were truly just walking, and parts of which made me glad for my axe and crampons. It should be noted that I’m a relative wimp when it comes to steep slopes. There’s a reason my brother used to call me “Colonel Cautious.” Lindsay and Jenni, both of whom are experienced climbers and skiers, kept talking about how fun it would be to ski down Ruth. I kept thinking about how fun it would be to not slide down Ruth.

Because the slope was relatively mellow, and the one known crevasse was completely filled in, we did not rope up. We just slowly but surely plodded along in the slightly soft snow, until we reached the summit.

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Our approach to Ruth
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Mt Baker
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Two other climbers that we would meet on the summit
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Getting closer…

Soon enough, we were there! Although most of the approach had been snow-covered, the summit itself was snow-free. And very windy. We took a few pictures and then hunkered down behind a small rock wall and chatted while relaxing in the sunshine.

We shared the summit with two other guys. They seemed nice enough, but I couldn’t decide whether to laugh, cry, or cringe when they started giving Jenni unsolicited beta on various mountains and routes in the area. Mansplaining at its finest. I’m sure they were just trying to be helpful, but it was hard to watch.

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More of this, please.

 

 

 

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Summit selfie
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Mountain mamas (left to right: Lindsay, me and Jenni)
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Nooksack Cirque and Shuksan
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Icy as seen from Ruth
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The Pickets (and a bunch of others)
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Chatting on the summit, moments before the mansplaining began
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Shuksan, with Baker lurking the back
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One more shot of Nooksack Cirque and Shuksan

After hanging out on the summit for almost an hour, we began our descent. We’d taken off our crampons when we reached the scree-pile of a summit, and did not put them back on as we descended. There are several fun glissades to be had on the way down, and we were especially proud that we could still see our butt tracks all the way from the Hannegan Pass trail! Thanks again to Jenni and Lindsay for a great day in the mountains. Always fun to adventure with and learn from experienced mountain mamas!

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On the way down
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Mount Redoubt
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Looking back up at our glissade tracks
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One last glimpse of Ruth – you can’t tell from this pic, but we could still see our glissade tracks from here.
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The tiger lilies along Hannegan Pass trail are so tall!

 

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Close up of tiger lilies
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Bye bye Nooksack Ridge! Til next time.

 

6 Replies to “Ruth Mountain”

  1. I so enjoyed reading this and the photos. Took me back to the days when my daughter was a baby with the pumping. She is 13 now, and I am going to start teaching her ice ax skills this week. By the way, I had a man tie my shoe on a trip last weekend. I’d stopped to tie it tighter, and he just took over. I was so flabbergasted that he’d just up and do that without asking me, that I started flapping my arms.

    Thank you for sharing your adventures.

  2. Nice photos! I haven’t done Ruth (named for Grover Cleveland’s daughter, randomly enough), but it has looked like a fun moderate snow climb or ski from points nearby, and looks even more so with all the snow this year. Your packs look painfully large and heavy for a dayhike…

    1. We were all carrying glacier kit because we weren’t sure whether or not we’d need to rope up.
      Lindsay was carrying the rope plus her own personal gear. She’s mentoring me with this alpine climbing stuff, so my guess is she probably packed a little more climbing gear than she needed just in case.
      And Jenni was carrying a full-sized breast pump in addition to the usual stuff.
      Good excuses, don’t you think? 🙂

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