Mountain Project Logo

Spring alpine ice objectives in the Cascades


Original Post
Ross Fouladi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

Currently looking for a good beginner-intermediate level alpine ice objective for the spring. I've been mountaineering and doing some technical ice climbing the past few years but am looking to progress and merge the two. any ideas on some climbs? By the end of summer I want to have a go at the north ridge of Baker, what should I do to work up to it?

Peter Gonda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2014 · Points: 8

I have been looking at the south gulley of Guye, then trying the Tooth or Chair Peak. Let me know if you are interested.

IJMayer · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jan 2011 · Points: 90

the north face of shuksan looks dope. long day and condition dependent, but less technical in the spring than n ridge of baker.

stephabegg.com/home/triprep…

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 650

Triple Couloirs

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162
Nick Sweeney wrote:Triple Couloirs
Nick, would you call TC beginner/intermediate? I haven't done it (on my 2017 to-do list) but my impression was that it was not really a beginner climb. I could be wrong, given that I haven't done it.

Ross, what's your comfort level on ice and mixed (i.e. comfortable lead grade)? That would probably help folks direct you the right way.

Lover's Lane and The Zipper on Lane Peak (Tatoosh) might be worth considering. Relatively low commitment and easy approach. Illumination Rock on Hood is one of my favorite places for technical alpine mixed climbing, it's usually in good shape late winter through spring. I wouldn't call it beginner friendly but intermediate is fine. Not sure if you're near Portland or Seattle or elsewhere, that might also affect the suggestions.

Interested in seeing other suggestions on this list, I am looking for some similar objectives.

Ice Cliff Glacier and Stuart Glacier Couloir on Stuart look really good, but those are pretty big objectives and I don't think I would call them beginner friendly.
Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 650
Kyle Tarry wrote: Nick, would you call TC beginner/intermediate?
I think that I would call it intermediate if it was climbed in the same early season conditions that I had. If you wait until the gate opens (usually mid April), there will be much more mixed climbing that can be run out on some bad rock. When I did the climb in the last week of March 2015, we barely did any mixed climbing! The runnels were thick blue ice the whole way (ok, down to an inch or two in spots but mostly very thick). You need to be able to confidently lead WI3 (I might even say that there was a pitch of WI3+) and be prepared to lead "do-not-fall" mixed ground. The thing that people forget about TC is that there are really only 3-6 hard pitches, the rest is a steep snow slog. Like any technical alpine route, conditions are everything.
Ross Fouladi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

Appreciate all the feedback. Only about two seasons into ice climbing so I don't often lead anything beyond WI3. I'd agree in saying triple colors is slightly beyond my experience level. I haven't done anything I would consider to be an actual mixed climb-so experience level on mixed terrain is minimal. Located out of Seattle.
Currently have my eye on chair peak, Northface of Shuksan, and looking into some of the ideas people have thrown out.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

If you want to move into the alpine realm, I would definitely recommend some crag dry tooling. Lots of the great Cascades ice routes can or do have some mixed climbing on them. It's also a good way to get some cragging in when conditions are wet, drytooling on wet rock isn't a big deal, and you can't rock climb anyway.

I don't know where the "accepted" local drytooling spots are in the Seattle area, sorry.

N. Face of Shuksan looks like a really awesome route, it's definitely on my to-do list, but I am not sure it qualifies as alpine ice.

Ross Fouladi · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

If confident on ice and snow, and if the systems of protection on ice/rock are well known, is low grade mixed climbing something that comes intuitively and can be partially learned on the spot? or is the risk factor in that sort of scenario too high, making dry-tool dragging necessary before approaching an actual mixed climb. Because being honest I haven't heard of too many dry-tool friendly areas around Seattle.
Thanks again! great info.

Kyle Tarry · · Portland, OR · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 162

I would highly recommend toprope drytooling before getting on a big route.

In the end, it highly depends on the type of drytooling, the difficulty, the protection, and a bunch of other factors. I would not want to get on a serious alpine route without some practice on toprope, and it is a bizarre and somewhat unnatural form of climbing at the beginning (in my experience).

Marlin Thorman · · Spokane, WA · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 385

The North Ridge of Baker is pretty easy in comparison to a lot of other alpine ice/mixed routes. Just a couple pitches of steepish ice and then depending on time of year crevasse navigation on the upper mountain. The North Face of Shuksan would be a good warmup before N. Ridge Baker....similar just without the technical climbing. If you are competent at WI4 technical ice climbing then a lot of the routes are more about route finding and putting it all together on a big scale then the individual moves.

Conditions are everything in the alpine. I did the Stuart Glacier Coulior the weekend after the official end of winter and it was in full on winter conditions with 8-12 inches of rime ice covering everything on the West Ridge. Do that same route in late April/early May and it would be vastly different. But in general here would be my list of good beginner/intermediate routes to get on.

Beginner Apline Routes (You need technical skills on these routes but I would consider them beginner routes when looking at the bigger picture of alpine climbing)
- Triple Couloirs
- Ice Cliff Glacier (Mt. Stuart)
- North Ridge Baker
- North Face of Hood (several variations)
- Liberty Ridge on Rainier
- Ptarmigan Ridge on Rainier
- Northwest Ice Couloir Eldorado Peak (late fall/early winter route)
- New York Gully on Snoqualmie Pass
- Cosley Houston Route on Colfax Peak

Intermediate Routes
- Gerber Sink
- Stuart Glacier Couloir
- Curtis Ridge on Rainier
- Pineapple Express on Snoqualmie Pass
- North Face of Graybeard
- Intravenous on Chiwawa Mountain

Curt Veldhuisen · · Bellingham, WA · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 473

If you're climbing steep ice, the ice step on NR Baker should not be a big upgrade technically. Sounds like more experience on big alpine terrain is what will make it more comfortable. Good recommendations on NF Shuksan (or Fischer Chimneys), though a more complicated endeavor than Baker. Other ideas: Hood Leutholds, N.Face Maude or Buckner, the couloir routes on Colchuck, W. Ridge of Adams. Heck, do the Coleman/Deming and get the descent scouted. Overall, get some mileage on steep neve!

Also, many who have attempted Baker NR in late season (including me!) have been shut down by crevasses below the Ridge. July or earlier would be my call.

Farzin · · San Diego, CA · Joined May 2009 · Points: 0

Beginner Alpine Routes (You need technical skills on these routes but I would consider them beginner routes when looking at the bigger picture of alpine climbing)
- Triple Couloirs
- Ice Cliff Glacier (Mt. Stuart)
- North Ridge Baker
- North Face of Hood (several variations)
- Liberty Ridge on Rainier
- Ptarmigan Ridge on Rainier
- Northwest Ice Couloir Eldorado Peak (late fall/early winter route)
- New York Gully on Snoqualmie Pass
- Cosley Houston Route on Colfax Peak

What's your definition of "beginner"? To call Liberty Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge and especially New York Gully a "beginner Alpine Route" is to send a beginner on a one-way trip.
Have you done New York Gully or just assuming?

Marlin Thorman · · Spokane, WA · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 385
Farzin wrote:What's your definition of "beginner"? To call Liberty Ridge, Ptarmigan Ridge and especially New York Gully a "beginner Alpine Route" is to send a beginner on a one-way trip. Have you done New York Gully or just assuming?
I have done 6 of the 9 beginner routes I listed but New York Gully is not one of them. As I stated in my post all those routes require technical climbing. They shouldn't be done if you don't have a good rock/ice background and have spent some time on a couple standard trade routes. But if you are proficient at both of those and looking to start getting on big routes in the alpine then I would consider all of those beginner routes. When you look at the entire scheme of alpine climbing and see the harder stuff that gets done in N. Cascades, Canada, or Alaska I think that list is a great place to start. My first non trade route was Stuart Glacier Couloir in full winter conditions, followed a couple months later by Liberty Ridge. Those 2 routes are what I would consider my introduction to bigger technical alpine routes. Again I am not advocating someone who has never climbed a mountain and only been sport climbing to go get on New York Gully, N. Ridge of Baker or any of the climbs I listed as beginner. And in the end everyone will have a different idea of is a beginner route and what is an advanced route.
Allen Sanderson · · Oootah · Joined Jul 2007 · Points: 1,135
Ross Fouladi wrote:Currently looking for a good beginner-intermediate level alpine ice objective for the spring. I've been mountaineering and doing some technical ice climbing the past few years but am looking to progress and merge the two. any ideas on some climbs? By the end of summer I want to have a go at the north ridge of Baker, what should I do to work up to it?
The crux of the N. Ridge is the clearing the serac mid way up the route. When we did it there was a crack in it that was straight forward (AI2-3). There are a few bits below and above as well but rather simple (AI1-2). So what do you need to get there? The question is what have you done so far? Some routes on the west side of Hood like Leuthods Couloir or Reids Headwall would be reasonable goals. I would even toss in Sandy Glacier Headwall. They like N. Ridge of Baker are all day climbs (i.e. you are not carrying everything). If you want to add to it make a camp Illumination Rock and do a couple of the routes over two days. We did that one time. Good fun.

FWIW Marlin's list is not realistic list. Yeah it may be all training for the big routes but for someone looking to get on the N. Ridge of Baker I would not say Liberty Ridge is a good training route. Of course I did do Liberty Ridge 25+ years before I did the N. Ridge of Baker.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply