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Northwest Ridge

Easy 5th, Trad, Alpine, 800 ft (242 m), Grade II,  Avg: 3 from 47 votes
FA: unknown
California > High Sierra > 01 - Hoover Wil… > N Peak


Gain the ridge by climbing class 3 blocks at the base of the ridge. For the next several hundred feet it's easy travel over class 3 terrain with great veiws on both sides of the ridge.

If you stay on the ridge crest, soon you will come upon the first of two impasses. This first one is easily bypassed with a short class 3 downclimb on the left(south) side of the ridge. Gain the ridge again and continue on until you come to the second, and larger impasse. With technical skill/gear, one could down climb into the gap and up the other side and continue on. Another variation is a moderate class 4 down climb on the right(north) side of the ridge until you can cross over and climb back up to the ridge crest and continue on.

Soon the ridge begins to steepen for several hundred feet and in this section some class 4 moves with exposure are required. After this section it's all class 3 (if you stay on the ridge crest, class 2 if you drop lower down on the sandy slope) for what seems like quite a ways to the summit.


Follow the directions on the main page to Saddlebag Lake. From the trailhead parking lot, head north on the well used hiker's trail that traverses the west side of the lake. At the northern end of Saddlebag Lake, the trail forkes. Stay on the right fork and continue on towards the Steelhead lake area.

Just before Steelhead Lake, leave the trail to the left(west) and work your way around a few small lakes. At this point you will probably be able to pick up a lightly used climber's trail. Follow this trail, or climb cross country, as you ascend the enjoyable class 2 slope that leads to the base of the Northwest Ridge.

Travel southwest down the class 2 sandy slope on the backside of North Peak, aiming for the saddle between Mount Conness and North Peak. Descend here and pick up the hiker's trail that leads down through the Conness Lakes area and back to the trail junction at Saddlebag Lake.


Light alpine rack. No fixed gear/bolts.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Annie high up on the North Ridge of North Peak
[Hide Photo] Annie high up on the North Ridge of North Peak
Upward section of the ridge.
[Hide Photo] Upward section of the ridge.
The tecnical section.
[Hide Photo] The tecnical section.
North Peak has great summer skiing. It can be a great link up to take the north ridge to the top and then ski down one of the couloirs. Here’s Matty Anderson sending in his jeans and skate shoes on the 4th of July, 2016
[Hide Photo] North Peak has great summer skiing. It can be a great link up to take the north ridge to the top and then ski down one of the couloirs. Here’s Matty Anderson sending in his jeans and skate shoes on…
Looking at most of the Northwest Ridge from the summit of North Peak.
[Hide Photo] Looking at most of the Northwest Ridge from the summit of North Peak.
Higher up the Northwest Ridge.
[Hide Photo] Higher up the Northwest Ridge.
Start of Northwest Ridge.
[Hide Photo] Start of Northwest Ridge.
Northwest Ridge of North Peak.
[Hide Photo] Northwest Ridge of North Peak.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

JW Bell
San Diego
[Hide Comment] Great route, really nice if combined with north ridge of conness. Jul 30, 2012
Jay Bird
Marin, CA
[Hide Comment] Fun linkup with North Ridge of Conness. Can add West Ridge of Conness too if you move fast. May 22, 2013
[Hide Comment] While on top 6-6-2014, we heard a landslide, I looked over the North Face and saw the last of a rock and snow avalanche go down the top of the Northeast Face route. It surely swept the route. Disastrous if climbers had been on that route. Jun 10, 2014
[Hide Comment] I had a lot of fun in this route today.

I'm finding it difficult to connect my memories with the description above. I'm guessing it's because my strategy for climbing is different. Instead of looking for the most efficient or fastest or easiest way to the summit. I'm looking for the most difficult and interesting moves and sequences.

Some impressions and observations:
(a) the ridge curves around. Where I started climbing, it was going up from NE to SW. Soon it curved so it was going up from N to S. Closer to the summmit it was going up from NW to SE. Three different directions.

(b) Today actually the first place I tried to climb on the ridge was the col where the hiker's trail coming from Steelhead Lake meets the ridge (GPS latitude longitude approx N37.9925 W119.3147). But that didn't work because there were two deep notches that forced me to downclimb way off the crest. So then instead I hiked up steep scres + talus in the small valley SE below the ridge. As the scree came to an end meeting the rock, I turned right (N or NW) and went up a narrow scree gully to a narrow rock notch. Followed the notch through the ridge (GPS lat long ~ N37.9894 W119.3179) to the other (NW) side of the crest. Then started climbing rock up out of the notch to get up on the crest.

So that's my observation of where is the "base" of the ridge. And of the moves I made to get up onto the crest there seemed like low class 5 (but I didn't look much for an easier way).

(c) Summit of North Peak I measured with my GPS as (N37.9823 W119.3146).

(d) The _length_ of scrambling on rock (including the upper section of downclimbing the South ridge) is about 3000 ft.

But ... for me almost half of that was hopping from rock to rock with no hands. Very fun for me. But sounds like less than difficulty class 3. So if we count only sections with difficulty class 3 or higher, perhas the length of srambling is only arouud 1500 ft.

(e) In addition there is _third_ peak between the S ridge of North Peak and N ridge of Mt Conness. Its summit is around lat long ~ (N37.9773 W119.3190), altitude around 3630 meters. This third peak in between has lots of fun scrambling on it. It could be bypassed, but I did not -- and found a couple of interesting and exposed 5.6 moves near the N end of its ridge.
Length of scrambling on rock around 1300 ft. Let's say 800 ft are at difficulty at least class 3. Then the total length for both North Peak and the "in-between" peak of class 3 or harder is about 2300 feet.

(f) There are three cols between North Peak and Mt Conness. If you continue south along the S ridge of North Peak (going over or bypassing the "rhird peak") to the southern-most col, then the instructions in the description above for the descent are misleading - (instead need to first traverse horizontally NE a long ways, starting about 20 feet above that col). Aug 16, 2015
[Hide Comment] Exposed but fairly easy, except for climbing out of the biggest gap. We roped up for this, but it turned out to be about 20' of Sierra 4th class -- intimidating from below, but solid as soon as you commit to it. Phenomenal summit views. Aug 6, 2016
Truckee, CA
[Hide Comment] The route was fun, but I felt like i could not get into a good rhythm because of the 2 impasses mentioned above. Maybe we couldn't find a good rythm because we went right at the first impasse instead of left (50/50 chance) which slowed us down a bit with loose rock. At the 2nd impasse I jumped to the spire in the middle of the gap down climbed and then up the 4th class in the center of the ridge. Sep 20, 2016
[Hide Comment] Pretty good climb. Fairly easy, and definitely a route I would solo next time. Gaining the actual ridge is straightforward, then the two gaps can be bypassed a number of ways. For the first one we went down the left gully a bit, then climbed some low 5th up to gain the ridge again. For the second gap we down climbed right then climbed back up the other side, felt like a low 5th again. Everything else from that point is obvious, but at the last part instead of climbing the main ridge we cut to the right into some cracks and climbed up that. Jan 9, 2017
[Hide Comment] Really fun and easy route, definitely combine with N Ridge of Conness, this one makes a great approach to it and drops you right at the start.
Blog writeup from our trip:… Nov 6, 2017
Mike Womack
[Hide Comment] My TR from September 2019: sierraexperience.blogspot.c… Jan 31, 2020
Steve Van Voorhis
Anaheim Hills
[Hide Comment] Climbed this on Saturday (August 1). As reported, the climbing is pretty easy. Neither impasse seemed that difficult. Really just one move up on the first, and one move down on the second. We roped up from the second impasse to the top with a 30 meter rope. I placed a few pieces over that span, just enough to keep my partner from falling left or right off the ridge if something happened. Well worth doing. Aug 3, 2020
Christopher Czaplicki
Coarsegold, CA
  Easy 5th
[Hide Comment] Add my trip report to the mix:

Climbing out of the deepest gap was definitely the crux, I used an interesting ramp and crack system to the left to regain the ridge although I have a feeling it was probably harder than some of the other options had I looked more. Oct 27, 2020