Type: Trad, Ice, Snow, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 290 total · 19/month
Shared By: Kyle O on Feb 21, 2022
Admins: Jon Nelson, Micah Klesick, Z Winters

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This route consists mostly of a steep snow couloir on the N/NE side of McClellan’s Butte. It is about 7 miles roundtrip and can easily be done in a day. The views of the I-90 corridor and surrounding peaks are superb. Total elevation gain is 3,000+ feet.

 At the end of the above mentioned long snow couloir, the snow steepens from a mild 35/40 degrees to about 50 degrees for a short 40 meters or so. At the end of this short steeper snow section is the summit headwall that requires 5th class ice, mixed, or rock climbing to surmount to the summit, depending on conditions. This single pitch is about 60 meters or so depending on the belay spot utilized. There are a number of short, stout trees that usually serve for a belay anchor here.

A number of routes can be taken to surmount the headwall. Ice flows can be found and used in winter months. In more spring-like conditions a 5.6 rock dihedral can be used; thin snow in this dihedral in winter can make this route challenging, though. Alternatively, a party can surmount the headwall by gaining the ridge to the east (climber’s left) of the main headwall formation and following it to the top. Fred Beckey and others report that one can contour to the west (climber’s right) to bypass the summit headwall pitch entirely. That route may involve steep side-hilling so it is likely less than straight forward or without its own hazards. I’ve also seen what appears to be a 5.8/5.9 rock route directly adjacent to and west (climber’s right) of the “5.6 dihedral.” However, I have not climbed or heard of anyone climbing this.

Most parties I have talked to describe the headwall pitch as runout especially when conditions aren’t ideal: not enough ice to ice climb but too much snow to rock climb. Therefore, I would not recommend this route to novice parties not confident in their mixed climbing abilities.

Of note, the north couloir is a massive avalanche chute. Only attempt this route in stable avalanche conditions.


In winter, start at the pull-off near the highway maintenance facility near exit 42. Coordinates: (47.4146256, -121.5875796). The McClellan Butte trailhead proper is not maintained in the winter and is a short snow-covered road walk away from this location.


Varied depending on conditions. Generally, two ice tools/axes, light 60m rope, ice screw stubbies, 2 snow pickets, 3 triple length alpine runners for slinging trees, and a light alpine rack of rock pro up to 1”. Knifeblade pitons also useful. In the winter, emphasis on the ice pro and in the spring emphasis on the rock pro.