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NE Ridge, Mt. St. Nicholas 

YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 5 pitches, 800', Grade IV
Original:  YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b [details]
FA: Conrad Wellen, 1926
Season: Summer
Page Views: 1,630
Submitted By: David Steele on Aug 16, 2016

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BETA PHOTO: Top of pitch 3 at the ledge, at the C3 party.

Description 

The NE ridge of Mt. St. Nicholas is easily the most classic multipitch route to a major summit in all of Glacier. Even better, the rock quality is far superior to what you usually encounter in Glacier's alpine.

The kicker arrives in the form of a lengthy, brushy, swamp-guarded approach. Be prepared to go to war a bit to reach the climbing.

Between the approach and Glacier's reputation for terrible rock quality, the NE Ridge of St. Nick is mostly climbed by locals. The quality of the climbing makes it very worthwhile though. And the rock stands out as some of the better stuff in Glacier. If long, nasty, brush-and-bear choked approaches are your cup of tea, St. Nick should be on your list.

The NE ridge is excellent adventure climbing. Easier options will always be found climber's right, with a variety of solid short cracks and faces directly on the dead-center of the ridge. Heading climber's left pushes the grade into the 5.9 realm. Most of the current belay stations or rap anchors are either dead-center or climber's right.

Pitch 1: Belay from the Great Notch, and kick things off with the hardest, slightly-overhung, 5.8 moves of the route. A fixed nut climber's right makes things less scary. Work up the blocks for 80-100ft to an anchor. You could easily link this with the second pitch, but since the Notch is often a cold, windy spot to sit, your second will appreciate getting out of there as soon as possible.

Pitch 2: Head up the blocks again. A rap anchor climber's right appears. 130 ft?

Pitch 3: More of the same. Excellent 20-30ft hand crack dead center below the belay ledge. Slung boulder on the climber's right makes for a decent rap anchor, but C3s can build a proper anchor above the ledge itself.

Pitch 4: Upper crux. Head climber's right up the shelves or around towards the N face. Avoid heading left. Head for 170-200ft to make the 5th pitch easier.

Pitch 5: Many parties unrope and scramble this section, as the grade drops down and things get flat. Simuling also works well. Wander up through blocks and other loose silliness following the most worn way.

Scramble for the summit and do a happy dance.

Getting down:

Rap stations of various quality, distance, and utility festoon the dead center and climber's right of the NE Ridge. Bring two ropes, plan to rap at least four times, and inspect/make decisions on your way up. The spacing is pretty strange/nonstandard.

Take at least 40ft of tat to improve things you don't like--and carry out the nasty stuff that's been snaffled.

Location 

St. Nick comes at the price of a fairly vicious approach up either Muir Creek or Coal Creek, which are well covered in J. Gordon Edwards' climbers guide to Glacier and elsewhere online. The Coal Creek option is at least twelve miles and 5000ft of gain, plus three major creek crossings to where you'd rope up. Huckleberries are almost always great along the way from Coal Creek.

Backcountry camping in Glacier requires a permit, available at the backcountry permit offices scattered around the park. You'll probably need an undesignated option to bivy high on the ridge north of the peak, or near the lake to the SE of St. Nick. Plan to take care of that the day before you head in. Most parties take three days to make the climb (enter, climb, exit), though some have done it faster.

The technical climbing on the NE ridge begins at the Great Notch, the deep slot with couloirs descending to N and S long the ridge the runs NE from St. Nick to Battlement Mtn. Approaching the Great Notch takes some class 4 scrambling, and the gendarme immediately before the notch is worth detouring around.

The first belay is directly in the Great Notch, or perhaps down the couloir to the S, if you'd prefer a dihedral to kick things off.

Protection 

Edwards' description for a rack ("two serviceable 100ft climbing ropes, 40ft of sling rope, and four pitons") is a bit silly in the modern day.

C3s 00-2, C4s .3-3, nuts, and lots of long slings to deal with the strangeness and inevitably wandering around.

Old pins abound. Perhaps an ice tool with the pick removed if you want to fix them up?


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By Brian Oelberg
From: Augusta
Jan 11, 2017

Live view on GNP Apgar webcam nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmulti... nps.gov/glac/learn/photosmulti...

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