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Steep scree below the shoulder. The North ridge b...
This route ascends the East face of the North Ridge for the lower 2/3 before gaining and climbing the North Ridge. From afar, the line of ascent appears to be sustained steepness; however, it is quite stepped, and the climbing really begins once you gain the North Ridge proper at a point four pitches or so below the summit. This is the obvious line of least resistance once you get into it, and route-finding is relatively straightforward.
Section 1: Ascend the steep and wide scree gully just to the east of the ridgeline. The top of the gully is a nearly vertical wall of scree, much like a scree cornice. This can be ascended on the left or right side. The gully tops out on an expansive, flat, scree plateau below the north face, ~600 feet.
Section 2: Cross the scree plateau maintaining a line close to the huge towers which form the ridgeline proper.
Section 3: A narrow scree gully between loose pillars provides access through the next rock band to the vegetated shelf above, ~300 feet.
Ascend to the left across the vegetated shelf towards the summit pyramid on small, steep gullies and rock steps maintaining the line of least resistance and the most solid rock. You are ascending up and across the face that forms the east side of the North Ridge on steps of semi-solid rock that are covered with loose scree, with stretches of steep scree between: high consequence fourth class with some very low fifth class moves thrown in.
From this point on, you are more or less committed to the summit. No options for protection or rappel anchors exist, and downclimbing would be very difficult and dangerous. Aim for a lower angled patch of red scree on the North Ridge proper at the base of the summit pyramid. A huge tower is visible above which blocks access up the ridgeline. This tower will be bypassed on its right (west) side, ~600 feet, 4th Class.
Section 4: Enter the maze. You are on the ridgeline proper atop the red scree slope on a shoulder below the summit pyramid. Escape down the west side of the North Ridge is not possible. From here, you cross slightly over to the west side of the ridgeline to bypass a huge gendarme and ascend the dubious-looking summit pyramid via a series of steep, rock-filled chimneys. A few small chockstones block the way. This is the technical crux of the route (5.6). It may be possible at this point to rope up, though be very careful to keep yourself and the rope out of the way of rocks knocked down by the leader and the rope. A fall would not be clean and your gear may pull rocks down onto you. Meander up through steep steps and climb three near-vertical, approximately 100 foot chimneys on the broad 'ridgeline' to the skyline above, ~300 feet.
Section 5: You are out of the steep chimneys and back onto the ridgeline proper. The West ridge is visible a couple of hundred feet to the south and is the easiest line to the summit. Rather than traverse to the West ridge, continue straight up on much more solid, gray rock steps to the West summit, ~200 feet, 5.5.
Scramble over to the higher East summit, ~200 feet, 3rd Class.
Drive to the end of West Dallas Creek Road off of HI62 to the south of Ridgway. Beyond the intersection of the Dallas Trail is Box Factory Park. At the back of the meadow is a small parking area and an un-named trailhead. The approach follows an old logging road which parallels West Fork Dallas Creek to its west. The North Ridge is clearly visible on the drive in until you get into the woods on the trail. The logging road is very much unmaintained and difficult to follow; full-on bushwhacking is required from the very start. The easiest path stays more or less within 100ft parallel of the creek. A handful (hundreds and hundreds) of blowdown trees guard the approach--plan extra time for the woods.
Navigate south up through the woods for about 2 1/2 miles to the base of the North Ridge. This route ascends the east side of the ridge, because water is available on that side. The base of the west side of the ridge is an expansive moraine of rock and no water source was found there or in the woods to the west of the moraine.
The approach in the dark is not a good idea; start very very early if you choose not to bivy. Camp at the top of treeline for the easiest approach in the morning. Bivying is recommended as finding flat ground for a tent will be difficult.
The route starts up a steep and wide scree gully just to the east of the bottom of the ridgeline. A smaller gully further east holds a flowing creek.
Descent: once on the summit follow the ridgeline to the east towards Peak 13441. A few hundred feet below the top are several vertical fourth class steps on very loose red shale. It would be easiest to avoid these steps by descending straight south on red scree through small towers to the end of the Iron Mountain Trail. However, your camping gear is to the north. Navigate the steps to continue east along the summit ridge by exposed fourth-class circumnavigation on the south side or direct downclimbing through the loose rock for thirty or so feet.
Your goal is to descend north onto the expansive scree field shelf below. This is achieved by continuing to traverse along the summit ridge east towards Peak 13441 to a low point approximately 3/4 miles from Mears' summit. From this low point in the ridge, it is possible to downclimb south through fourth class, loose rockbands onto the scree shelf.
From here, trend west across the scree to the top of the initial steep and wide scree gully above camp which has the 'scree cornice' at its top.
Protection is dubious. Passive pro recommended, as cams could pry the blocks apart. Tricams, hexes and nuts. The rock is broken and stepped, a fall would not be clean and may not be arrested. However, the technical difficulty is low. Push in and down to avoid pulling rocks onto you. We mantled and stemmed through the crux chimneys in a rain and hail storm one at a time, unroped and without difficulty.
Some of the irreversible, unprotectable, steep, lo...
The middle section of the route, the "vegetat...
Jon Fike and our bivy in the woods below the North...
BETA PHOTO: Ten High on the north side of Mears Peak.
BETA PHOTO: A view of the North Face of Mears. North Ridge the...