Reynolds Peak-NW Ridge[s]

Andy Johnson and I left the south end a little after 6:00am which was way earlier than necessary. Our departure time was based on the fact that we had planned on doing a different route but the weather forecast didn’t look too promising so we headed east. Sergio Verdina and I had discussed the NW Ridge of Reynold Peak in the past and had even gone there with the intention of climbing the ridge but were turned back by flames along the trail. We discovered that the “TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO WILDFIRE” sign at the trailhead was fully justified about three miles after ignoring it.

The NW ridge has a two sentence description in Cascade Alpine Guide which includes the words “…five pitches of excellent class 5 rock.” Hmmm… what did that mean? Photos of the ridge from nearby peaks indicated the ridge had several gendarmes.

Andy and I arrived at the Reynolds Creek Trailhead somewhere around noon and began the 6.6 mile hike towards the 6874’ saddle in the NW Ridge of Reynolds Peak’s north summit. We stopped less than a quarter of a mile short of the saddle and located a very nice spot to camp above the trail (to locate the campsite hike up talus at the last stream crossing before the saddle. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach the camp moving at a fairly lazy pace. We spent the rest of the day wondering why we had left so early and just what the NW ridge was all about. The mystery was soon to unravel.

A view of Reynolds Peak from our camp north of the 6874' saddle

The view to the west from the meadows south of the 6874' saddle on the NW Ridge

We departed camp around 6:30 the following morning and headed for the saddle. Rather than starting up the ridge from there we crossed the meadow and started up another spur to the south that looked like it would be faster… I don’t think it will make too much of a difference which way you go. We reached a flattish spot on the ridge at c.7800’ where the spur we had taken merges with the NW ridge. We roped up here.

Andy warms his hands while I take a photo on the first pitch of the NW ridge of the N. Summit

Not sure what to expect we decided to belay most of the route and take advantage of any good belay options along the way. The first pitch was not too exhilarating… class 3 and 4. Andy took over and led two short pitches with some 5.6 moves to reach the top of the first gendarme. We had little choice but to rappel about 15 feet to reach the notch below.

From the notch I lead easier rock on the right side to a belay station. After swinging leads again Andy reached another notch on the ridge by traversing and ascending a short gully. We continued up the ridge to a short class 3 downclimb.

Continuing near the ridge crest we reach the top of a second gendarme where there was another short but more difficult downclimb. Hmmm… the next gendarme (last major gendarme on the ridge) actually looked solid but we elected to take an easy bypass on the right. We were spending a lot of time with our belay every pitch and take advantage of most good belay option tactics. Once around the gendarme we realized it was a walk off from the top… we now regretted bypassing the gendarme as it may have been the best pitch on the climb.

From above the last major gendarme the climbing was quite reasonable. Two more pitches reached a short slab and a final step to the north summit. It had been a whopping 6 hours since we had left camp. The route could certainly be climbed quicker than that but be prepared for plenty of loose and lichen covered rock. We had a rack with protection to about 2.5 inches… most of it was used at one point or another but a lighter rack would have sufficed.

Andy at the last belay station on the NW Ridge of the N. summit

After a short stay on the north summit we decided to hike to a minor highpoint between the north and south summits, hereafter referred to as the middle summit, where we could get a look at our planned descent route before heading for the higher south summit. We were planning to descend via the SW ridge which looked easy on the map but is not documented. It turned out to be a good option.

The higher S. summit of Reynolds from the N. Summit

The NW Ridge of the North Summit... as I recall it

After a break we began descending snow toward a gully on the northeast side of the south summit, planning on climbing the route described in Cascade Alpine Guide. As we passed below the south summit Andy and I both decided we should try to reach the south summit by climbing its NW ridge. There were two obvious gendarmes on the crest that looked like they could present a problem.

From just above the lowpoint between the south and middle summits we worked our way up a short slab (class 4, a moat could develop below it but it was easily gained on our ascent). From there we scrambled up to a short gendarme on the right of the ridge crest then to the top of the first gendarme on the crest. Downclimbing looked difficult and we couldn’t see where a rappel would leave us. We retreated back to the short gendarme where Andy lead out on an exposed but easy ledge then disappeared around the corner.

I followed and reached a scree gully after crossing the ledge. A short step of class 3/4 reached the notch above the second gendarme on the crest. From there class 3 reached the south summit.

Andy scrambling up the last bit of loose rock on the NW side of the S. summit

After a short stay on the top we downclimbed back to the lowpoint between the south and middle summits. We started down making a rightward descending traverse to reach the SW ridge a couple hundred feet down. The crest was then easily followed (keep right when the ridge splits). At about 6500’ we located a steep heather/brush gully that took us to the flat meadows and forest south of the 6874’ saddle in the NW ridge of the north summit. It took us 1.5 hours to reach camp from the top of the SE ridge, but 12 hours round trip. We opted to stay another night and hike out the following morning. I was on vacation…

Andy downclimbing a slab on the S. summit

The NW Ridge of the South Summit

Andy descending the SW Ridge

Map of Reynolds Peak Area

For what it's worth... Cascade Alpine Guide, Volume 3, 2nd Edition; Fred Beckey; Page 279