Mount Washington-North Ridge, OR

The summit of Mount Washington from near the North Ridge Saddle

From the saddle a path ascends on or east of the ridge crest until the ridge becomes craggy. At this point the path crosses the crest to the west side and traverses below gendarmes for several hundred yards until below a final notch in the North Ridge below the steep summit pinnacle. Before ascending the 100-200 feet of looseness to reach the notch I look back to see two climbers on the ridge. Once at the notch I examine the summit pinnacle trying to see the route. The description says to traverse 15 feet then ascend a chimney that "peters out" after 30 feet where exposed, left angling face climbing leads another 30 feet to the top of the difficulties.

I traversed 15 feet and ascended a gully that led to exposed left stanting face climbing. The rock here was hideous and extremely exposed. If this was the route then I didn't need to reach the summit of Washington after all. I descended the gully and decided to traverse farther out. At about 30 feet from the notch a short gully and low angled face climbing lead to the base of a very short chimney. After scrambling up the loose rock below and in the chimney (class 3-4) I arrive at a small ledge where there is a short, slightly overhanging step. Above this there appears to be another small ledge then another steep step. Above that I couldn't tell. I decide to return to the notch and retrieve my rope and a few slings.

Back at the notch I hear the two climbers I had seen on the ridge ascending toward me. I decide to wait partly because I don't want to knock anything down on them and partly because I want to see what their plan is. Karen and Brian, both from the Portland area, arrived at the notch a few minutes later. Ironically, Brian and Karen had left the trailhead a couple hours before me but did not see the cairn and ended up traversing be large talus basin on the west side of Washington to gain the ridge. They offer to let me tie in with them and we all head up together with thier 50m rope and a small rack. I scrambled up to the top of the chimney and tied a sling around a good belay horn. I put Brian on belay who led up the first two steps then up a 15-20 foot high crumbling slab. He put me on belay and I follow but by-passed the crumbling face by going left to easy class 3 and join him at the rappel station then belayed Karen up.

Karen climbing on the North Ridge

We unroped and started scrambling to the summit which is mostly class 2 and 3 with one short 4th class gully (alternately work below and left to easier but more exposed climbing). Generally the best route in on the often indistinct ridge crest. After 200-300 feet we reached the spacious summit area. The clouds to the SE looked threatening.

Karen and Brian scrambling to the summit

Mount Jefferson and Three Fingered Jack

The Sisters and Broken Top

Karen and Brian pull out a fat cigar and offer to share. We spent a long time on the summit taking photos and puffing. A thunder storm in the area of Three Sisters is moving closer and finally we decide it is time to get moving. We scrambled back to the rappel station with the thunder now sounding very close. We make one rappel to the top of the chimney then down climb back to the notch. I am not sure just when Brian finally put the cigar out but he made most of the descent to the notch with it in his mouth. Back at the notch the thunder seems to have stopped so we decided to grab some food before continueing the descent. As we are eating a helicopter flew over, circled the summit and passed over us again before disappearing for good. This may have been partially due to an accident two weeks before that claimed two. Two weeks after our climb a helicopter rescue took place lower on the ridge after a climber injured his leg. While this summit is not that difficult it seems to be a hazardous place. What else would you expect from a volcano?

The crux from a small pinnacle near the notch

Getting buzzed by a rescue chopper at the notch

Special thanks to Karen and Brian for the use of thier rope and thier company on the summit pinnacle and the hike out.

Summit Guide to the Cascade Volcanoes; Jeff Smoot; Pages 130-133