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Preparation for the Cassin Ridge (Alternatively: The Miniature PNW Bold and Cold)


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Hey everyone. This post was inspired by the WA bold and cold post. As I'm systematizing my training for this ice/mixed season and upcoming summer, I thought it would be useful to collate a list of climbs in Western NA (roughly constrained to WA, OR, WY, MT, BC, Alberta, or any area reasonably within distance for a climber loosely based in the Cascades) in a few different categories, arranged roughly within categories in terms of increasing difficulty.

The goal of this list would be to serve as preparation for the Cassin Ridge, with the idea that one who has climbed most of the routes on this list in good style would have the skills and experience to (responsibly) make an attempt on the Cassin Ridge.

I've pulled the ideas for many of these climbs from the below sources:

I have been training hard, and am super stoked on pretty much all of the routes on this list, and am hoping to get on as many as I can this winter/(late)spring/summer. I would love some feedback/additions to this list, so I can better understand what sorts of routes one should be developing one's skills towards, with the goal of becoming a solid climber in all of the disciplines needed for more serious technical mountaineering.

Without further ado, here's the list(s):

Rock Focused Objectives:
Goode Mountain - Northeast Buttress
Forbidden Peak - North Ridge
Mount Fury - West Peak
Mount Stuart - North Ridge
South Howser Tower - Beckey-Chouinard
Mount Slesse - Northeast Buttress

"Pure" Ice Objectives:
Think along the lines of a few big classic routes WI3-WI5 in the Canadian rockies (or potentially CO/MT). Would like input on some climbs on this list.

Ice/Mixed Objectives:
Dragontail Peak - Triple Couloirs
Mount Stuart - Stuart Glacier Couloir
Dragontail Peak - Gerber-Sink
Grand Teton - Black Ice Couloir

Mountaineering Objectives:
Mount Baker - Coleman Headwall
Mount Shuksan - North Face
Mount Hood - North Face Right Gully
Mount Andromeda - Skyladder
Mount Rainier - Liberty Ridge
Mount Rainier - Ptarmigan Ridge
Mount Robson - Kain Face
Mount Waddington - Bravo Glacier Route

Altitude Objectives:
One amongst Aconcagua, Denali West Buttress, or SA volcanos (the former 2 preferred)

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I have never been on the cassin ridge, well beyond my skill set so take my opinion for what it is worth but

I would think that the best training for doing the cassin is to do lots of routes that are similar but smaller and progress closer to cassin in scale.   that means doing a bunch of routes in the denali park. 

how about start in the the ruth gorge area. 

moose tooth ham and eggs

japan couliour on barill, 

peak 11,300 sw ridge (probably the most similar but smaller in scale to cassin)

then some west ridge hunter

then up west butt or west ridge on denali to setup stash at the high camp for return and some acclimitize

run down to cassin and send?  of course this would require lots of free time but imagine how cool that would be.


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I definitely agree that getting as much experience as possible on routes as closely simulating the Cassin Ridge as possible (i.e. routes similar to those you've mentioned in the Alaska Range) would be ideal.

My climbing in the next year is constrained to areas adjacent to the PNW, so I figured it would be helpful to make a list of climbs doable while based in the PNW, to lay out some sort of progression to work towards.

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from your list, the gerber sink is prolly the closest in character, especially if you brought bivy gear up and bivy mid route for experience.  training for cassin should probably be focused on extended time in crampons on different angles and getting on moderate rock carrying a cassin sized pack.   

maybe climb polar circus as a 2 day climb?  like back in the old days?

those rock routes on list are fun and may help with endurance.  a couple of them could be done in mountain boots which would be helpful.

routes up in the columbia icefields have been looking rather nasty.  so much ice is gone compared to 20 years ago.  skyladder had pretty bad rock fall back then and half of the ice is gone now.  must be horrible now.  routes on andromeda may be holding better.  maybe start in afternoon (rock fall permitting) and bivy on summit?  all the extra time front pointing with weight!

good on ya for getting after it!



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Waddington is at least as long a commute as AK. The season is different, that's it.

What have you done so far? That might help with suggestions. Based on your list it sounds like you have limited experience with alpine climbing and mountaineering? Maybe, just my perspective and you just want lots of training climbs?

All your ice mixed training routes are super mellow in standard conditions. Not that that is bad, but you should be climbing WI5 with no problem. Fresh WI4 with an overnight pack is harder than picked out WI5 at well known crags for most folks, and you need to be able to climb that with absolutely no problems or concern while you're super tired.

I had some friends do Cassin last year. It was their first AK trip. They also had the best weather in history, but still impressive. They all climbed WI5 easily on trips to Hyalite and other places. They had several years experience climbing alpine ice/mixed in the cascades. They also had experience in Peru on higher altitude peaks. Finally, they showed up super fit.


Edited by bedellympian
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Sweet. Thanks for the suggestions genepires. Below is my background for any suggestions bedellympian. In particular, any suggestions of ice/mixed climbs that would be good training on the west coast, that would be potential options in the May/June/July time period (assuming relatively standard seasonal conditions).


I started climbing 2 years ago, so am still relatively inexperienced in mountaineering.

Guided instruction: AMTL 1-3 with the American Alpine Institute (introduces basic skills in mountaineering and alpine climbing), 10 days private ice climbing instruction in Ouray/close areas.

Summer 2022: Non-technical trade routes (Hood 2x, Adams, Glacier Peak, Shasta Casaval Ridge (only afterwards did I realize how out-of-season this route was at the time)), handful of basic trad leads up to 5.6 in WA pass and near Leavenworth (think along lines of Beckey Route difficulty).

Winter 2022/2023: 10 days guided in CO as listed above, ice climbing in New England rest of season.

Summer 2023: Lived in car in PNW most of June-July. Tried to get as much mileage as I could in the mountains, but all routes climbed fairly nontechnical.
Basic Mountaineering Routes: Hood Cooper Spur and West Crater Rim solo, 2x Baker North Ridge (follow ice step 1x, lead ice step 1x), Rainier Kautz (2 day climb, carryover and descend via DC), Mount Olympus (C2C in 21 hours), Buckner Mountain, Goode Mountain, Eldorado Peak, think I'm missing a few, but none outside of scope of this list's difficulty.
Spent some additional time at Squamish, Index, and WA pass. I am still relatively deficient when it comes to pure rock climbing, and am not sure to what extent I should be working on this, to provide hopeful carryover to harder ice/mixed.

Planned Winter 2023/2024: January ice climb as much as possible wherever in western US is best training, Feb-Mar get as much mileage as possible in midwest US.

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I would say climbing 5.10 would be helpful, though not 100% necessary to do the Cassin... but climbing 5.9 onsight comfortably on gear would be mandatory.

If you are driving don't go all the way to Colorado for ice. It is mostly picked out and a long way. Go to Hyalite and then move onto the more obscure routes in the area. If you can go to Canmore that is great too.

Some routes in Hyalite to do: Dribbles, Silken Slot, Thrill is Gone, Twin Falls, Cleo's, Black Magic, Zack Attack

Greater region routes to do: Beehive routes (any and all), California Ice... all the way!

Note you may not be ready for any of those this season.

Some alpine ice/mixed routes that are easier to access... Reid HW, Elliot HW on Hood, NY Gully on Snoqualmie.

Reid and Elliot you can probably do this season. NY Gully is probably a season or two out, but maybe not. If NY is casual then you'll be technically fine on Cassin.



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  • 2 months later...

I climbed the Cassin Ridge in May of 1981, my first major climb in the Alaska Range.   Prior experience had included several winter seasons in the Tetons, Colorado Rockies, Cascades.  Preparation focused on climbing up to 5.10 in double leather boots and  30-40lb pack.  While on route, my partner and I passed two other teams who were hauling their packs.  Both teams had started the route two days ahead of us.  One of them summitted two days after we did, the other team aborted.  From my experience on this, and other big mountain routes (south face Aconcagua) I would recommend focusing on becoming comfortable/efficient climbing in big double boots and an expedition-size pack.  If time to jump on full-on alpine routes is limited, at least go climb your favorite crag routes in full expedition gear, in snowy/icy conditions if possible.  I stated above that we had trained to climb to 5.10 in expedition boots and packs. -- that was overkill.   What i remember is thinking that there was nothing on the Cassin that would be rated harder than about 5.6 if you climbed it in rock-shoes and t-shirt at your local trad crag... mostly I remember the route as really FUN climbing on far-better-than-expected rock.  My partner was relatively inexperienced at altitude, so we allowed generous time -- ten days on route, resting every other day.  That worked well for us, and decades later Roger Robinson informed me that the NPS had taken to recommending our protocol to teams with limited experience.   If your team has the opportunity to train and get comfortable/efficient at altitude, you could most likely cut our time in half with ease.   I have to say, though, that hauling an abundance of food/fuel keeps me more mentally relaxed on a big route...  climbing tired & hungry at altitude is a poor set-up.

one further note;  even at their coldest, the Cascades come nowhere near the Alaska Range.  some time camping out in Montana/Wyoming/Colorado might be helpful in prepping for -30F...



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