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klenke

[TR] Ruby Mountain- South Ridge 1/14/2005

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Climb: Ruby Mountain-South Ridge

 

Date of Climb: 1/14/2005

 

Trip Report:

A little rainy day reading, perhaps?...

 

There are two Ruby Mountains in Washington. We did this one not this one in Pend Oreille County. tongue.gif

 

Mike Collins and I had orginally planned to do Sonny Boy and Sunny Girl but we couldn't get up Cascade River Road (we turned around due to deep snow just about at the stone wall overlook a mile or so before the Lookout Mountain Trail). Looking for a secondary plan (and other maps), we stopped in the Marblemount Ranger Station. Closed. No formal hours. Undaunted, we visited a nearby building and a geologist helped us into the main visitor building. It was while in there we bumped into Kelly Bush, Wilderness Ranger for North Cascades National Park. Mike and Kelly knew each other from Mike's heady experiences on Thunder Peak. Kelly didn't know me but I edited her submission to the NWMJ last year. She soon found out who I was. And she didn't even scowl at me for any ill-conceived redactions on my part.

 

It was Kelly who suggested we try for Ruby Mountain and that's what we did. She generously let us borrow the requisite maps because she couldn't sell them to us. On the way out the back door through the gear room, Mike and I spotted a hefty sack full of old runners. Kelly told us they had all been taken off Mt. Triumph last year (I am assuming mostly off the NE Ridge). We took the pile of runners outside for a photo. It must have weighed 20 lbs!

128658.jpg

 

Mike and I then drove to Thunder Arm. We passed quite a bit of nice ice on the way there. Nice for pictures, probably too brittle for climbing. Colonial Creek Campground was inaccessible so we parked off the highway (1,240 ft). We started from Mike's SUV at 11:45AM. The temperature on his vehicle reported 34F. Snow cover in the campground parking lot was about 3 inches of crust. There was less under the trees. We knew the bridge was out and had heard rumors of a logjam crossing of Thunder Creek. In about 20 minutes from the car, sure enough we discovered the bridge completely gone. Only the concrete stanchion on the east side remained. There was indeed a logjam about 200 yards downstream, so back to it we went. It was a three-stage crossing. The last stage was across a two-foot diameter horizontal log spanning a moderately rushing torrent. The 40-ft shimmy froze our testicles (more on testicles later), but we managed to get across to the east side of the creek. It took us about 20 minutes to find a "dry" way across. I somehow doubted I would care if I got my feet wet on the return. Mike on the last log (blue arrow points to beginning of crossing on west side of creek):

945Thunder_Cr_logjam_I.jpg

 

From there on it was a fairly straightforward hump up the trail to Fourth of July Pass (3,500 ft). We pulled into Fourth of July Camp (c. 3,600 ft) just west of the pass at around 3:00PM. A signpost said there were campsites to the left and right. I went left. I was mainly in search of a water source. Fortuitously, we found one and so near there we pitched my tent, snapping a pole in the process but at least it didn't compromise erection integrity.

 

The night would be cold, we knew. The day had been cloudy but we could see it was clearing up. No doubt radiative cooling would be in full effect during the night.

 

We woke in the morning to frost...on the inside of the tent! Inside the tent it was 22F. Outside it was...want to take a guess?...6F. Brrrr! The weather was crystal clear. The views would be outstanding once we got into the alpine. We left camp hastily at 8:45AM after realizing it was too cold for the stove to heat the water to boiling. I had luke warm granola cereal. I had figured it would take 8 hours round trip to do the 3,800-ft climb.

 

The first thing we noticed is there wasn't enough snow coverage between camp and about 4,500 ft to allow for kick stepping. We had to sketch our way up some steep and sometimes rocky terrain on icy duff covered by 4-6 inches of powder. It was not pleasant. It also slowed us down. At one point I even had to chop a foothold in the frozen duff with my pole. Eventually we surmounted the steepest escarpment and got our first views west to Styloid Peak, Distal Phalanx, Snowfield Peak, and Colonial Peak and south to Primus Peak, Later Red Mountain and Ragged Ridge would present themselves.

 

Somewhere along the way while he was behind me, Mike ditched his pack and donned his snowshoes. I waited until 5,000 ft to put on mine. They really helped, for in the 4,500 to 5,500-ft level the snow was quite deep and soft. High above, the summit ridge seemed so far away. At around 6,000 ft we got our first good views of the route to the summit ridge:

945Ruby_middle_S_Ridge.jpg

 

The South Ridge spur allowed for an avalanche free corridor to the top. What's more, at about 6,500 ft the ridge became quite windswept. Snowshoes weren't even necessary for this:

945Ruby_upper_S_Ridge_II.jpg

 

We wanted to cross an open slope northwestward to make a beeline for the true summit but my large Tubbs snowshoes don't like crusty, icy traverses. They're good for uphill and trudging (sinking in) but that's about it. Instead, we turned right to go up a steep crusty slope with small rock exposures. Mike smartly took his snowshoes off and stashed them. I am dumb, though. I scratched and clawed my clumsy way up, placing my snowshoes on the rock protruberances for footholds. We finally made the final ridge (c. 7200 ft) about 0.3 miles SE of the true summit, which we could see in the distance with a radio structure at its top:

945Ruby_final_ridge.jpg

 

I too took off my snowshoes (we should have never taken them above about 6,000 ft) and off we went. Man, it was a long way over there. The snow was very crusty. No sinking in whatsoever. It was verging on icy and we both slipped here and there.

 

We arrived at the summit (7408', 3888P) at just about 3:15PM. It had taken 6 hours, 30 minutes to make the ascent.

 

The summit views: All I can say is "Wow!" I'm so glad the weather was perfect for us. It was such a nice day, I expected to see John Scurlock in the sky. Whenever I'd hear a plane buzzing around, I thought it might be him. See my next post for thumbnails of more views. Meanwhile, here's Ross Lake:

945Ross_Lake_from_Ruby.jpg

 

While Mike descended ahead of me, I snapped off photos as quick as I could. Cameras sure do quickly sap heat from your fingers when the air temperature is 10-20F.

 

I would not see Mike again until it was time to put on our headlamp. Yes, you heard me correctly. Singular headlamp: mine. Mike had forgotten his in the tent. At about 5:15PM at circa 4,000 ft the light had finally dwindled enough that I had a hard time seeing our bootsteps in the thick forest. I stopped to get out my headlamp. Just in case he was nearby, I called out for Mike in the darkness. He called back not 100 ft from me. That was funny. I went down to his position and got out my headlamp.

 

We were just about to continue on our way when I tried to adjust my Tikka Plus headlamp to the higher lumination setting. Uh oh! All of a sudden the headlamp wouldn't stay on unless I kept my finger on the button. Was this the headlamp's indicator that it was time to change batteries, something I had not yet done since I bought it in 2003? The good news is I had spare batteries. The bad news is I'd have to put them in by feel since it was now completely dark. The first difficulty was simply opening up the headlamp to gain access to the batteries. I didn't initially notice it took three batteries, not two. That problem solved (no wonder it wouldn't work!), I next needed to put them in the right arrangement (+/- alignment). All this while maxing out my dexterity. I simply couldn't afford to drop the batteries in the snow. I tried multiple arrangements but to no avail. Had I inadvertantly broken the light while opening the case? "You're screwed," we heard a chipmunk chuckle. Ah, but we did have one light source available: Mike's cell phone. So while Mike searched for it (by feel) in his pack, I took another stab at fixing my headlamp. Eureka! Mike found his cell and we used its display light to illuminate the back of my lamp so I could see how to snap it shut.

 

We would have looked unbelievably stupid descending that last half-mile to camp with only the lame light of a cell phone display. I could just picture Mike holding the display six inches above the ground as we tracked our tracks fading into the blackness a short distance away. He'd look like one of those cartoon sleuths with a big round magnifying glass. Only a magnifying glass doesn't have a battery life problem to deal with.

 

With one headlamp between us we finally stumbled back into camp at 6:45PM (10 hours round trip). We didn't bother cooking anything. We simply rehydrated at the creek, ate my two donuts, and went to bed. My snow pants were damp at the ankle and this would be uncomfortable in the sleeping bag but that was not the end of it. Somehow one of my water bottles that I took into the bag with me began to leak. I was awakened with a cold wet sensation on my back. Shit shit! I removed the offending bottles and let the spilt water "pour" out of the bag. The night would not be the same for me.

 

But morning eventually came. And this morning managed to surpass the previous morning: it was 4F outside the tent! Like the previous morning, the biggest challenge was stepping into my frozen leather boots. (If I'm going to start doing more winter overnighters, I'm going to have to acquire plastics.).

 

Low down on the trail before the logjam crossing we encountered a hiker coming the other way. We certainly didn't expect to see anyone on the east side of the crossing. And, lo and behold, it's Jerry Huddle. I had just met him less than a month ago on Trappers Peak and here he is again. He and Mike knew each other. Jerry had followed our tracks across the logjam and was out for a day hike to Fourth of July Pass.

 

Back at the logjam we simply walked across the creek in the shallowest areas. With the car so close, soggy feet wouldn't be a problem. Besides, we didn't feel like putting our testicles on ice again shimmying back across the log. Here's Mike at the creek crossing with conquered Ruby above and behind (pink arrow is the testicle freezer machine):

945Thunder_Cr_logjam_III.jpg

 

The last mile back to the car sucked, plain and simple. There are always more ups and downs on a trail on the way out than the way in..or at least that's how it seems, anyway. The final slog across the crusty parking lot seemed to go on forever.

 

I promised more about testicles, didn't I? Well, we were very hungry so stopped in at Bull Run Restaurant in Marblemount. I had my first sampling of Cascade mountain oysters (I'll never be able to look at a bummed steer the same way again).

 

Lessons learned: Don't take bananas on a winter outing; you can't eat a frozen banana. Also, frozen string cheese tastes weird. Lastly, when it's 4F outside don't spill water in your sleeping bag.

Achievement gained: These were my coldest nights spent outdoors (i.e., outside a building). I think this was the case for Mike too.

 

---Paul Klenke 1/17/05

 

P.S. Thanks Kelly for the suggestion!

P.P.S. Mike and I both know a dreamer who thinks he can climb Ruby in a day from the road a couple weeks from now. All I can say is he is being Ambitious (note capital 'A'). It's a 5,200+ ft gain from the highway, depending on where you leave it. If snow conditions don't improve markedly at lower elevations, it will be tough going. Steep duff can be slippery even in summer. Now firm it up and spread light powder over it and you've got a recipe for exhaustion.

 

Gear Notes:

Used: Snowshoes, all of our clothes.

Shoulda had: warmer clothes, better cold-temperature stove, chemical hand warmers, shoe horn for frozen leather boots.

 

Approach Notes:

Trail to camp is in good shape...except for the little issue with the bridge being out over Thunder Creek. A nearby logjam (~200 yards downstream) provides the detour. Let's hope NCNP gets the funds to fix the bridge this year.

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Great trip and reports. Congrats on having your photo featured on the summitpost page as well. I wonder how many of those slings Kelly gave you came from users of this site, looks like a pretty vast pile. Did she say what will become of them, and any other booty gear the NPS cleans? Do they usually leave one or two per established rap stations, or does that violate "leave no trace"?

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Probably lots. I know some from myself or my partners are probably in that pile.

 

Kelly didn't say what would become of them. Or, if she did, I've forgotten. Perhaps Kelly (ncascadesranger) will respond here with the answer. thumbs_up.gif

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All the webbing in that bag was removed from Triumph's NE Ridge last July 30. What happens to them? Well, NPS workers are, of course, a thrifty lot - I gave some of them to a maintenance worker to tie down a ladder, our retired ropes and webbing are always popular with the trail crew, and a few of those Triumph runners are now holding together a tipsy file cabinet in my office...important stuff. Seriously, there was actually more than that 20 lb bag!

 

When rangers clean a route, they will leave only what is comfortable and safe for that descent - a new well-placed one or two and cut out the rats nests that develop at these stations. We encourage climbers to do this as well! (LNT msg opportunity, thanks Klenke) On related notes - rangers remove ALL flagging, and NO summit registers.

 

Nice trip report and photos!

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Kelly,

Thanks to you (or whomever) for removing the tat from Triumph. I hauled down a handful or so a couple of summers ago, but there was still an obscene amount up there. The worst I've seen anywhere.

 

Klenke, nice pictures and way to "conquer" the mountain. rolleyes.gif What kind of stove did you have? How did you manage to break a tent pole? Is Ruby one of the 100 highest or most prominent or whatever?

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This is a good story thumbs_up.gif

 

I had a similar problem with my Tikka Plus when it ws -30C in the Rockies. It would go on when the button was held down but if you let go of the button it would go off. Once it warmed up in the hostel, the problem stopped.Now I keep it in an inner jacket pocket so it stays warm until it is time to use it.

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Thanks for the tip, Dru. I'll do that from now on during really cold outings. Or maybe just breathe hot breath on it. Might work.

 

Pax:

It was Mike's propane stove. Mine of similar nature has worked fine in the past in 15-32F temps. His was having trouble but the burner is different. He thought perhaps ice or frost was clogging the ports. I can't remember for sure but I think he slept with the bottle that night but not the burner.

 

Tent pole: You know how it is when someone else tries to put up your tent: inadvertant breakage. In this case, Mike wasn't completely to blame because the folding pole was already cracked at the tip of one of its sections. Mike basically propogated the failure farther down from the tip (an inch or so). This caused a very sharp edge that quickly tore through the tent's pole loop fabric. We couldn't feed the pole through further unless we could remove the offending sharp edge first. Mike's Swiss Army knife performed this (I got a new Leatherman tool for X-mas but failed to bring it; d'oh!). That particular section of pole is now an inch shorter but I think it will be fine. I'm more worried about continued ripping of the loop fabric.

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Awesome views. That N side drops right off to Ross Lk. I'd love to have been standing up there looking at that... Good job on the TR.

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