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[TR] Ruth-Icy Traverse - 9/11/2011


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Trip: Ruth-Icy Traverse -


Date: 9/11/2011


Trip Report:

Short version: Jon and I teamed up with Kevin and Doug for the Ruth-Icy traverse, a scenic alpine walk known for its gorgeous views and interesting terrain.


Longer version: Despite the recent heat and sun, shorter days and a few orange leaves on the tree outside hint at autumn creeping in. After finishing graduate school and enjoying a summer of freedom, the reality of making a career in this economy was weighing on me (and my bank account). Jon is in the thick of finishing his very complex dissertation and needed to clear his mind. A trip to the alpine was in order for the Toners! We called our friends Kevin and Doug and selected the Ruth-Icy traverse.


The Hannegan trail was hot, buggy, and very uncomfortable as we hiked up on Saturday. Yikes! Sometimes you have to push through discomfort to get to the rewards and perspective of the high country. I was reminded of my job search and decision making process: it can be an unpleasant slog, and it’s important to remember that something better lies ahead. We reached the base of the Ruth Glacier in four hours from the car. After a quick break, we hiked to the summit. Snow conditions on Ruth are good, with nice sun cups and softer snow on top of a firmer base. No need for crampons in the middle of the day. I can be a little afraid of snow, but the snow on this trip was very mellow, nice snow that I actually enjoyed. The moon rose over the Pickets.




At Ruth’s rocky and flat summit, we camped in the company of Shuksan, Baker, Hagan, Bacon, Blum, the Pickets, Triumph, Despair, Spickard, and Redoubt. Some mosquitoes and “wanna-bees” followed us there, but it wasn’t unbearable. We used our melt/filter system to fill up on water, ate like kings, and enjoyed a vivid sunset.






It was a warm night under the stars and full moon. We awoke to haze and the faint smell of smoke from the Olympic Peninsula fires.




Leaving camp at 8 AM, we hiked from the summit of Ruth down a rocky class 2 ridge to the notch. Rather than going down the middle of the gully (known by some as the “death gully”), we followed good cairns down the hillside, which was a steep trail/scramble with only a few moves that required hands. It had some loose rock, but nothing bad. I think we all trundled one or two things that day, but staying close together kept us safe and worry-free.




Once down, we reached the notch between Ruth and Icy. We crossed some easy snow with a great scenic background.




Kevin donned crampons and hiked up the glacier (no crevasse issues on the left side of the glacier, check Scurlock’s photos from 2005).




Jon wore tennis shoes and shorts for the trip, and elected to scramble the rocky ridge up the left side of Icy. Doug and I joined him. The ridge was nice, solid rock at the crest, with great views of Shuksan, the Pickets, and the wild Spillaway Glacier. We enjoyed hearing the wild glaciers rumble and watched several big cascades of ice roll down. The sounds of the alpine—glaciers rumbling, distant waterfalls, footsteps crunching —are some of the best medicines for our crowded lives and minds.




The pleasant ridge took us nearly to the top of the Icy Glacier. We cramponed easily across the glacier, steering well clear of the few open cracks in the snow, reaching rock again at the wide saddle to the right of Icy’s summits. From the saddle, it was some easy snow and some class 2-3 loose rock to the base of the summit pyramid. The looseness was better when we stayed higher toward the crest, and there was always a decent path to pick out. The summit gully is the first gully you come to, light-colored, fairly clean, and obvious. It’s class 3-4, and some of the holds are a bit slabby. It was fun to climb freely and quickly up this rock.




We topped out on the satisfying summit, signed the register, took a few photos, then harnessed up for the descent. I had carried our 30 m rando rope all the way up and didn’t want it to be training weight, so we tied one end of it securely to the good rap slings. 3 of us made an easy single-strand rappel down the gully. Jon cleaned the rope and soloed down. We could have down-climbed, but it might have taken longer and some of the holds were a bit slabby in boots. Bring a 60m rope to rappel with if nobody in the party wants to solo down. Here’s a picture of the gully with the guys descending.




We cramponed easily down the Icy glacier, then scrambled up up up again to the summit of Ruth. Our climb of Icy was 5.5 hours round trip at a comfortable pace.




We lingered for a few moments, sad to be leaving the beauty of the high country, then hiked down to the car. A quick stop at Chair 9 capped off a great trip and we were home before dark. Parting shot:





Gear Notes:

Crampons were helpful, even with the hot weather. Rope and harness used only for descending the summit gully.


Approach Notes:

flies on the trail!

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