RED Mountain
Route: Ragged Ridge from North (snowy spring conditions)

TR #: 122

Category: Washington (HWY 20)       Summit Elev: 7,658 ft       Rock Type: Gneiss

Partner: Tom Sjolseth

The trip mantra: "This is a long ridge!"

The next day was Mother's Day, so I thought I'd make a photo card for my mom. This photo was taken from the summit of Red Mountain, with Ragged Ridge arcing away towards Cosho Peak in the distance on the left. Mt. Logan is in the distance on the right. I used fruit punch juice powder to make the heart (my hand was stained red for a week!). Happy Mother's Day!


Route detail:

There are a number of Red Mountains in Washington. The Red Mountain of this adventure is essentially the high point on the NW portion of the extensive Ragged Ridge. From Red Mountain, Ragged Ridge extends SE to include Cosho, Kimtah, Katsuk, and Mesahchie. The ridge leading up to Red Mountain is 4.5 miles long. Four point five miles might not sound like much, but when it involves about 7500 feet of cumulative gain, steep timber, snow slogging, and tricky ridges maneuvers, it's a long way. But in this case it is a beautiful long way, surrounded by glimpses of seemingly every peak in the park; views are dominated by Colonial, Snowfield, Primus, Torment, Forbidden, Ripsaw Ridge, Buckner, Logan, the rest of the peaks of Ragged Ridge, and much much more. It's quite a spectacular location.

The approach begins right off SR 20, on the Thunder Creek Trail which starts from near the day use area at the Colonial Creek Campground (24 miles east of Marblemount just past milepost 130).

Tom and I had planned on a long 1-day ascent. But when Friday turned into such a brilliant day, an email flurry led to a decision to clock out of work and study early, drive to the trailhead, and see how far we could get before it got dark. We hiked 2 hours up to Fourth of July Pass, where we established a camp with broken views of the Colonial group and Primus Peak. This cut off 2300ft and 5 miles of the next day's climb, which was already going to be a full day. (Tom and I agreed afterward that it would be a very long day to do this route car-to-car, and only really feasible under ideal snow conditions.)

Since the temperatures were going to be warm, we wanted to start early and maximize our time spent on firm snow. So at 5am we headed southward out of camp and began clambering up the timbered slopes along the shoulder of Red Mountain. The snow conditions turned out to be perfect, and with the spring consolidation we ended up using our snowshoes only for traction on the way up and taking them off as soon as the snow softened in the sun. Above the treeline on the ridgecrest, we strolled along reveling in the panoramic views, almost thankful that the ridge was so lengthy as it gave us more time to enjoy the area. There were some pretty cool cornice collapses along the east side of the ridge to marvel at as well. After numerous almost-there-nope-oops-crap-not-the-summit-yet bumps, we finally found ourselves on the highest bump. Wow, what a view!

Next: 7500 ft to go....down...

See the stats and photos to the right for more details.


Roundtrip distance: ~22 miles (5 miles between car and camp)
Start elev.: ~1250 ft
Red Mountain summit: 7658 ft
Cumulative elevation gain/loss: ~7500 ft (2300 ft to camp)
Car to Camp: 2:10; Camp to Summit: 5:15; On summit: 0:25; Summit to Camp: 4:05; Camp to Car: 1:40; Pack up camp: 0:35 Total cumulative (not counting the evening at camp): 14:10

  • 3:25 pm (Friday): Arrive at Thunder Creek TH (~1250 ft) at Colonial Creek Campground on HWY 20
  • 4:10 pm: Start hiking
  • 6:20 pm: Arrive at camp (3500 ft, 4.8 miles) near Fourth of July Pass
  • 8:34 pm: Sunset
  • 4:00 am (Saturday): Wake up
  • 5:00 am: Start snowshoeing up shoulder of Red Mountain
  • 5:26 am: Sunrise
  • 10:15 am: Summit (7658 ft)
  • 10:40 am: Begin descent
  • 2:45 pm: Arrive back at camp, pack up
  • 3:20 pm: Leave camp
  • 5:01 pm: Arrive back at car
  • 8:35 pm: Sunset


Approach to camp

Relaxing at the car before the evening hike, Billy rearing to go.
Fairy slipper on trail. These beautiful orchid flowers usually appear in the 1500-2500 ft elevation range in mid-Spring.
Camp at 3500 ft near Fourth of July Pass. This saved us 5 miles and 2300 ft of effort the day of the climb.
Evening alpenglow sun on Primus Peak, from camp near Fourth of July Pass.

The Climb

Unavoidable Cascades steep snow-tree climbing. The snow was hard in the morning chill so the tree handholds came in handy.
On the gentle timbered ridge, with glimpse of the ridge stretching ahead of us. It started to set in: it's a long ridge!
Starting to get some views of Tricouni and Primus to the right (west).
Morning light on Colonial Peak.
Morning light on Neve Glacier of Snowfield Peak.
Breaking out of the trees. We traversed over these bumps and the summit is a couple miles beyond. It set in: It's a long ridge.
Tom enjoying the easy open ridge and perfect spring snow consolidation. Colonial Peak behind.
Tom enjoying the wonderful ridge walk and snow conditions. The summit of Red Mountain is a couple of bumps beyond these bumps. Yep, it's a long ridge!
Another photo of Tom on the ridge.
There were some impressive cornice failures. This photo looks directly down from a cornice failure at the slide propagation below.
Only a matter of time before this fractured cornice will break loose.
These are actually the tracks of a fearless mountain goat who liked to walk on cornices. His tracks went all the way to the summit!
There were some sections of mixed rock and snow. Because of the cornices on the east side of the ridge, we favored the rock.
A 3rd class section.
Tom looking at the true Red Mountain summit from the bump we had thought was the summit. 50 more minutes to go. Wow, it's a long ridge.
Finally nearing the summit, just over 5 hours after leaving our camp.
A 1-page summit register = not climbed often.
Some views: Forbidden to Torment and the wild West Fork of Thunder Creek Valley.
More views: Buckner, Ripsaw Ridge, and Boston.
Another. Boston Peak and Boston Glacier below.
Tom heading down. With the ups and downs on the ridge, it's about 7500' from summit to car. Yeah, it's a long ridge...
This photo shows most of the lower ridge all the way to Thunder Arm of  Diablo Lake and Colonial Creek Campground area (trailhead) below.
We made it back to the car, 12 hours after we started out from camp that morning. With the 2 hours of hiking the evening before, it took 14 hours car to car.