RUTH Mountain
Route: Standard North Side (snow) (by moonlight (2006) and in autumn splendor (2018))


TR #: 36

TR #: 328

Category: Washington (SR 542)       Summit Elev: 7,115 ft       Rock Type: Volcanic Breccia   

Partners (Sept 2006): Jason Cullum, Heather More       Partner (Oct 2018): solo

The first time I climbed Ruth was via moonlight with a couple of friends. The second time I climbed Ruth was twelve years later, on a quick solo summit bid during a beautiful autumn dayhike with my mom.

Ruth Mountain (taken on the October 2018 trip).

This page contains two trip reports for Ruth Mountain.

September 2006 Trip Report
North side via Moonlight

Our route from the trailhead to the summit (drawn on the map on left)
and Ruth in the moonlight from the approach (photo on right).

What better way to climb Ruth than under a full moon on a warm late-summer night? This was the plan when Jason, Heather, and I arrived at the Hannegan Pass Trailhead at 7:30pm on Thursday, September 7. The plan was to summit by midnight, and arrive back home just in time for work the next day.

We left the trailhead (elevation 3,100 ft) at 7:45pm, making great time (nice pace, Heather!) and arriving at Hannegan Pass (5,066 ft) after 1.5 hours. From here we headed off on the climber’s trail to the right, following it all the way to the glacier on the north side of Ruth (Beckey’s guide gives a good description of the climbing route, but basically just follow the trail if it is not snowcovered). At the glacier, we quickly put on crampons, turned off our headlights, and jumped on to the moonlit sea of ice. The snow conditions were great, and we were at the summit 50 minutes later (at 11:25pm). Overall, it took us 3 hours and 40 minutes to get from the car to the summit, much less than we had anticipated. The climb was very straightforward, and crevasses were not a problem, even this late in the summer (although we detoured to look into a few of the gaping cracks). We were not roped up.

We spent a half hour on the summit taking in the view of the moonlit peaks, with stunning views of the moonlit Mt. Shuksan to the west and Icy to the south. Then we headed down, getting back to the car 4 hours later, at 4:00am (we passed two parties heading up the trail with skis, presumably to get to the top by sunrise and ski back down Ruth's glacier). We all felt like sleeping, but somehow we made it home, although we had a hard time convincing the border guard that yes, we knew it was 6am, and yes, we had been out of the country less than 12 hours, and yes, we had climbed a mountain during our stay in the States….. Anyway, we arrived home just in time for Jason to head off for a full day of construction work, Heather to her morning physiology class, and me to my trip report and packing the next day's climb of Yak Peak (I'll enjoy not having a job while I can!).

Thanks to Jason and Heather for a fun and unique climb. We’ll have to do something like this again! 

Below are a few photos from the moonlit adventure.

Our route to the summit from near the saddle before the glacier.

Jason and Heather on the summit, Big Dipper in background.

Mt. Shuksan (to the west) from the summit of Ruth.

Coming down the end of the glacier, full moon and headlight streak.

October 2018 Trip Report
Summit solo during an autumn dayhike with my mom.

The weekend before, while climbing Mamie Peak, Ruth Mountain gleamed serenely at the head of the valley. It brought back fond memories of my moonlit climb twelve years previous, and I vaguely thought to myself that I should hike to the top of Ruth again someday, especially since Ruth is practically in my backyard. So when the following weekend forecasted yet another gorgeous autumn day yet heavy rains on Friday had made the rock wet at all of the climbing spots, it was an excellent opportunity to go on a dayhike with my mom (which is always fun). She joined me all of the way to the glacier on Ruth, and then stopped to enjoy a long lunch break as I quickly cramponed up to the summit and back. The snow was icy but perfect for crampons. There are no crevasse issues on this route as long as you stay on the ridge, but there are a few steeper sections where arresting a fall would be tough (so don't fall). From the summit, the views were spectacular: Pickets, Redoubt, Canadian mountains, Sefrit, Icy, and of course Shuksan and the Nooksack Cirque looming front and center. The entire adventure took my mom and me 8 hours car to car, and this included a 30 minute break. Another beautiful day of exercise out in the North Cascades!

Interesting side-note: Unbeknownst to many dayhikers and the like, the Hannegan area is the site of the remnants of a powerful volcanic eruption. The feature is the Hannegan caldera. This caldera, essentially a large volcanic crater formed by huge explosive eruptions with subsequent edifice collapse, was only discovered as to its formation less than twenty years ago. Some of my photos show this caldera.

Photo descriptions:
1. There is a washout just before the Hannegan Pass trailhead. This happened sometime between August 2017 (the last time I had been at the trailhead, when there had been no washout) and October 2018. Fortunately, the washout is just before the trailhead and you can park on the side of the road before the washout. My geologist friend Doug McKeever says this about the washout: "I believe that the washout is partly due to a large rockfall event that occurred about 3 years ago from the adjacent steep slope on the south toward Mount Sefrit. This rockfall, which stopped just short of one of the campsites, diverted Ruth Creek toward the road, significantly aiding the erosion during a recent flood of Ruth Creek."
2. Fall colors on the trail.
3. Another photo taken during the hike.
4. Bear scat spotted on the trail. They apparently eat the mountain ash berries when the blueberries and huckleberries are gone. But no bears. =(
5. There is a steep eroded section on the hike between Hannegan Pass and Point 5930. Fortunately it is short-lived.
6. Colluvial fan below Point 5930.
7. Contouring around Point 5930.
8. Approaching Ruth. It is stunning scenery up here, a mere 2.5 hours from the trailhead.
9. Another photo, this time with my mom in it.
10. Mount Baker poking over the ridge.
11. The lower rocky slopes of Ruth.
12. The rocky bit just before the glacier starts. This is an outcrop of ash-flow tuff breccia from the Hannegan caldeara.
13. A close-up of the ash-flow tuff breccia from the Hannegan caldera. Tuff breccia is the rock, ash flow is the mechanism by which it originated 
14. The glacier. I went a bit higher to the left before stepping onto the glacier.
15. The windswept snow-slope below the summit.
16. I spotted one crevasse. It was easily avoided.
17. The final easy snow slope to the summit.
18. On the summit. There was a pair of climbers enjoying lunch with a view.
19. Mt. Shuksan across the way. I think the summit of Ruth gives about the best view of Nooksack Cirque you can get.
20. Zoomed in on the summit area of Shuksan.
21. Icy Peak to the south.
22. Looking back down the north side of Ruth and the approach. Ruth Creek (where the trail goes) is on the left.
23. Looking west towards Mt. Sefrit. Ruth Creek (where the trail goes) is on the right.
24. Looking back towards the summit area. Silhouettes of the other party descending.
25. Another view back towards the summit area as I descended.
26. Descending around the tower. The climbers in the photo ascended/descended the bowl, while I ascended/descended the windswept ridge on the right.
27. Another party starting up the glacier.
28. Wall rock of the Hannegan caldera, with dikes and even some intra-caldera collapse breccia blocks. Hannegan Peak upper left.
29. Another photo of leaves on the trail.

gpx track

Roundtrip distance: 13.6 miles (or so)
Elevation gain: 4100' (or so)
Ascent: 3 hours 50 minDescent (includes a 30 min stop to enjoy the views): 4 hours 4 min; Total car-to-car: 8 hours
  • 8:15 am: Met my mom in Maple Falls (she drove down from Chilliwack, I drove up from Bellingham)
  • 8:55 am: Hannegan Pass Trailhead (3,100')
  • 9:02 am: Started hiking
  • 10:50 am: Hannegan Pass (5,066')
  • 12:52 pm: Summit (7,115')
  • 5:05 pm: Trailhead