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Ascent of Ruby Mountain on 2011-08-07

Climber: Eric Noel

Others in Party:Ken Russell
Date:Sunday, August 7, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Ruby Mountain
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:7408 ft / 2257 m

Ascent Trip Report

We elected to do this as a backpack since we are fairly conservative in our approach to trip planning. This meant getting an NCNP permit. We picked up a permit for the Ruby Mtn off-trail zone which requires that one camp a certain distance and mileage away from the trail and camps. In theory this places one at a camp above 5000'. In practice the camping on Ruby is lousy with limited flat areas and somewhat scarce water. One could try to dayhike this but it is long and might be too long if you lose the abandoned trail. Or backpack it from Fourth of July Pass camp, permits for that may be more scarce than for the off-trail zone and as always NCNP permits are not reservable.

We hiked the forested, not so viewariffic hike to Fourth of July Pass. The pass goes on forever. We saw our last running water from a modest creek at 3100'. Then the abandoned trail was located fairly easily on the E side of the pass. At first the tread is good and we passed a pond on the L that might offer serviceable but illegal camping. We continued on and lost the trail at 3900'. Others have lost it here. It makes a switchback and is hard to discern among windfall and we mistakenly followed flagging straight ahead. We didn't pick it up and just thrashed uphill in search of a campsite. We camped at 4200 near an unexpected creek we found. Not a great site but it worked. All of the sudden, six guys came walking past us about 200' away. They told us they had been able to the summit and were hiking the trail down. Doh. But that was a great stroke of luck as it set us back on the trail and who knows if we would have been able to follow it otherwise.

After a restless night marred by Sante Fe Chicken flavored expulsions, we headed off in the morning. Ken lead the way the whole way and he did a great job of following the trail. In places it is quite faint or gone and you just have to pick it up twenty feet later but for the most part it always reappears. It took us a while as we often had to sniff out the trail or clamber over deadfall. After a while it switched back onto the W side of the ridge around perhaps 5500'. We continued on here and there and now the spectacular views began to open open. The morning clouds melted into a sky of blue and a sea of peaks. We continued up the trail until 6600' where the trees sort of ended and we faced a talus slope with the final ridgeline in sight. Here we lost the trail at 6600' and just headed up an easy alpine grass area with a sprinkling of talus. Once upon the ridge it was just an easy walkup to the true summit. Current conditions involve no required snow travel although there were a few patches up high and a lingering cornice on the ridge. Fantastic views from the summit.

Our descent route was the same. We managed to stick to the trail basically and it was a lot of sidehilling and descent but we got to camp soon enough. From there we were able to follow the trail and we discovered where we had lost it on the up. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful except to say that it is a long way down and we were both tired and footsore by the end. I was glad Ken drove because I zonked out.

I can imagine a fit climber could dayhike this peak but it would be a full day especially when you consider the drive. If you can stick to the trail the hike is reasonable; if not then you get into some bushwhacking and that would be quite long. Backpacking requires a campsite. Fourth of July is reasonable but the off-trail camping is lame. The pond just after the start of the abandoned trail might be serviceable but is not far enough away to fulfill the NCNP's camping standards. It's doubful though that you would get busted. Water could pose challenges in certain parts of the year and we saw no running water above our campsite at 4200'. The summit is open, pretty and in a spectacular setting but the route stays in the forest too long and the slow log hopping and sidehilling nature of the abandoned trail make this a solid hike in my book rather than a highly recommended option.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:6588 ft / 2007 m
    Elevation Loss:6588 ft / 2007 m
    Distance:20 mi / 32.2 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2 Brush
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Early Clouds Turning to Blue Skies
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:6438 ft / 1962 m
    Extra Loss:250 ft / 76 m
    Distance:10 mi / 16.1 km
    Route:Fourth of July Pass Abandoned Trail
    Trailhead:Thunder Creek TH  1220 ft / 371 m
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:6338 ft / 1931 m
    Extra Gain:150 ft / 45 m
    Distance:10 mi / 16.1 km
    Route:Fourth of July Pass Abandoned Trail
    Trailhead:Thunder Creek TH  1220 ft / 371 m



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