TL;DR by ChatGPT: We hiked up Ruby Mountain with mixed snow conditions, encountering icy sections and limited snow cover. Despite the challenging terrain, the view was spectacular. We look forward to returning for better snow and exploring more backcountry options in the North Cascades.
We went to Ruby Mountain just before the opening of State Route 20 on April 15, 2023. There had been snow accumulation three days prior, but it was followed by two hot days that caused the fresh powder to melt. Overall, the experience of riding down was not as good as expected, as most of the best snow remained only in the upper 500 feet. The rest of the snow was covered with a thick shell with hard-packed icy snow below. As the temperature rose, the snow became extremely sticky, making it very difficult to turn on those untouched areas. The approach was also relatively long, with an elevation gain of roughly 1000 to 1500 feet and no consecutive snow to skin upon. Additionally, the route below the Ruby Mountain plateau was challenging to hike up due to dense trees and bushes.
Nevertheless, the view while hiking up was incredibly gorgeous. The presence of Ross Lake and the Hozomeen Mountain in the background created a distinctive picture for this trip. I could definitely imagine how much more worthwhile it would have been with the best snow conditions. Furthermore, this was the first trip where I brought my Canon R5 with me.
We parked at the Ross Dam Trailhead, crossed the closed gate, and walked to the Happy Creek Trailhead. The parking lot was one-third full since we arrived early and the weather report indicated partial cloudiness with light snow in the afternoon. The morning sun shone on Colonial Peak as we set out around 6:30 AM.
Hiking up through the designated trail was easy. However, once the trail ended, we had to traverse the ridge on foot since the snow coverage inside the forest was thin, and there were numerous logs strewn across the ground.
Once we reached higher elevation, the breathtaking view began to unfold. We were able to transition into touring mode at around 3000 feet of elevation. However, it remained challenging to locate existing tracks within the dense forest, and the route became steeper.
Ruby Mountain came into view as we hiked up to the first flat and wide area. From there, we had a panoramic view of Happy Creek and the summit of Ruby Mountain. Initially, we hadn’t realized that our descent would take us directly through the Happy Creek gully. We decided to climb up the ridge, following a track on the left side and reentering the dense forest. However, in hindsight, this turned out to be a less optimal choice. We noticed groups of people climbing directly towards the steep face on the right side of the creek, which appeared to be a more direct and easier route compared to battling through the trees and bushes.
Upon climbing up the ridge once again, the full grandeur of Ruby Mountain and the prime riding terrain came into view. There were sparse trees and interconnected slopes leading up to the summit. This section proved to be the most enjoyable, as the slope wasn’t steep, and the view was truly rewarding. However, as predicted by the weather report, clouds began to roll in, accompanied by stronger winds. With the entire area now visible, we realized that Ruby Mountain was actually quite crowded, with numerous groups present. Roughly 30 or more people were summiting Ruby Mountain.
The route for riding down mostly followed the track we took while hiking up, except for the section where we went straight towards the Happy Creek gully. The snow conditions would have been significantly better if we had come right after a fresh snowfall. Additionally, if we had arrived earlier in the season, the approach could have been much shorter. The entire car-to-car trip covered approximately 10 miles in total, with an elevation gain of almost 6000 feet - undoubtedly a workout day!
The North Cascades area offers an abundance of backcountry choices. Hopefully, one day I will have the opportunity to return to this route and experience the incredibly rewarding snow it has to offer.
Append some pictures with me inside. Kudos to my friends!