Friday, September 11, 2009

Prepping for the Cassin Ridge

The Cassin Ridge on Denali has become one of the most sought-after big mountain alpine climbs in the world. There are few routes that follow such a beautiful and continuous line 9000 feet of challenging granite and ice that end right below the highest point in North America. The Cassin Ridge is very challenging, with 65-degree hard ice, mixed climbing on steep ground, and rock to 5.7.

The Second Rock Band on the Cassin Ridge
Photo by Andrew Wexler

We recently received a serious inquiry from an individual who would like to climb the route with us. This climber lives the Pacific Northwest and wanted a good solid list of prep climbs in Washington and British Columbia. Prepping for a guided ascent of such a high end route will inevitably make an individual and extremely competent independent climber. Indeed, most of the prep climbs are phenomenal routes in and of themselves.

The Cowboy Traverse on the Cassin Ridge
Photo by Andrew Wexler

Check out the prep list below:

Winter/Spring Routes

  1. Chair Peak - North Face
  2. Dragontail Peak -- Triple Couloirs
  3. Eldorado Peak -- Northwest Face Courloir
  4. Mount Snoqualmie -- New York Gully
  5. Mount Index -- North Face of North Peak
Spring/Summer Routes
  1. Mount Buckner -- North Face
  2. Forbidden Peak -- West Ridge
  3. Mount Baker -- North Ridge
  4. Mount Shuksan -- North Face
  5. Mount Adams -- Adams Glacier
  6. Mount Stuart -- Ice Cliff Glacier
  7. Mount Stuart -- Stuart Glacier Couloir
  8. Mount Rainier -- Ptarmigan Ridge
  9. Mount Rainier -- Liberty Ridge
  10. Mount Waddington -- Bravo Glacier Route
Late Summer Routes
  1. Dragontail Peak -- Serpentine Arete
  2. South Early Winter Spire -- East Ridge Direct
  3. Mount Stuart -- Upper North Ridge
  4. Torment/Forbidden Traverse
  5. Forbidden Peak -- Northwest Face to North Ridge
Multi-Pitch Water Ice

In addition to the alpine climbs that we have listed, we are asking that prospective Cassin Ridge climbers spend a significant amount of time climbing multi-pitch water ice. This could be in Banff, Ouray, Silverton, Telluride or anywhere else where there are long multi-pitch ice climbs.

Traversing above Cassin Ledge
Photo by Andrew Wexler

Unguided Ascents of the Cassin

Those who would prefer to climb such a route without a guide might want to complete all the previous routes, as well as a handful of climbs in the Alaska Range such as Ham and Eggs on the Mooses Tooth, the West Ridge of Mount Hunter and the West Face Couloir on Mount Huntington.

--Jason D. Martin


Laurel Fan said...

This looks more like a list of "fun stuff to do in the Cascades!"

Rudy said...

This is such a cool little article for those of us dreaming of this route. Can you give us an analogous list of CO climbs?

Jason Martin said...


I'm not as familiar with Colorado climbs, so I can't provide such an exhaustive list. But I can tell you what I looked for in putting together the list.

1) Length - Most, but not all of the routes, are long and committing.
2) Mixed conditions - Most of the routes have rock, snow and ice. Some are more glaciated with less rock, but they are extremely big routes...

There aren't that many big vertical relief mountains in Colorado. Obviously, there's the Diamond, which you should definitely train on, but the reality of Colorado is that as a state it provides more easily accessible short terrain than most places where you can work on your technique and build the skills to get on big peaks.

The thing with the Cassin is that you're going to have to travel to prepare for it. Here are some more non-Cascades routes that you should consider:

1) Bravo Glacier on Mt. Waddington
2) Southwest Ridge of Peak 11,300
3) West Ridge of Mt. Hunter