August 14-15, 2010

Mt. Ballard (8340′) 

——————– Summary ——————–

Starting Point: Slate Creek Road End

Way Points: South Fork Slate Creek Bridge & Northeast Ballard Basin  (hike via Mebee Pass Road & forest)

Campsite: Northeast Ballard Basin

Summit: Mt. Ballard  (climb via East Ridge—East Slope—West Face)

——————– Full Report ——————–

Eileen and I hooked up with Mike T. last weekend for a climb of Mt. Ballard in the Methow Mountains. I had been coveting this fine peak ever since I first set eyes on it from the Pacific Crest Trail in 1976. Mike was equally covetous, after previously making several (three or four) attempts over recent years. Eileen, in contrast, hadn’t even heard of Mt. Ballard before this, but she’s never one to miss out on a good time.

We drove over Hart’s Pass and down Slate Creek to the road end at 3800 feet. From there, it was an easy hike up the road for 1.5 miles, then southward through pleasantly open forest for another 1.5 miles to a 4800-foot scree basin (2.3 hours from car). We carved out a campsite here and enjoyed a balmy evening with sparse bugs.

Alpenglow On Mt Ballard

In the morning, we headed up through tight forest and then open scree slopes to a 6200-foot shoulder on the east ridge of Mt. Ballard. We then began 2000 feet of hiking and Class 2-3+ scrambling directly up this ridge and up the culminating scree slope to gain a high saddle north of the summit. This was apparently the general route teased out by the Beavon party several years ago. From the saddle, we traversed ledges (some quite exposed) to a narrow gully that led to the summit block. While Mike and I dutifully scoped out the steep block, Eileen simply pushed on up to the summit via a nice Class 3.5 slot/face. Uhh…OK. We were all on top before noon (4.8 hours from camp).

Eileen Climbing Summit Block

Summit views were outstanding, due to clear air and favorable positioning. Especially remarkable are Golden Horn and Tower Mountain, which look like twin fangs, as well as massive Jack Mountain. The summit register was equally UN-remarkable—just a few papers stuffed in a plastic bottle. Signers included the Roper party, from their NEPA climb decades ago.

Tower Mountain, Golden Horn, and Azurite Peak

We descended our up-route back to camp (3.9 hours from summit), after which we all agreed that the overall crux was a super-steep heather & grass slot through the lowest cliff band. This “green slot” truly qualifies as Class 4! Our traverse back through the forest to the road was uneventful, and we reached the car by early evening. It had been a wonderful climb—many years in the making—and our only regret was not taking an extra day to stretch it out.

Stats: 5000 feet gained and lost.

——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–