Northwest Ridge of Humpback Mountain
February 9, 2003

The northwest ridge of Humpback Mountain makes for an easy, short and safe winter outing. By staying directly on the ridge avalanche danger is reduced to close to zero, if the snowpack is reasonably low (as it is this year) there's only 2500' of elevation gain involved, and if you can find the lopped out and flagged trail there's no bushwhacking involved!

To get there, take Exit 47 off of I-90 and head south a couple of hundred yards. Turn right onto FS 55, veer to the left at the next intersection onto the Hanson Creek Road (FS 5510), drive past the power line clearing and turn uphill under the old railroad trestle. Follow this road through a gate (it stayed unlocked for us, but no guarantees here) and park at the second switchback, just before a bermed road leaving this main road on the left. (Obviously, if you can't drive this far, it's easy to walk, and only about 2 extra miles, or less, each way.)

Walk the bermed road until you're at the toe of the NW ridge - there's a pretty obvious bend to the right in the road at this point. We walked a couple of dozen yards further, finding an open rock field that didn't prove too difficult to scramble up, with the help of pulling on small tree branches and hooking rock edges with ice axes. The forest starts at the top of the rock slide area, and isn't very dense, so travel is fairly easy. We took the path of least resistance, staying as close to the crest of the ridge as possible. After 5 or 10 minutes we started noticing trees with branches that had been lopped off. Following the lopped path made travel very easy from this point up to the road crossing at about 3300'. Crossing this road we found the lopped trail had been flagged as well, and route finding became trivial at this point. The trail maintains a pleasant gradient, without too much meandering around, giving sometimes awesome peek-a-boo views north to Kaleetan, Thompson and the rest of the Snoqualmie Pass peaks. It stays just a forest walk until you're a few hundred feet from the summit - here the ridge becomes a bit sportier, with a few rocks to step up onto and scramble around. The snow cover gave us the option now and then of moving a bit to our right and onto open rock fields covered with just enough snow to put steps into. Before long we found ourselves climbing up and out of the forest onto the summit ridge. We stopped at one rock outcropping that may be the high point and got a picture of Rich "Extreme" Privett precariously perched on the pointed pinnacle, then continued to a more comfortable cluster of rocks that was probably the true summit for lunch and a one and half hour summit hang - in February! "Name that peak" was a lot of fun, with not a cloud in the sky (there was a mass of fog low over Pugetopolis, but that was well below and west of us) and visibility extending from Mount Baker to Mount Stuart to Mount Adams to the Olympics - very impressive for such a low peak (the top is only at 5174'). The ridge south looked like it would make an easy traverse over to Abiel Peak if you wanted to make this a longer day. From there, both Tinkham and Silver would also be easily reachable.

For the descent, we just retraced our route, dropping quickly and easily except for the few very steep spots that had remained hard frozen, where some of us found ourselves suddenly, and unexpectedly, sitting! After we crossed the first road, and when we were close to the road back to the cars, we managed to follow the lopped trail to the edge of the forest. It abandoned us at the top of a fairly steep section of dirt and scrub trees. We carefully descended down to the road here, and found that we were about 150 yards beyond the point where we had originally headed up. You may want to try and find this if you do this climb - the area is marked by a large dirt bank on the uphill side of the road, but good luck trying to find the path that will get you to the forest - it's darned close to nonexistent until you get into the forest above!

Matt on summit ridge
Matt on summit ridge, with Kaleetan Peak at center horizon, just behind Granite Peak

Last updated: February 26, 2003