Northeast Ridge, Black Peak II 5.3


Washington Pass, Washington, USA

  • Currently 3.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 1-2 days
Approach time: 4-8 hours fr. W. Fork Airstrip
Descent time: 4-6 hours
Number of pitches: N/A
Height of route: 1,000'
Certainly a step up in difficulty from the South Ridge, the Northeast Ridge is moderate but exposed. While it can go fast for experienced parties, the Northeast Ridge is long, and groups pitching the whole thing out can expect more than 15 pitches. The Northeast Ridge holds snow longer than many routes in the area and early in the season is a fun, mixed, alpine, ridge climb. While few parties are forced to wear crampons on the ridge itself, boots are typically worn until beginning or mid-July, adding to the alpine flavor.
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Route History
The Northeast Ridge of Black Peak was first climbed by Robert Jackson and Michael Kennedy in September 1973.

Route Strategy
The Northeast Ridge is not as popular as the South Ridge, but it is not uncommon to have to share the route with another party on a busy weekend. Mid-week, you are likely to have the route to yourself. Passing is easy in many places along the ridge. The ridge is fairly steep, and as long as parties give each other enough distance, the odds of party-inflicted rock fall are slim. Unlike the South Ridge which melts out quickly, the Northeast Ridge holds snow well into July, so plan to bring boots, ice axe and crampons until then. This makes the Northeast ridge feel alpine.
To begin the route, climb up a sandy ramp system (snow until early to mid- season). The route ascends mostly along the ridge crest with a couple sections going onto the eastern face not far from the crest. The climbing on the lower part of the ridge is exposed and the ridge is slender. Donít get suckered into the ledges too far down on the left (east) side of the ridge; always fight to stay within 20-30 feet of the crest. If you find yourself traversing too casually and getting farther and farther away from the crest, find a place to regain it before you get dead-ended. About half way up the ridge, there is one fairly obvious section where you step around onto the (right) west face. Other than this, ascend the crest or east of the crest.

The rock quality is just okay near the bottom of the ridge and care must be taken to avoid pulling off loose blocks. The Northeast Ridge becomes more solid as you climb higher. Near the top, the ridge steepens and the climbing becomes slightly more sustained 4th and occasional short sections of low 5th on a spectacular ridge. You can bypass this section on the right (west) side while still staying close to the crest. This is followed by easier climbing on the crest. This leads you to a false summit with 3rd class climbing. Amazing views of the surrounding peaks, as well as the 1500 feet drop off on the West Face are sure to get your attention. Leave nothing at the base and carry all your gear up and over the route.

Retreating the northeast ridge is challenging. It is not steep, and there are lots of horns where your rope can get caught, and loose blocks that can be pulled down on you. Rappelling straight down the East Face is also a scary undertaking with lots of loose rock. Retreat involves a lot of down climbing. From high on the route, it might be better to climb up and over and descend the much easier South Ridge.
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Source: SuperTopo Guidebook Staff
Black Peak - Northeast Ridge II 5.3 - Washington Pass, Washington, USA. Click to Enlarge
An overview of the routes.
Photo: Ian Nicholson
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