Ascent of Mount Fernow on 2011-09-24

Climber: Eric Noel

Others in Party:Craig Willis
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Saturday, September 24, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Mount Fernow
    Elevation:6190 ft / 1886 m

Ascent Trip Report

Drive the good but drainage berm laden 6522 to its lovely terminus circa one air mile W of the summit of Fernow. Final bit of road is not on USGS but goes up the ridge (rather than the other road on the W side of ridge). Find a bootpath and try to track this because for the majority of the way to the lake there is some sort of bootpath to help ease your travel. You'll momentarily pass through a clearcut area and then crossover a depression to an angling ridge and proceed easily up that until it turns into a steep forested headwall to get to 5320. This section is quite steep and we found it best to just go up and to the top with veggie belays rather than try to sidehill. Once at the top is gets easy for a while as you can just stay on the ridge or a hair S of it as you descend a bit and over the next minor bump. The forest is generally not too brushy.

The last bit down to the saddle before 5403 is steep and then the ascent up 5403 is a little bit steep. We went up the path to a rock on the S with an easy but exposed third class move around a rock, then wrapped around another rock and then up to the ridgeline. On the descent we did this closer to the exposed ridgeline with downsloping grass that felt sketchy but was class 1. The ridgeline walk was easy but a little airy and for much of this route there are cliffs on the N side of the ridge. We went down 5403 and tried to stick to the ridge even when it sort of felt like it was ending because the dropoffs were also steep. Eventually we probed our way down a little on the E slope and found more bootpath and traversed to the next saddle. From here we got caught up in a bit of brush and trees as we traversed around a ridge. A steep rock wall made continuing on the ridge a little sketchy. Finally we made it up to the edge of the lake and here the bootpath(s) faded.

We contoured easily around the W side of the lake and from the S shore the South slope route can be fairly well discerned. The idea is to do some boulder hopping up a seam of white rocks then circle counter-clockwise up through some trees before aiming for a grassy gully. So we did the boulders and they were fairly stable though it started to get hot. A little bit of thrashing through trees and then we came out into a broad heather gully with a cliffy ridge on the left. We went easily enough up the steep but safe gully towards its head. Near the top it becomes constricted. As we got close, I headed up via the constriction which involved one class 3/4 move and Craig went up further right. We descended Craig's route and that was easier. With a little bit of scrambling we got to a short heather patch and then the ridge. From here a right turn and some easy class 2 type stuff brought us to the summit which features large flat boulders and makes for a good perch. Good distant views. Maybe 3.5 hours up at my slow pace.

We went the same way more or less on the way down with a few of the small aforementioned differences. We took a slightly more direct route down the S slope to get to the lake and then tried to follow the bootpath as best as we could. The heat got to me on the ascent back to 5403 but in the end we made it. Getting down off of 5320 was miserable as it is really steep and there was a lot of ass sliding.

Overall, kind of a fun peak but with some hard work. Short day so that's cool. We tried this before in spring but there was a lot of steep snow with bad runout and I did not like that so much. Plus we had miles of snowy road to walk so this was better. Even with the bootpaths there is a lot of steep and a lot of sidehilling and it is kinda hard on the legs. The part up from the lake was pleasant enough I guess. Pretty lake. Wish there were more peaks with high roads like this and short approaches; it reminded me of White Chuck in that regard. Based on the register it looks like about 3 parties a year on avg sign in.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2550 ft / 775 m
    Extra Gain:620 ft / 188 m
    Distance:6 mi / 9.7 km
    Route:Counter-Clockwise Standard
    Trailhead:FS 6522 Terminus  4880 ft / 1487 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3ish
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear

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