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Ascent of Mount Howard on 2013-07-05

Climber: Craig Willis

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Friday, July 5, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Howard
    Elevation:7063 ft / 2152 m

Ascent Trip Report

This must be the easiest, least technical approach for Mount Howard. Starting at the Merritt Lake TH (3040' elevation), head up the trail for approximately two miles until reaching a signed junction (4840' elevation) for the Nason Ridge Trail. Turn left (west) onto the Nason Ridge Trail.

The Nason Ridge Trail ascends up to nearly 5400' elevation before dropping to a meadow where Royal Creek is located (~4900' elevation). If the water level is high, either ford the stream or head up along the stream for approximately 50' (as I did) and try to locate a small island of rocks for which a double-hop gets a person across the stream. The Royal Creek crossing is approximately two miles from the signed trail junction previously mentioned.

After crossing Royal Creek, continue following the Nason Ridge Trail for another mile until reaching Crescent Lake (5450' elevation). Do not cross the lake outlet stream. Instead, leave the trail system and continue along the northern lakeshore until beyond the lake. Once a large meadow/boulder slope is encountered on the right (north), begin heading up the slope.

A cliff is encountered approximately 100'-150' above the lake plateau. A large grove of slide vegetation is seen to the immediate right of the cliff; the best way to go is to side-traverse along the base of the slide vegetation to the right. There are numerous animal paths (dirt) within the slide vegetation; try to find the best entrance to one of them, and most of them are interconnected in some manner up higher. The dirt paths through the slide vegetation lead up to another cliff, which is easy to circumnavigate (I did so on the left side of the cliff). Once beyond the cliff, the slope above it is a boulder basin.

From the boulder basin, veer uphill to the right. I found a small seasonal stream leading down a steep slope from the basin above. I traversed up its left side, although if no water is present it might be easier to go up the streambed than the steep dirt path I traversed. Once above the seasonal streambed, the landscape is a vast open upper meadow (approximately 6500' elevation). Continue north, possibly slightly right, until reaching another boulder basin prior to the summit ridge. Continue boulder-hopping and juniper-whacking until reaching the summit (7063' elevation). I returned via the same route.

Most of the route was Class 1 hiking. The worst terrain I encountered was Class 2, with only minor use of hands for stability in the slide vegetation section and on the streambed dirt path section. Unlike many other people who have tried alternate approaches, this approach is not at all Class 3 or Class 4. When heading uphill from the lake plateau, when in doubt go right rather than left. The SW ridge of Mount Howard looks like it definitely involves some scrambling, but none was needed on the south slopes and route I used.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5423 ft / 1652 m
    Extra Gain:700 ft / 213 m
    Distance:11.7 mi / 18.8 km
    Route:Merritt Lake & Nason Ridge Trails, South Slopes
    Trailhead:Merritt Lake TH  3040 ft / 926 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:0 Days 3 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:0 Days 3 Hours 20 Minutes

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